The Meaning Behind Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory,” Inspired by Her Late Grandfather

On Sept. 24, 2010, Lady Gaga‘s grandfather, Giuseppe (Joseph) Germanotta, passed away. The time leading up to his death was a difficult one for the singer and her family, and towards the end of her grandfather’s life, Gaga ended up writing one of her biggest hits.

Videos by American Songwriter

Tequila Shots

Sitting at the piano and taking shots of tequila with her father, Gaga began writing “The Edge of Glory,” released on her second album Born This Way.

“My dad and I were going to say goodbye to him [her grandfather] at the hospice, and I got out a big thing of agave tequila and my dad sat next to me at the piano and we started doing shots back and forth,” shared Gaga. “And I wrote ‘The Edge of Glory’ on the piano and my dad and I cried.”

Diamond Anniversary

Inspired by her grandparents’ 60-year marriage, the meaning behind “The Edge of Glory” also tells the story of once-forbidden love before they were married. Gaga’s grandfather used to sleep in his car on the street just to be near her grandmother, Angeline. The strict Italian family wouldn’t let her grandfather near her grandma at the time.

There ain’t no reason you and me should be alone tonight
Yeah, baby, tonight, yeah, baby
But I got a reason that you should take me home tonight
I need a man that thinks it right when it’s so wrong
Tonight, yeah, baby
Tonight, yeah, baby
Right on the limit’s where we know we both belong tonight

It’s hot to feel the rush
To brush the dangerous
I’m gonna run right to
To the edge with you
Where we can both fall far in love

Final Moments

Gaga added the song is about your “last moment on Earth, the moment of truth, the edge of glory is that moment right before you leave the Earth.”

Gaga saw her grandfather for the very last time and remembered the look of triumph on his face. “My grandma said Joey [her grandpa] just go,” said Gaga. “I remember he gave this look that said ‘I won’ like I’m a champion.”

I’m on the edge of glory
And I’m hangin’ on a moment of truth
I’m on the edge of glory
And I’m hangin’ on a moment with you
I’m on the edge
The edge, the edge, the edge
The edge, the edge, the edge
I’m on the edge of glory
And I’m hangin’ on a moment with you
I’m on the edge with you

Another shot before we kiss the other side tonight
Yeah, baby, tonight, yeah, baby
I’m on the edge of something final we call life tonight

Piano to Pop

After some production and fleshing the song for Born This Way, “The Edge of Glory” transformed into the perfect pop anthem with a little help from the late E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who also appears in the video with Gaga—his final appearance before his death on June 18, 2011.

“That song can be played on the piano, but it’s actually set to this giant, huge, techno rock, Springsteen-esque dance beat,” said Gaga. “I actually had Clarence Clemons from the E Street Band come in and play saxophone on it. It’s fucking beautiful.”

Clemons’s sax parts were also completely improvised. “She said to me, ‘Play from your heart. Play what you feel.’ It was all very pure,” said Clemons. “I play sax through the whole song, and I have a solo. I’m surprised I’m getting paid for this. I would have done it for free. I can never believe something that feels so good earns me money.”

In 2011, Gaga performed “The Edge of Glory” on her television special, A Very Gaga Thanksgiving, and dedicated it to her grandmother.

Co-written along with DJ White Shadow and Fernando Garibay, and produced by Gaga and Garibay, “The Edge of Glory” peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became Gaga’s tenth consecutive top 10 hit.

Photo: Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Behind the Band Name: Iron Butterfly