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MAN IN BLACK: The Inspiration

MAN IN BLACK: The Inspiration

The concepts in the MAN IN BLACK (MIB) song & character are, in part, a product of 2 major 80’s artistic influences of mine …The Princess Bride (the book, not the movie) & the Twin Peaks (TV series). I took aspects from each, blended them in a cauldron, added my own spices & ingredients, and out came the MIB Soup.

(Audio & video streaming links here)

The man in black is probably the darkest (thematically) of the songs / characters / human observations in my DARK LIGHT compilation. He appears in this song and several others. Below is some of the genesis.


I first read The Princess Bride when I was 13-14 yrs old. To this day, I think it had the single greatest influence on my life philosophy … more so than any book I’ve ever read. In part because of my formative age. In part because of the specific lessons. And the lessons were so contradictory … to the extremes. Dark … Light.

LESSON #1. THERE IS NO GUARANTEE THAT LIFE WILL BE FAIR. No matter how hard you work … no matter how much you want something, how much you think you deserve it (and how much you may ACTUALLY deserve it) … there is no guarantee the gods will shine on you and allow you to have it. But the jerk at the bar bragging about his Porsche given to him by his dad may very well get it.

Sadly, it’s a lesson everyone must learn at some point. (“Get used to disappointment”, says Westley … the Man In Black … to Inigo, the great swordsman). (“Life isn’t fair. It’s just fairer than death” … William Goldman, the author). (“You’ve been chasing me your entire life, only to fail now? I think that is the worst thing I’ve ever heard; how marvelous” … Count Rugen, the professor of pain, to Inigo, when he thinks he may have killed him, as Inigo chased him down in revenge for Rugen killing his father).

LESSON #2. AND YET (the brighter side) … no matter how bad things may seem or get … your greatest T love may have abandoned you in the fire swamp and left with your arch-rival … there is no force greater than true love. TRUE LOVE CAN OVERCOME ALL … and it can (if you embrace it … have faith in it) allow you to battle through all the disappointments … that, as stated above … will, indeed, come your way. (“[Even] death cannot stop true love … all it can do is delay it for a while” … says Westley to Buttercup).

COMBINING LESSONS 1 & 2. “You truly love each other and so you might have been truly happy. Not one couple in a century has that chance, no matter what the story books say. And so, I think no man in a century will suffer as greatly as you will” … exclaims Prince Humperdink, as he is about to turn up “The Machine” to 10 and suck the life from Westley.

LESSON #3. This one is subtle and gets into the complex character of Z and The MAN IN BLACK. CHARACTERS CAN BE COMPLEX: good AND bad; hard to read; sometimes even disguised, making it even harder to tell what they are about.

Westley was the Man In Black (and the Dread Pirate Roberts). “Who is that guy?” the gang of thieves (Vinczini, Inigo, Fezzik) kept asking as Westley & his sailboat bore down on them as they raced to The Cliffs of Insanity with stolen Princess Buttercup aboard … and as he climbed the Cliffs of Insanity faster than they did … and as he bested Inigo, the best swordsman in history, in a battle of swords … and as he bested Fezzik, the strongest man alive, in a battle of strength … and as he bested the ”genius” Vinczini in a battle of wits “to the death”. Inconceivable, right? The tension embedded in the question “who IS that guy?” mounted and was palpable … just like in Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid.

YET Westley was also the love of Buttercup. He was the man who embraced True Love … and believed that true love would conquer all the challenges they had to face. AND YET he was willing to mentally & emotionally torture his true love, Buttercup, just to test her resolve and her love for him.

He was all these things … he was a complex character. I learned to love that complexity in characters. And I came to believe it to be as much the rule as the exception. It is part of the essence of Z.


There is a ton to unpack about Twin Peaks and I have no intention of doing so here. If you haven’t seen this David Lynch directed series, it is well worth it. But there are some core themes that added to my concepts about a character that might become known in my Z world as “THE MAN IN BLACK”.

First, I was fascinated by one of the underlying themes that … IN THIS QUAINT LITTLE TOWN … in a beautiful setting … where you can get the best coffee & pie in the world at the local diner … EVIL LURKS BENEATH THE SURFACE.

I’ve actually had some similar real-life experiences. Most notably … and close to the time I had watched the series … was at a Superfund project site that I managed … in the aesthetically beautiful & quaint little town of Upper Black Eddy, PA … set in the hills along the Delaware River. There was evil lurking in that cute little town and project area and certain people. The details are too much to get into here (a story for another day, I think) … but suffice it to say, the experience re-enforced my growing story-board and concepts for the darkest side of Z … The Man In Black.

Further, the darkness … the evil in Twin Peaks … was Super Dark, super evil. And it involved a search not just for “what happened” but “why it happened”. WHAT WAS BEHIND THE EVIL THAT MEN DO? And in that search, there was a lot of craziness … supernatural & more … but you came to find out about a character named “BOB”.

There are long explanations and nuances to learn about Bob … but that is not my intention here. The key is that Bob was pure evil and may be behind the Twin Peaks evil. He could invade the psyche of others, take them over, and make them do his evil biddings. And his evil biddings were just awful. If you imagine the devil, you can imagine Bob.


I started to imagine … what if the The Man In Black was a more extreme version than in The Princess Bride? What if he was more like the Twin Peaks’ Bob? And what if he picked out victims of his invasion early in their golden “good” youth and tormented them until they tired … they acquiesced … and they eventually did his evil biddings … the evil that me do ...


MIB LYRICS: Now Do They Make Sense?

Here are the lyrics to MIB … and maybe now they make sense within that context …

I remember when I was young

I set my sights into the sun.

I’d always dream of better days

Could lift my mind up through the haze

But while I dreamed of better times

A dark cloud finally crossed my mind

From fables past that parents told

Someone could come and steal your gold

A man in black will come and take you away

Steal the innocence of youth

Start out young and strong and so tender

He will cut you down times two

Well, I grew up and I got older

Could feel get my conscience getting colder

From fables past that parents told

A man in black had up and robbed my gold

A man in black will come and take you away

Steal the innocence of youth

Start out young and strong and so tender

He will cut you down times two

Now the darkness covers everything

Kind of makes it hard to see

Right and wrong and good from bad things

Like playing nice from murdering

A man in black will come and take you away

Steal the innocence of youth

Start out young and strong and so tender

He will cut you down times two

OUTRO Lyrics (overlapping):

Man in black, man in black. (repeating).

No, no. No, no. (repeating).

Cause I don’t want to go, no I don’t want to go. (repeating).

Cause I’m a good man (repeating).

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