"Once In My Life" - The Decemberists [YouTube Music Video]

Poignant video from the heart
Patrick Henkels

by Patrick Henkels

Published July 18, 2018

The Decemberists have released a heartwarming music video for "Once In My Life," the opening track from their latest LP, I'll Be Your Girl.  

Directed by Autumn de Wilde, the video is a touching tribute to the director's brother, Jacob, who is 7'2" and has Auditory Processing Disorder.  Portrayed at a diner, Jacob goes into an inner monologue about his disorder and the unwanted attention that comes with it.  After getting laughed at and mocked, Jacob receives kind words from a waitress, "Hey, don't listen to them." 

What happens next is extraordinary. 

Jacob breaks into a heated interpretive dance, dashing from the restaurant and helping others through the streets of Los Angeles.  In the end, Jacob ascends to the sky, the waitress from earlier staring in astonishment.  

 Wilde detailed the video's concept in a statement from the Decemberist's website:

There are many of us who feel sometimes like we live in a sort of dollhouse for the wrong doll, but our perspective can shift dramatically when we realize, in fact, that our difference has simply redefined the space we are in. My brother is in his 40’s and his long journey to achieve the comfort and understanding in how he moves, communicates and connects to others is inspiring to me. Self-love and acceptance are the real superpowers waiting for all of us.

Meloy expressed his appreciation of the video in the same statement:

We were searching for a video idea for “Once In My Life” that would somehow capture the spirit of the song. In my mind, the song is a meditation, a plea to the cosmos that I imagine everyone, at some point or another, has made. We asked our old friend and collaborator Autumn de Wilde to pitch an idea and she came to us with a simple but powerful story: a depiction of her brother Jacob, a man who has lived with physical and intellectual differences his entire life, dancing in the streets of Los Angeles. The song, in this light, becomes more than just a “celebration of sadness,” (which I have sometimes called it) but suddenly a longing holler to the universe against one’s perceived otherness.

This idea is particularly close to me as I’ve witnessed how the world sees my son Hank, who is autistic. When I’m out in public with Hank, I’m acutely aware of the world’s attachment to social and behavioral norms; in these situations, Hank’s otherness can suddenly be put in stark relief. Through the lens of Jacob’s joyful and defiant movement in Autumn’s video, we see a man shrugging off the constraints of an unaccommodating and judgmental world and truly reveling in his body and mind.

Despite its bizarre nature, the music video for "Once In My Life" presents a moving theme of the importance of kindness and accepting oneself.  With a catchy song to match it, the video is sure to turn some heads and spread its uplifting message.

Musically, "Once In My Life"  blossoms with a driving acoustic guitar from Colin Meloy before his vocals burst out of the gate.  Keyboardist Jenny Conlee adds lush harmonies while bassist Nate Query implements tasteful fills.  John Moen's percussion catapults the band into a steady groove accompanied by Conlee's swirling synths and Chris Funk's atmospheric guitar.  Even though the lyrics are repetitive, they never lose their luster, giving the song an anthemic feel. 

I'll Be Your Girl is available on Amazon and other major streaming services. 

For more music, news, and tour dates, check out the Decemberists' Zumic artist page


The Decemberists
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