Lilac Wine


"Lilac Wine" is a song by James Shelton originally performed by Hope Foye in the theater musical revue, Dance Me a Song, in 1950. It was covered by Dave Gahan and Soulsavers and is the third track on Imposter.


(from Jeff Buckley's version)

I lost myself on a cool damp night
I gave myself in that misty light
Was hypnotized by a strange delight
Under a lilac tree
I made wine from the lilac tree
Put my heart in its recipe
It makes me see what I want to see
And be what I want to be
When I think more than I want to think
I do things I never should do
I drink much more that I ought to drink
Because it brings me back you
Lilac wine is sweet and heady, like my love
Lilac wine, I feel unsteady, like my love
Listen to me, I cannot see clearly
Isn't that she, coming to me nearly here?
Lilac wine is sweet and heady, where's my love?
Lilac wine, I feel unsteady, where's my love?
Listen to me, why is everything so hazy?
Isn't that she, or am I just going crazy, dear?
Lilac wine, I feel I'm ready for my love
Feel I'm ready for my love

Dave's Take

"It's having a dependency. It's having a love- a true love that you feel and you know is there. And maybe that love at that particular time is a substance; it's not always a person, unfortunately."1

"I knew I wanted to do a Nina Simone song, and my daughter suggested this one. Singing this was particularly intimidating for me, I think because I was trying to find a certain intimacy with it, which left me feeling like I was teetering on the edge of creating something great and something that didn't do justice to the original."2

My Take

I could not find the Hope Foye-original of this song, but I did listen to the versions by Eartha Kitt, Nina Simone, and Jeff Buckley in order to get a proper sampling. The melody starts out somewhat melancholy in the first half, but then in the second half, it transitions to a lighter and more whimsical tone, as if taking us through the lyricist's emotion-driven drinking binge from beginning to end. There is no obvious and discernible beat throughout, so the whole song sounds very spontaneous- as if it were made up on the spot. I feel like Eartha captured that spirit perfectly in her version; it's as if she is getting more inebriated and giddy as the song goes on, and then she ends it with a playful giggle.

I'll be honest...this one is going to be a tall order for Dave! But I think he can pull it off- even knock it out of the park if he gets a few elements right. I have a feeling that his version is going to sound more similar to Jeff Buckley's 1994 version than any other, but even then, it is going to be very interesting to see what he can do with this. He needs to capture the spontaneous spirit of this song in order to do it justice, but I have a feeling he will have a lot of fun doing so (well, or he already did since it's already recorded). Thus, I am really looking forward to hearing his version of this! If he can do that and also do with his vocals what he did in many of his songs on Hourglass, for example- employing a proper balance of both the softest and roughest ends of his vocal range, then he is going to knock this one out of the park for sure.

In several different interviews already, Dave has mentioned that he is most familiar with Nina Simone's version of this song; he has not made any mention of Eartha Kitt's version. And I was very surprised to hear that he had not heard Jeff Buckley's version when he had recorded this! With that said, Dave's version is unique; he has truly made it his own. His vocals here are simply flawless, which is honestly impressive given how high he goes in some parts. For some reason, I am reminded of his peerless falsetto during the "Play the fool, act so cruel...Read her book, take a look" parts in "My Secret Garden," though he has done great with soft, high notes on other songs, as well. And the instrumentation here is perfect, sounding very warm and dreamy. In my opinion, there is no "doing the original justice" here; Dave and his band have subtly but completely created their own interpretation of this classic song, and it stands on its own.

Music Video

There is no music video for this song.


  1. "Lori Majewski talks with Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan about his new album Imposter with Soulsavers", Sirius XM (October 7, 2021)
  2. Imposter: A Story of Songs (tour program) (December 3, 2021)