Thoughtful lyrics

As you would have anticipated if you read the last post, I (still) feel inclined to revisit our Thought-provoking lyrics discussion after thinking so much of George Harrison this past week, as there are so many clever, wistful, brooding lines that deserve consideration which we have yet to touch upon.

Can you identify these examples and put forth some more for others to muse over? As you knew it was coming, I’m expecting you to be armed with good ones.

01. “You will find the bigger piggies stirring up the dirt
And they always have clean shirts to play around in”

02. “Looking everywhere at no one
He sees everything and nothing at all”

03. “Keep on dreaming, boy
‘Cause when you stop dreaming, it’s time to die”

04. “‘Round here we talk just like lions
But we sacrifice like lambs”

05. “From the moment I could talk
I was ordered to listen”

06. “I want to walk in the snow and not leave a footprint”

07. “Bought and sold and bought again
The dove is never free”

08. “There’s always something cooking and nothing in the pot”

09. “We thought that we had the answers
It was the questions we had wrong”

10. “We are all bourgeois now
So go out and make your way in the world”

Let’s do political songs next, shall we? Preferably angry ones befitting the current mood of glorious protest. If they should happen to creep into this post, so be it. From the above lines, it looks like one or two already have.

Until then, have a good weekend, everyone. Keep warm.

58 comments

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  2. Taki

    … boy, I do not recognise one!

    I must say #5 and #9 are very, very good, probably because they match to many of us…

    I’m curious to read the other’s comments and see if native speakers have an advantage here. 😉

    Best regards

    Taki

    PS. It’s finally winter in Bavaria. It took me 3,5 hours to drive 62km last Monday. 😮

  3. Ian Kelly

    A great bit of lyrics. George was a true inspiration for any of us who aspire to study/make music.

    I’ve always loved this lyric (though not a George lyric):

    “Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief, now kill their inspiration and sing about their grief”

    Keep up all the great things you do David!

    -Ian

  4. Alessandra

    03. Blind Melon – Change
    05. Cat Stevens – Father and Son
    07. Leonard Cohen – Anthem

    Speaking about “Anthem”, aren’t the lines “There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in” also thoughtful? I love them.

    Some songs.

    “Moved on to another town
    Tried hard to settle down
    For every job, so many men
    So many men no one needs”

    “We live in our secure surroundings
    And people die out there”

    “My hands are tied
    The billions shift from side to side
    And the wars go on with brainwashed pride
    For the love of God and our human rights”

  5. NewYorkDan

    #5 is from Cat Stevens. I don’t know the name of the song.

    Sadly I cannot identify the rest of FEd’s songs. But I do have a few of my own:

    “If wishes were trees, the trees would be fallen.”

    “You don’t possess me, Don’t impress me
    Just upset my mind
    Can’t instruct me or conduct me
    Just use up my time.”

    “And when I hung up the phone it occurred to me
    He’d grown up just like me!
    My boy was just like me!”

    “If you find somebody to love in this world
    You better hang on tooth and nail.
    The wolf is always at the door”

    “Rejoice they sing, they worship their own space
    In a moment of love, they will die for their grace”

    “Father, father, we don’t need to escalate
    You see, war is not the answer
    For only love can conquer hate”

    “He never knew my name
    Though I never met him, I knew him just the same”

    “Now for ten years we’ve been on our own
    And moss grows fat on a rollin’ stone,
    But that’s not how it used to be.”

    “I’m so damn glad he let me try it again
    Cause my last time on earth I lived a whole world of sin
    I’m so glad that I know more than I knew then”

    • FEd

      A nice choice, Dan. I recognise ‘Cats in the Cradle’. Lots to think about throughout that song. ‘New York Minute’ too. Both incredibly depressing when you think about how quick the time goes and how much can change in the blink of an eye.

      “If wishes were trees, the trees would be fallen” is such a good line.

