While I was listening to it, for the first time the lyrics struck me as being about a struggle with addiction. There's definitely a few parts of the song where this is really clear:
1. "She's only happy in the sun":
To me, this always used to mean that the girl in the song liked the sunny side of life and looking at the positives. She was only happy when she could pretend everything was perfect.
This was so typical Blake. But what I didn't realize is that this has a dark side to it. Things are not always going to be sunny and perfect, but sometimes people want so badly for them to be that they try escape reality. Instead of working to make their problems better (look for positives that way) an addict just tries to pretend they don't exist by running away from them.
2. "Did you find what you were after? The pain and the laughter brought you to your knees.":
This is the part that is most clearly about addiction for me. I think he's asking this girl if she found what she was looking for by using the drugs.
This is something I think about a lot. I know there's probably several different reasons why Blake used drugs: financial issues, stress, loneliness, because he was afraid to stop, as a way to feel normal... the list could go on. It's hard because I'll never understand how a person could turn to drugs when they have a completely devoted girlfriend and loving family. Had I not made it crystal clear that I'd do anything for him? That he could share anything with me without fear of judgement?
Did he find what he was after? Did they provide the escape he needed? Maybe momentarily. I'm sure it felt good, but in the end just caused more pain. The last part "brought you to your knees," means to me that the drugs killed her. Just like they did Blake.
3. "And if the sun sets you free, then you'll be free indeed":
This line hits me the hardest.
The sun here symbolizes heaven. This also changes the meaning of "She's only happy in the sun," now to meaning that she's only happy now that she's in heaven.
I had a discussion the other day with a friend who's best friend recently died. He was telling me that the hardest thing for him to hear was when people told him, "He's in a better place now." This made him so frustrated because how could someone being dead be better? The best place for him to be would be with the people who love him, not dead... not having his life cut short in his early 20s.
But when it comes to addiction, how much of a life was Blake really living? I know I made him incredibly happy so I'm not discounting that, but I can't even imagine how much pain he was hiding. He must have struggled every minute of every day. Maybe dying finally set him free from all of that. Maybe he is in a better place now.
Trying to understand what Blake was going through really helps me. Because I feel so naive when it comes to drugs and have never dealt with addiction (or been close to anyone who has dealt with addiction) before, it helps me to think about how it might have felt for Blake so I can try to empathize.
I don't want to have to think "If you do drugs, you're a bad person," because Blake was a wonderful person so I know it's not that simple. To empathize with him, I try to figure out what his mindset might have been while he was struggling with his addiction.
In this song, Ben Harper is trying to empathize with the girl. He understands she's only happy in the sun, that there's an underlying sadness that she's trying desperately to escape from. Her method for coping with this deep sadness ended up killing her. But at least now she's free.
At least now Blake is free.