I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then

I have always been a big fan of interesting song lyrics. The coining of a phrase that says more than the few words used in the song make it memorable.The above title comes from a Bob Seger song “Against the Wind” as he laments it was more exciting not knowing some things when you were younger about love and life. The following sample lyrics are not necessarily my favorites, but they are a few that represent my fascination with good wordsmithing.

“See, the number on the matchbook is old and faded,” is a line from Jim Croce’s song “Operator.” He is struggling to find the number of an old girlfriend who ran off with his “best old ex-friend Ray.” Since it was written on a matchbook, it means it was probably written down in a bar, maybe when  she let him know she was leaving.

“Just like a paperback novel, the kind the drugstore sells,” comes from Gordon Lightfoot’s “If you could read my mind.” He has several like this in the song, but to me he describes the cheesy romance novels you can buy in a drugstore where the hero saves the day. This is a melancholy song about people who can’t reclaim the love they once had, so the hero references are fantasy and not reality.

“Clowns to the left of me, joker’s to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you,” is a Stealers Wheel song whose title is the last phrase of the song lyric. The song can mean so many things, but it shows that we are in this together and we need to ignore the fools on either side telling us what to do. It is also a good metaphor for our political stalemate.

Bob Dylan wrote and sang “How many ears must one man have, before he can hear people cry.” The song made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary’s rendition sung on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial beside Martin Luther King is called “Blowing in the Wind.”  There are great references throughout this song, but I like this one the most as African-Americans have been maltreated for so long and it seemed to resonate more.

When people think of Rush, they do not first think of lyrics, but their many songs are replete with excellent wordsmithing. In the song “Free will” the words that resonate with me are “if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” I found this very poignant as many do not realize that by not doing something, they are making a choice. A good example is choosing not to vote believing it makes no difference. Yet, by not voting, the lesser of two candidates can be elected making a problem worse.

Of course, no list would be complete without some reference to a Beatles song. In “Lady Madonna,” Paul McCartney sings “Lady Madonna, children at your breast, it’s a wonder how you manage to feed the rest.”  This line speaks volumes of the difficulties in raising children, but especially in poverty or near poverty when you are a single parent.

Let me close with romantic song from David Gates of “Bread.” The lyric goes “When my love for life has all run dry, you’ll come and pour yourself on me.”  This lyric from the song “If” resonates with me as we pick each other up. He has done all he can and needs help, so his lover comes and pour herself on him to bring his spirits back to life.

I would love to hear your reaction to these and for you to share some of your favorites. These were top of mind, so I have overlooked many great lyrics.


23 thoughts on “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then

      • I was built on a Friday and you can’t fix me
        You can’t fix me
        You can’t fix me
        I was built on a Friday and you can’t fix me
        Even so I’ve done okay

        – From “Mystery” by Bruce Cockburn

      • I missed your comment. I am not familiar with this song. Interesting twist. I like the punchline at the end.

  1. “Whatever happened, to what’s her name.” Peter, Paul and Mary, song of the same name. Wistful memories of a long ago romance, compared to the complications of living today with two children, and one on the way.

  2. Oh what a trip down memory lane. These are some of my favs that I haven’t heard in ages. I really don’t listen to much pop or r&r anymore. One of my favorites is a Neil Diamond song,
    “I am”… I said
    To no one there
    And no one heard at all
    Not even the chair”

  3. “You can spend all your time making money. You can spend all your love making time.” Eagles, it always gets me. It’s something “grownups” tend to forget.

    • “Did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?” Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here. Love that whole song. I have a friend who thought that last line was “negro in a cage”! What in the world?! I should be working, now I am humming and thinking about songs.

  4. Love these quotes. Seger’s quote is one of my all-time favorites. Here’s a few more of my favorites:
    Eagles: “Some dance to remember, some dance to forget”
    Queen: “Why can’t we give love that one more chance?”
    Rolling Stones: “But if you try sometimes well you just might find you get what you need”
    John Lennon: “You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one”
    CCR: “still I wonder who’ll stop the rain”
    U2: “You gotta cry without weeping, talk without speaking, scream without raising your voice.”

    Springsteen Quotes:
    “Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true or is it something worse?”
    “It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive”
    “God have mercy on the man who doubts what he’s sure of”
    “the door’s open but the ride it ain’t free”
    “Now I work down at the carwash where all it ever does is rain”
    “We lose ourselves in work to do and bills to pay”
    And a perfect final quote: “Someday we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny”

    • Thanks for stopping by and offering great song quotes. Springsteen and Lennon could fill up notebook fulls by themselves. I also like your choice of artists. Neil Young is another favorite with quotes. Please do come again.

  5. Nice site, nice quotes!! Thanks!

    One of my favorites ( q. from Oscar Wilde )
    We are all of us in the gutter
    But some of us are looking at the stars

    Pretenders – Message Of Love

  6. Note to Readers: It is nice to look at earlier posts and catch a comment from Barneysday. His name was Larry Paquette and he passed away before we could meet. My wife and I planned to travel to California in the fall of 2015, but we delayed the trip when my mother needed moving into a Memory Care ALF. Larry passed away the next winter. Keith

  7. Funny, I knew most of these references. I love lyrics too. Some favs:

    It All Goes By So Fast

    I still see the boy,
    Hiding behind his smile,
    And you make the girl inside this woman,
    Blush just like a child.

    Bless the Broken Road – Rascal Flatts

    I think about the years I spent just passing through
    I’d like to have the time I lost and give it back to you
    But you just smile and take my hand
    You’ve been there you understand
    It’s all part of a grander plan that is coming true

    Ever Changin’ Times – Aretha Franklin

    All of my life, it comes back to
    You and me running out of time, I gotta find me a better understanding
    Everything keeps forgetting whats mine, I gotta find me a way, less-demanding
    And we’re holding on so tight, together, all of our lives
    I see, that clock upon the wall, well it don’t bother me at all
    It’s a ever changing time

    • I love these three choices. The last two have a similar theme where the woman knows we have each other today. As I read them, I felt like she is saying you came for me at the right time, meaning maybe we had to gain experience before we found real love. The first one is that twinkle that even older folks get when they hold each other’s hand. That girl or boy inside can still get excited. Thanks for sharing, Keith

  8. I love song lyrics which is probably why I am not a big fan of contemporary music. I always have a quote at the bottom of my personal email that resonates with me and I was just about to post in my signature Seger’s Against The Wind line. That is how I found your blog. Some of my favourites are “There are so many contradictions, in all these messages we send. How do I get out of here, where do it fit in” from the Eagles Learn to be Still and “Take your time, think a lot, think of everything you’ve got ’cause you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not” from Cat Stevens’ Father and Son.

    • Roy, welcome. Citing the Eagles and Cat Stevens will get you brownie points here. I love the Father/ Son dialogue by Cat. The Eagles were a lot like The Beatles with friendly competition from different songwriters each producing great music and lyrics. Thanks for adding your thoughts. Keith

    • Douglas, two memorable song lyrics. To my memory, the reference to “afternoon delight” was quite provocative to this teen when it first played. Keith

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