      “He never knew my name
      Though I never met him, I knew him just the same”

      This one made me think of ‘Billy Davey’s Daughter’ by Stereophonics, about the suicide of a local girl:

      “I never knew her name
      I only knew her fame
      She lived near my town
      Another goldfish to drown”

  6. Alessandra

    “Man thinks ’cause he rules the earth he can do with it as he please”

    “I know I was born and I know that I’ll die
    The in between is mine
    __ __ __”

    “Don’t need no TV ad
    Tellin’ me how sick I am”

    Are these songs political? 😕

    I wonder if it’s actually possible to tell thoughtfulness (did I invent this word?) from political content, in the end.

    • FEd

      “Don’t need no ad machine
      Telling me what I need”

      Brilliant. Love the song, love the album. We truly are restless consumers buying whatever we’re led to believe we cannot live without. The killer lyric:

      “We’re starving and dying from our disease
      We need your medicine
      How do you pay for war and leave us dying
      When you could do so much more?
      You’re not even trying”

    • Ben

      “I know I was born and I know that I’ll die
      The in between is mine”

      Pearl Jam – I Am Mine

      I also like: “The ocean is full ’cause everyone’s crying”

    • FEd

      Another gem from an album littered with thoughtful lines. My favourite (from the song to which you refer):

      “You don’t have to be a Jew
      To disapprove of murder”

      But perhaps the best of them all:

      “What God wants, God gets
      God help us all”

      How true.

    • JulieD

      …or, I mentioned this before: “They had sex in Pennsylvania, a Brazilian grew a tree, a doctor in Manhattan saved a dying man for free, it’s a miracle.”

  7. Alessandra

    Now I know your last song, FEd.

    I’ve been thinking about those two lines since I read them, because they seemed to express something which is also my thought, so I cheated to discover the title and I had a listen.

    I don’t know much about this band’s music, but after listening to some of their tracks and reading some lyrics, I think one of their albums will probably feature in my Christmas wishlist. 🙂

    • FEd

      It’s a catchy song. I like both the 1988 original from McCarthy as well as the Manic Street Preachers’ version, a hidden track on 2001’s Know Your Enemy, which is in itself an album loaded with thoughtful lines; obvious examples are found in ‘Baby Elián’, ‘Let Robeson Sing’ and the brilliantly-titled ‘Freedom of Speech Won’t Feed My Children’:

      “Freedom of speech won’t feed my children
      It just brings heart disease and bootleg clothing”

    • Alessandra

      “Freedom Of Speech Won’t Feed My Children” is one of the songs I listened to online. It is a very good one.

      Other tracks I liked are “Leviathan”, “Send Away The Tigers”, “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” (I realised I already knew this one) and “The Masses Against The Classes”.

      This last song ends with one of the most thoughtful sentence I’ve ever heard:

      “A slave begins by demanding justice and ends by wanting to wear a crown”

      Sorry for my ignorance, but is it a quotation? If yes, do you know who said that?

      • FEd

        “A slave begins by demanding justice and ends by wanting to wear a crown”

        Sorry for my ignorance, but is it a quotation? If yes, do you know who said that?

        I do. It’s French-Algerian, 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature-winner, Albert Camus. It’s taken from his 1951 essay, L’Homme révolté (simply The Rebel in English), which explains the nature of rebellion versus revolution.

        He also famously wrote: ‘Do not wait for the Last Judgement. It takes place every day.’

    • Alessandra

      Thanks, FEd.

      Albert Camus! I was right to say “sorry for my ignorance”. :v

      That short sentence says a lot about human nature, actually. I think thousands of words couldn’t work better.

    • FEd

      Re: ‘The Masses Against the Classes’

      Can you believe that it reached No.1 in the UK (in 2000)?

      They’ve always been overtly political, the Manic Street Preachers, with clever, intriguing videos to match their incredibly deep and intelligent lyrics (which are not always easy to decipher, it has to be said). ‘The Love of Richard Nixon’, for example, asks what the world would have been like had the Watergate scandal not happened. That’s enough to make you lose at least an entire afternoon, I should think.

