The Meaning and Inspiration Behind Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory”

In 2011, Lady Gaga was riding high on the release of her second studio album Born This Way, which was a departure from her previous sound on The Fame and took influences from a wide array of genres. Gaga tapped opera, heavy metal, rock ‘n’ roll, Europop, disco, and house for this album, taking a step away from the exclusively techno-pop sound of the previous album and really showcasing her incredible vocals.

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Born This Way included the influential tracks “Marry the Night,” the title hit “Born This Way,” “Judas,” “Bloody Mary,” and “You and I,” among other hits. The album touched on themes of identity, sexuality, freedom, and religion, but “The Edge of Glory” had something else special about it: Gaga wrote it for her grandfather, who passed while she was working on the album.

In a reposted 2011 interview with Howard Stern, Lady Gaga discussed the story behind the song, explaining her inspiration and process when writing “The Edge of Glory.”

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“My grandpa died about six months ago,” she said at the time, “and it was the first time I ever experienced death in my family, ever. We went out to New Jersey, [and] I remember I was really upset because the paparazzi came, and I just thought to myself, ‘man, you gotta come to a hospice?'”

She continued, sharing that her grandparents had been married for 60 years at the time. “Their love story was so beautiful,” she said. “And when my grandma was saying goodbye, there was something so intense that happened for me. That as sad as the moment was, they were both acknowledging that they had really won in life because they had each other.”

According to Gaga, the song came to her the next day as she sat at the piano with her father. “My dad and I sat at the piano in my family’s house,” she said, “and we had this big bottle of agave tequila, and my dad and I both started doing shots back and forth. And we were both crying, and I kept saying, ‘grandpa’s about to cross over into his glorious moment, it’s just hard now because he’s on the edge.’ And I just started to play piano … it just came right out [of me] … and there was just something about that moment with my dad, for me to be able to express what my father was feeling without him being able to express it, I think it was really special.”

Gaga then played the song that she had recorded on her phone in the moment for her grandpa before he passed. “I know he heard it,” she said adamantly.

Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

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