“What Sarah Said” by Death Cab for Cutie

As the story goes, “What Sarah Said” was in fact inspired by one Sarah, who is a friend of Ben Gibbard. However, it wasn’t such that either of them were actually stuck in a hospital waiting room, as the song’s narrative goes, awaiting the imminent death of a loved one. 

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Death Cab for Cutie's What Sarah Said at Lyrics.org.

Instead Sarah, who was smitten at the time, was ruminating on how it would feel once if either she or her significant other passes, i.e. how the surviving member would be emotionally devastated in the process. 

Such are the imaginings which ultimately led to this track.

That said, Ben has pointed out that the relationship between the vocalist and the dying addressee doesn’t have to be romantic in nature. Rather, it’s up to the listener to fill in the dots in terms of how they may be related. But it is abundantly clear that this is someone whom the narrator truly loves. 

Making matters worse is the fact that he is in a hospital waiting room, alongside other people going through the exact same thing, i.e. their minds being worried and preoccupied due to being on the verge of losing a person who is very close to them.


To note, what it is exactly that “Sarah said” that which led to this outing, in relation to what has been mentioned earlier in this post, is philosophically putting forth that “love is watching someone die”. That’s another way of saying that if your soul is linked to someone else then eventually, at some point one of you is likely to witness the other’s demise. 

So perhaps another way of putting it is that along with love comes death – or something like that. Or in any event, Sarah’s take on the whole matter was such that it had some type of profound effect on Gibbard, to the extent that he not only imagined going through such an ordeal but also wrote a compelling song about the experience.

"What Sarah Said" Lyrics
Ben Gibbard talks about the inspiration behind "What Sarah Said"

Release of “What Sarah Said”

This song was made public on 30 August 2005 as part of Death Cab for Cutie’s studio album “Plans”, which they released through Atlantic Records.


“What Sarah Said”, which was not issued as a single, was written by Death Cab for Cutie’s Nick Harmer with the band’s frontman Benjamin Gibbard, the latter of whom is considered the primary author of the song. 

Chris Walla, who was also down with the group at the time as a guitarist, produced this track.

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