      Then there’s ‘A Design For Life’, with its effective use of slogans (HOPE LIES IN THE PROLES) and possibly the best opening line ever:

      “Libraries gave us power
      Then work came and made us free”

      OK, that’s it. I’m not allowed to talk about the Manics for one whole hour starting from now.

      I did so well in not mentioning Bob Dylan, too. Did you notice? 😉

    • Michèle

      Albert Camus also wrote:

      “Gouverner, c’est voler, tout le monde sait ça.” That is something like, “To govern is to steal, everybody knows that.”

      And

      “Un chef, un peuple, signifie un seul maître et des millons d’esclaves.” = (I think) “One leader, one people, signifies one master and millions of slaves.”

      On this theme, some lyrics to identify:

      “I twist the truth, I rule the world, my crown is called deceit
      I am the emperor of lies, you grovel at my feet
      I rob you and I slaughter you, your downfall is my gain
      And all my promises are lies, all my love is hate
      I am the politician, and I decide your fate”

    • Alessandra

      That’s enough to make you lose at least an entire afternoon, I should think.

      That’s what I did and it was a good way to spend some time. 😀

      Thank you very much for your interesting introduction to Manic Street Preachers.

      I liked “A Design For Life” (also the video), but I’m not so sure about the meaning of the lyrics. It seems to me that the song is about the working class people not as they actually are, but as they’ve always been judged by the rest of society. It could be I’m completely wrong, though.

      As for Bob Dylan, didn’t you recognize him in one of my comments above, or did you pretend not to see? 😉

    • Alessandra

      Albert Camus also wrote:

      “Gouverner, c’est voler, tout le monde sait ça.” That is something like, “To govern is to steal, everybody knows that.”

      Michèle,

      He was so right. :/

    • FEd

      It seems to me that the song is about the working class people not as they actually are, but as they’ve always been judged by the rest of society.

      I’d agree: the same old stereotypical views of the working class by those better off, not least the sensationalist middle class media. It’s a song about class solidarity. That said, there could be some genuine disappointment and embarrassment from the band’s point of view (working class themselves), because great swathes of working class folk do appear to live for the weekend and allow so much travesty to pass them by; moaning about injustice all week long, then blotting it out come the weekend. A good revolutionary would much prefer to see angry rioting evoke a change rather than drunken, deluded merriment achieve nothing, which obviously suits the governing class perfectly as they have for so long benefited from such inaction.

      The first line – “Libraries gave us power” – was inspired by a sign at the entrance to a library in Newport, Wales, which was built for the workers and paid for by miners, I believe: ‘Knowledge is Power’. I think it was Trotsky who said that librarians, along with teachers, should be cultural warriors fighting for socialist culture? Maybe if the working class had signed up at their library to fight for their social liberation…

      Then again, libraries are full of books written by the wealthy, pushing their capitalist lies, so you could also argue that far too many workers have been taken in by these lies already. Thus “Libraries gave us power” is as sarcastic as the song’s second line – “Then work came and made us free” – which, of course, comes from the sickening slogan atop the gates at Auschwitz: Arbeit Macht Frei.

      Perhaps the message is: you don’t get power from libraries (is knowledge really power?), neither do you get freedom from work.

    • FEd

      As for Bob Dylan, didn’t you recognize him in one of my comments above, or did you pretend not to see? 😉

      :)) Oh, I did spot him. The other stand-out line in that song for me is this one:

      “Man has invented his doom
      First step was touching the moon”

      Dylan for President, I say. Obama’s had long enough.

    • Michèle

      I saw on YouTube that the sleeve of the single “The Masses against The Classes” features the flag of Cuba. But without the white star. I think the white star – on the Cuban flag – is the symbol of freedom. So, do you know if it was a deliberate and subtle attempt to show – for example – that there is no freedom possible… for the masses, or just a mistake?

      Viva Fidel.

      • FEd

        Viva Fidel.

        That’s an interesting suggestion. I wonder why they did that. I’ll try and find out.

