Actually it's the title of a song written by Lana Del Rey.

So what does Body Electric really mean when Lana says "I sing the body electric"?

And here is the link to the song lyrics.


5 Answers 5


I Sing the Body Electric is a famous poem by Walt Whitman, one of the twelve poems which comprised the first edition of Leaves of Grass (1856/67). In it, he celebrates the glories of existence, explores themes of the body, its parts and its whole, the interconnectedness of body and soul, the sensuality of the body, and equality and interconnectedness of us all (including between races.) The sensuality is prominently discussed to the degree that his publishers tried to have him remove it.

It may confuse some why someone would write about a body electric. We tend to think of electricity as a recent "tool".

Electricity was actually known in ancient times. Amber and similar substances, when rubbed (something like a balloon today) gave off an electrical charge. This was used in ancient medicine as early as 2600 BC (as were electric eels and magnets). The word first appeared in print (in English) in the 1640s, used by physician Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682), apparently coined as Modern Latin electricus (literally resembling amber) by English physicist William Gilbert (1540-1603) in treatise De Magnete (1600), from Latin electrum (amber), from Greek elektron (amber).

The phrase Body Electric first appeared in 1746, in a reading of a paper on electricity in the body, given/written by a doctor, M. le Monnier the younger, who quotes an earlier treatise on the electrical nature of the body.

The following are some lines from Whitman's poem, which, taken out of context, do little to portray this work, but may help to answer the question.

I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.

The love of the body of man or woman balks account, the body itself balks account, That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect....
I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough...
This is the female form... It attracts with fierce undeniable attraction...

A man’s body at auction...
Gentlemen look on this wonder...
A woman's body at auction... Do you not see that these are exactly the same to all in all nations and times all over the earth?

There are almost countless references to The Body Electric, from music to medicine to yoga.

The 2012 song, Body Electric, alludes to Whitman in the lyric: "Whitman is my daddy."
Ray Bradbury published I Sing the Body Electric, a science fiction anthology.
It is the name of the 100th Twilight Zone episode.
I Sing the Body Electric is the title and first line of a song Fame.
I Sing the Body Electric is the title of a 1972 Columbia Records album by the jazz fusion group Weather Report.
I Sing the Body Electric is the title of a 2011 song by the trip hop band Arms and Sleepers.

What does it mean? She is evoking Whitman's praise of the body and its sensuality, the oneness of all people.

At 18, she moved to the Bronx to attend Fordham University, studying a branch of philosophy known as metaphysics because "it bridged the gap between God and science. I was interested in God and how technology could bring us closer to finding out where we came from and why." She said, "that was when my musical experience began. I kind of found people for myself." She has had problems with substance abuse and found helping others with the same to be very meaningful.

Elvis is my daddy, Marilyn's my mother,
Jesus is my bestest friend.

Elvis and Marilyn were both very noted for their sensuality. Jesus preached loving each other, and she found (comfort/truth?) in Him.

Dancing and grinding in the pale moonlight. Grand Ole Opry, we're feeling alright...


I sing the body electric,
I'm on fire, sing that body electric.

Whitman is my daddy, Monaco's my mother, Diamonds are my bestest friend.
Heaven is my baby, suicide's her father,
Opulence is the end.

Del Rey has long admired Monaco for being a symbol of a luxurious lifestyle. It represents luxury and richness (opulence). Another famous beauty, Hollywood's Grace Kelly, married the prince of Monaco, becoming a Princess (and such became a fantasy for American girls).

Or at least I pretend...
I pretend I'm not hurt and go about the world like I'm having fun

The fact that she pretends means she knows the body is at least partly (?more?) a superficial comfort. That heaven is her baby, yet suicide's her (the baby's) father tells us that the life she's led hasn't been easy, but the hard parts are a part of something beautiful anyway.

  • 7
    But what about the meaning? What's the meaning of Body Electric?
    – Sky
    Mar 3, 2014 at 20:29
  • 1
    I'm not sure what Whitman meant, but I suspect that your song lyric means “I sing electronic music and I like Walt Whitman.” Mar 3, 2014 at 20:42
  • This is a great answer, but it would help if you'd add specific citations for the quotes. In particular, the first quoted passage is from Whitman, but in context it looks like you're saying it's from le Monnier. Mar 4, 2014 at 17:38
  • 2
    I love this response, it's so informed and well-organized. I'm trying to get a good answer to a Whitman related question on the Movies and TV SE, could you give it a go? movies.stackexchange.com/questions/17881/…
    – vastra360
    Mar 11, 2014 at 23:36
  • 1
    Just came to say thank you for posting the link to the 1980 movie Fame. I had almost forgotten how wonderful that arrangement was, the sheer energy, delight, and inspiration of all those who played, sang, danced and acted is breathtaking and heart warming. The song surely is a bolt of electricity, hard not to get up and sing along!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 11 at 20:17

One might also mention the finalé of Fame, "I sing the body eletric", and the simple meaning of the phrase itself, which is a poetic form of "I'm singing, with my body electrified", or "I sing, and doing so electrifies my body"... i.e. the idea that singing is galvanizing and uplifting to the singer.


As mentioned earlier, Lana Del Rey's song "Body Electric" (2012) references Walt Whitman's "I Sing the Body Electric" (1855), which celebrates the sensuality and incredible capability of the human body, and the interconnectedness of all people. He asserts that there is no soul separate from the body, and thus elevates the body to the status traditionally ascribed to the soul. By referring to the body as "electric", Whitman alludes to the dynamism of the body, and at the same time presents a reductive or scientific view that has no need for the concept of a soul separate from the body.

Lana Del Rey's song "Body Electric" (2012) is similarly sensual and focused on dynamic activities involving the physical body. Given the line "I'm on fire", Lana Del Rey's "body electric" might also refer to a similar physical feeling of energy.

By sing, Whitman means "recount or celebrate in a work of literature, especially poetry", such as in the example sentence "poetry should sing the strangeness and variety of the human race" (definition from Lexico). Lana Del Rey happens to be literally singing.

So, in short, "I sing the body electric" essentially means "I celebrate the body and its dynamism".

Of course, there are other themes in both the poem and the song that can't be directly tied to the "body electric".


But what about the meaning? What's the meaning of Body Electric? – Sky Mar 3 '14

Electricity was, in Whitman's day, seen almost as a life-force - invisible and giving energy (Cf. the reanimation of the body of the Monster in Frankenstein).


Electric (adj.) 4. figurative. Suddenly exciting, thrilling, or intense, as if caused by an electric charge or shock; stimulating; charged with tension.

1819 L. Hunt Indicator 17 Nov. 43 We..feel the electric virtue of his [sc. Shakespeare's] hand.

2000 Sunday Times 23 July (Sports section) 21/8 He wore blinkers..and was fitted with a visor for the first time. The result was electric as Auenklang blitzed his rivals.

The electric body = the body powered by electricity; the body containing electricity The body electric = the body seen figuratively as being of the nature of electricity - alive, very sensitive to its surroundings and to react with them; of quick emotion.

The adjective is placed after its noun in order to separate it from (i) any nuance of a literal meaning (ii) to create a distinction in the aspects of the physical body and the nature of the body in question (compare "The body corporeal"; "the body spiritual")


In Lana Del Rey's song "Body Electric," the phrase "I sing the body electric" is a reference to the poem "I Sing the Body Electric" by the American poet Walt Whitman. In Whitman's poem, he celebrates the human body as a divine and interconnected entity, capable of transcending its physical limits and connecting with a greater, spiritual energy.

In the context of the song, Lana Del Rey uses this phrase to evoke a sense of empowerment and liberation through the acknowledgment and embrace of her own body, desires, and experiences. By singing the body electric, she's expressing her personal freedom and individuality, as well as connecting with a more profound, spiritual aspect of herself.

The song features various references to cultural icons such as Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Jesus, and weaves a narrative of self-discovery, self-expression, and overcoming personal struggles. By singing the body electric, Lana Del Rey is celebrating her own unique identity and the power it holds.

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