    • Alessandra

      A good revolutionary would much prefer to see angry rioting evoke a change rather than drunken, deluded merriment achieve nothing, which obviously suits the governing class perfectly as they have for so long benefited from such inaction.

      I agree. These behaviours quite often spoiled the left-wing messages and they also made the left voters themselves suspicious about the real aims of the protesters, for the benefit of the right-wing and of the governing classes in general.

      This makes me think, for example, about the sad end of the ’77 movement, here in Italy, partially weakened by the massive diffusion of heroin, which no one (not the government, of course) tried to stop.

      I just wonder where all that heroin came from…

      Speaking again about “Libraries gave us power”, making the masses literate was surely one of the aims of Leninism, since it would have helped the socialist revolution, so it might be it was Trotsky to say that.

      As for “Knowledge is Power” (Scientia potentia est), I thought it was Francis Bacon’s expression, or, at least, this is what I learnt at school, but I’ve just known from Wikipedia it’s not so sure. 😐

      Thanks, FEd, for this very interesting discussion.

      That song’s lyrics are actually brilliant. 🙂

    • FEd

      As for “Knowledge is Power” (Scientia potentia est), I thought it was Francis Bacon’s expression

      I always thought it was Shakespeare, but then, he does get the credit for just about everything.

      It is suggested here that it actually comes from the Bible: “A man of knowledge increaseth strength.” (Proverbs: Chapter 24, Verse 5)

      This from Shakespeare’s ‘Henry VI’:

      “And seeing ignorance is the curse of God
      Knowledge the wing wherewith we fly to heaven”

    • Alessandra

      :)) I’ve seen your twit.

      Let’s hope someone knows it. I’m sorry I won’t be able to read the blog the next days, so I’ll have to wait to know the answer.

      In the meantime, I read online someone else says it’s Hobbes. 8|

  8. Michèle

    #7 – Leonard Cohen, ‘Anthem’
    #6 and #10 – Manic Street Preachers

    Why, two ‘Manic Street Preachers’? Must be because they are Welsh. Favouritism, eh? 😉

    BTW, sorry for my ignorance, but I have no clue what ‘4St 7Lb’ (#6) means. 😐

    Now, speaking of ‘Bourgeois’ (#10, ‘We Are All Bourgeois Now’), can you identify the singer who wrote:

    “Les bourgeois, c’est comme les cochons
    Plus ça devient vieux, plus ça devient bête
    Les bourgeois, c’est comme les cochons
    Plus ça devient vieux, plus ça devient…[con]”
    😉

    Also:

    #1 – “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
    None but ourselves can free our mind.”

    #2 – “As soon as you’re born they make you feel small
    By giving you no time instead of it all
    Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all.”

    • FEd

      “Les bourgeois, c’est comme les cochons”

      Would that be the great Jacques Brel?

      I recognise John Lennon’s ‘Working Class Hero’, of course. That’s something to be.

      ‘4st 7lbs’ is a song about anorexia, so the title states the subject’s target weight – in stones (st) and pounds (lbs). (There are 14 pounds in one stone, by the way.) 4st 7lbs is apparently the bare minimum weight at which an adult can survive, hence the opening line:

      “I eat too much to die
      And not enough to stay alive”

    • Michèle

      Merci.

      So, ‘st’ stands for ‘stone’ and ‘lbs’ stands for ‘pounds’ (lbs ???). I didn’t even know that the UK were still using the ‘stone’ as unit of weight.

      Here body weight is measured in kilograms. An online metric convertor tells me that 4st 7lbs = 28.58kilograms. Indeed not enough to stay healthy.

      Anorexia, especially in teenage girls is a big issue in society today, showing a major problem with self esteem and ‘mal-être’. Once again, the media influence (as well as models’) on anorexia is also to blame. I found this article interesting (except the banner “Find your true beauty… in Christ”, of course).

      Sorry for being off topic.

  9. anoska

    The Beatles – Piggies
    Genesis – Man on the Corner
    Blind Melon – Change
    Counting Crows – Round Here
    Cat Stevens – Father and Son
    Manic Street Preachers – 4st 7lb
    Leonard Cohen – Anthem
    John Lennon – Nobody Told Me
    U2 -11 o’Clock Tick Tock
    Manic Street Preachers – We Are All Bourgeois Now

  10. NewYorkDan

    I see Michèle already beat me to the punch with her Lennon song, though she may not have realized its significance. Wednesday is the 30th anniversary of the night that John Lennon was senselessly murdered in my home town.

    I remember that day just as clearly as if it were yesterday. My teachers cried in school, and I remember the mood of the entire city: Why, and How, could this have happened? Shock. Horror. At the age of 14, it was the first time I had ever felt unsafe in my city: if HE wasn’t safe, nobody was.

    In memory of John Lennon (whose lyrics were both thoughtful AND political), I share the following words to a song we can all identify:

    “There’s nothing you can make that can’t be made,
    No one you can save that can’t be saved.
    Nothing you can do, but you can learn how to be you in time.
    It’s easy:
    All you need is love!”

  11. Alessandra

    I guess only a few bloggers could recognize this song, so no riddle for this one.

    Here are some lines from “Canzone del Maggio” (“Song for May”), by Fabrizio De Andrè. I think it is a very thoughtful political song, like almost everything in his discography, and it speaks about those who, being only worried about the safety of their bourgeois privileges, look at those who protest and ask for changes as they were the enemy.

    “E se credete ora
    Che tutto sia come prima
    Perché avete votato ancora
    La sicurezza, la disciplina
    Convinti di allontanare
    La paura di cambiare
    Verremo ancora alle vostre porte
    E grideremo ancora più forte
    Per quanto voi vi crediate assolti
    Siete per sempre coinvolti”

    Here is the translation. 🙂

    “And if you think now/that everything could be like it was before/Because you voted again for certainty and discipline/Convinced of sending off your fear of change/We’ll come again to your doors/And we’ll scream louder/Even though you believe yourselves absolved/You’ll be forever involved.”

  12. Piero

    The more I read this blog, the more I understand how good and interesting it is.

    The first to be mentioned is Carter Family with “Single Girl, Married Girl”, which had a deep meaning for that time, almost ninety years ago.

    Billie Holiday – “Strange Fruit” (Written by Abel Meeropol)

    Neil Young – “Out On The Weekend”

    Pink Floyd – “Time”

    John Lennon – “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)”

    Manic Street Preachers – “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next”

    Have a nice day everybody!

    • FEd

      I had to look it up, but Single Girl “goes to the store and buys” while Married Girl “rocks the cradle and cries.”

      Great example, Piero. 1928! I wonder what the other lyrics from that year were like.

  13. Gilson Ghigiarelli

    When is David Gilmour coming to Brazil? The Brazilian public is eager to see him for a long time. Please come and present us with his immortal music. Will be a unique experience in our lives.

    Gilson Ghigiarelli

  14. Andrew

    Here is my contribution:

    01. Death defying, mutilated armies scatter the earth,
    Crawling out of dirty holes, their morals, their morals disappear.

    02. No mercy for what we are doing
    No thought to even what we have done

    03. Say a prayer for the common foot soldier
    Spare a thought for his back breaking work
    Say a prayer for his wife and his children
    Who burn the fires and who still till the earth

    04. He’s haunted by the memory of a lost paradise
    In his youth or a dream, he can’t be precise

    05. Your inside is out and your outside is in
    Your outside is in and your inside is out

    I think these are pretty thought provoking. Let’s see who can figure these out.

    Thanks.

    Andrew

    • Alessandra

      I only recognized “No Remorse”, by Metallica and Pink Floyd’s “Sorrow”. 🙂

    • Michèle

      The easy one (for me):

      #4 – My favourite song from the ‘Momentary Lapse Of Reason’ album: ‘Sorrow’. Lyrics by David.

      I remember he said that he wrote the lyrics before the music, which was very rare for him. Both lyrics and music are so moving.

      “And silence that speaks so much louder than words,
      Of promises broken”

    • Andrew

      Yes, both Michèle and Alessandra are correct.

      I am a bit surprised that Michèle didn’t get #3. Although a bit lesser known song but a song from one of her other favorite bands.

      Thanks.

      Andrew

    • Michèle

      Andrew,

      Awww… the bad boys.

      It’s just that I couldn’t imagine them writing any line beginning with “Say a prayer for…”. 😉

      But today, I read on Wikipedia: Jagger said in a 1970 interview that the lyrics were written as “…total cynicism”.

      Phew… I’m reassured. 😉

    • Andrew

      Michèle, yes the bad boys song “Salt of the Earth.” Dan is right as well.

      Hmmmm… no guesses on the #5 song. Not even from FEd?

      Thanks.

      Andrew

    • Michèle

      #5: The good boys!!! 😛

      ‘Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey’

      Silly title, silly song, silly lyrics. Written by John Lennon.

      Does “Me And My Monkey” really refer to John and Yoko? :))

  15. rob

    Moody Blues – Question

    Why do we never get an answer
    When we’re knocking at the door
    With a thousand million questions
    About hate and death and war?
    ‘Cos when we stop and look around us,
    There is nothing that we need,
    In a world of persecution
    That is burning in its greed.

    Why do we never get an answer
    When we’re knocking at the door?
    Because the truth is hard to swallow
    That’s what the war of love is for

  16. Elisabetta Corsi - Italy N.E.

    When a man lies, he murders some part of the world
    These are the pale deaths which men miscall their lives
    And this I cannot bear to witness any longer
    Cannot the kingdom of salvation take me home

    — From: To Live is to Die, Metallica (Lovely, I like this very much)

    All colours bleed to red
    Asleep on the ocean’s bed
    Drifting in empty seas
    For all my days remaining
    Would north be true?
    Why should I, why should I cry for you?

    — From: Why Should I Cry For You?, Sting (Sting is always great)

    From Tito’s will by Fabrizio De Andrè (translated) lyricist and poet of music already quoted by Alessandra:

    Ma adesso che viene la sera ed il buio
    mi toglie il dolore dagli occhi
    e scivola il sole al di là delle dune
    a violentare altre notti:
    io nel vedere quest’uomo che muore,
    madre, io provo dolore,
    Nella pietà che non cede al rancore,
    madre, ho imparato l’amore.

    But now that the evening is drawing near
    To release my eyes from pain,
    And the sun is slipping down beyond the clouds
    To violate other nights,
    I’m looking, mother, at this dying man,
    Mother, I’m now feeling grief,
    In the compassion not yielding to grudge
    Mother, I am learning to love.

    “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”
    — Victor Hugo

    “…where music dwells
    Lingering – and wandering on as loth to die…”
    — William Wordsworth, “Within King’s College Chapel, Cambridge”

    Have a nice day to all of you. Very nice topic.

    Love/ciao
    Elisabetta

    • Michèle

      Elisabetta,

      Your quote by Victor Hugo made me think of this one by Friedrich Nietzsche:

      “Without music, life would be a mistake.”

      So true, too…

  17. JWG

    To me, one of the greatest lyrical lines written was:

    “And it’s too late to lose the weight you used to need to throw around.”

    Followed by:

    “The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older. Shorter of breath, and one day closer to death.”

    Not entirely on topic, but IMO relevant.

  18. tony

    From my spotty youth:

    Don’t know what I want
    But I know how to get it
    I wanna destroy the passerby
    ‘Cause
    I wanna be anarchy

    Merry Xmas and all the best in 2011,

    From Oregon and thinking of Scotland.

  19. chris

    The stress, what a mess.
    Naivety turned into reality and the anguish unfolds into daily routine.
    Why me? What did I do?
    I didn’t pay attention in school.
    The dreamer, always gazing out the window in the never-ending search of life.