"The Obvious Child" as written by and Paul Simon....
Well I'm accustomed to a smooth ride
Or maybe I'm a dog who's lost its bite
I don't expect to be treated like a fool no more
I don't expect to sleep through the night
Some people say a lie's a lie's a lie
But I say why
Why deny the obvious child?
Why deny the obvious child?

And in remembering a road sign
I am remembering a girl when I was young
And we said these songs are true
These days are ours
These tears are free
And hey
The cross is in the ballpark
The cross is in the ballpark

We had a lot of fun
We had a lot of money
We had a little son and we thought we'd call him Sonny
Sonny gets married and moves away
Sonny has a baby and bills to pay
Sonny gets sunnier
Day by day by day by day

I've been waking up at sunrise
I've been following the light across my room
I watch the night receive the room of my day
Some people say the sky is just the sky
But I say
Why deny the obvious child?
Why deny the obvious child?

Sonny sits by the window and thinks to himself
How it's strange that some roots are like cages
Sonny's yearbook from high school
Is down on the shelf
And he idle thumbs through the pages
Some have died
Some have fled from themselves
Or struggled from here to get there
Sonny wanders beyond his interior walls
Runs his hands through his thinning brown hair
I'm accustomed to a smoother ride
Or maybe I'm a dog who's lost its bite
I don't expect to be treated like a fool no more
I don't expect to sleep the night
Some people say a lie is just a lie
But I say
The cross is in the ballpark
Why deny the obvious child?


Lyrics submitted by adupont, edited by nyetnyetnyet

"The Obvious Child" as written by Paul Simon

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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The Obvious Child song meanings
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  • +4
    General CommentMy interpretation of the song is that it's about confronting the inevitability of dying. Remember, the singer is a grandfather--his son, Sonny, has at least one child. While I can't interpret every line, there are several that could refer to the problems of aging:

    "Or maybe I'm a dog who's lost its bite": losing one's teeth, or perhaps (more abstract), becoming ineffectual

    "I don't expect to sleep through the night": due to urinary frequency from prostate problems

    "I don't expect to be treated like a fool no more": asking not to be patronized because of his age

    "some rooms are like cages": Sonny could be thinking about another problem of aging, possibly affecting his father: an illness like a stroke or perhaps a broken hip, limiting his mobility and making him bedridden or otherwise confined to his room (which thus becomes a cage)

    The lines about Sonny leafing through his yearbook, with some of his classmates having already died, could indicate that Sonny, who is also getting older (thinning hair), is nostalgically or wistfully looking back at his life, remembering how it was...maybe even thinking about his own mortality.

    All of this is leading up to my interpretation of "the cross is in the ballpark." It means that death--symbolized by the cross, a common grave marker--is coming soon. In this context, "Why deny the obvious, child?" [punctuation added by me] could be telling Sonny to face up to it: his father is going to die soon (and so will Sonny, eventually).

    Given the above, it is rather uplifting that the song is not a dirge; the arrangement is in fact very upbeat. Maybe the Dad (the singer) has made his peace with the inevitable and no longer fears it.

    .
    LASon December 19, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti think the song is pretty much a journey through life kinda thing.. the first verse is talking about life at the present, asking 'am i just used to things being easy? or have i just lost my edge?' kinda thing...
    and the whole 'why deny the obvious... well i guess its kinda obvious what that means... 'some people say a lie is just a lie'... well thats obviously not true so why deny the obvious...
    and in remembering a road sign i am remembering a girl when i was young... i think thats about how you can remember something and it makes you think of something else.. like seeing this roadsign from his childhood reminds him of a girl that he perhaps was with near it or something...
    really not sure what the cross is in the ballpark is about..
    then the story just moves further through life and becomes about the son, Sonny.. and sonny seems to have some sort of midlife crisis or something...
    so... yeah thats what i reckon
    attila_carnakion April 28, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI heard Paul say in an interview that "The cross is in the ball park" was a line he come up with while the Pope was doing Mass at Yankee Stadium on TV.
    Rupert Pumpkinon April 19, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"I've been following the light across my room
    I watch the night receive the room of my day"

    The night recieving the room of his day is an obvious metaphor the aging process, and a great one at that.


    "The cross is in the ball park"

    The cross is the burden to bear, and saying it's in the ballpark is like saying it's closer than we'd like to believe, as if to say the "Some people say a lie is just a lie (probably to ourselves)" but burden we bear from it is closer than we like to believe...
    vaineron May 04, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think your pretty right on this Pat, but the speaker is on his death bed "I don't expect to sleep the night" is a pretty stong statement to support this.

    But paul Simon did say the "cross in the ballpark" is the burden we bear, and I'd tend to think that the burden in the song is death(""I don't expect to sleep the night"")/ getting older ("I watch the night receive the room of my day
    "), the obvious.

    But yeah, no question this song doesn't have anything to do with religion, just getting old, death, realization of it.
    vaineron June 17, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI will throw my interpretation in the ring.

    It seems that "The Obvious Child" chronicles a man who wishes to ponder all the possibilities of the meaning of life. However, from a young age, Christianity is all his parents teach him, and in fact, they discourage exploration into other spiritual thoughts and beliefs. Hence the phrase "Why deny the obvious child?"

    The phase continues even into his later life as he finds all those beliefs his parents instilled still control his mental/spiritual exploration. In later life, the phrase "why deny the obvious child?" is more of a pondering as to why any person would deny themself that internal spiritual exploration, something so obviously basic (in the beginning of the song, the question seems to be posed more to the parents).

    In the very end of the song, there is the line "Sonny wanders beyond his interior walls, runs his hands through his thinning brown hair". These are my favorite lines (in part because I have thinning brown hair). It could be interpretted that Sonny is having a spiritual breakthrough and allowing himself to wander beyond his interior walls. However, I personally think it's more likely that the intent is just that he allows himself to wander for a little while, something which regularly happens, but he never truly escapes the nagging discomfort of fully open soul searching.

    The discussion of the parents, Sonny's child, the bills, etc, all could be viewed as distractors from the interpretation I have given. However, I feel these are powerful parts of the song which show that he is living the normal American life. The cross in the ballpark is a perfect example of what I mean. What could be more American? The reason the normal American life is important is that it seems to show that this is a completely internal struggle for Sonny. He doesn't even let anyone ever know he has this urge to explore.

    The dicussion of the parents at the beginning is sort of underplayed. This could be intentional so as to show that they are not ill-intentioned in spiritually raising there son. In fact, they are doing it the only way they know how. It could probably be guessed that Sonny has raised his child the same way.

    The cross in the ballpark has a myriad of possible meanings, and in fact, it's likely that even Paul Simon didn't fully know where he was going with that phrase. I have so many possible meanings in my head, and I don't really want to enumerate them. In fact, many of them are compatible, so I like to just believe they are all good. Once, I did read an interview where Paul Simon joked that saying "the cross is in the ballpark" twice in a row was too much.

    I would love to read any other interpretations or comments on mine. Half of me wishes I could sit down and pick Paul Simon's brain on this one. The other half of me is worried that the true meaning might mean significantly less to me that mine does.
    twollamaloveon August 23, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI almost forgot to mention the lines "I'm accustomed to a smooth ride, or maybe I'm a dog who's lost his bite". I love those lines, but I really cannot place them into my interpretation above. In fact, I have a whole other interpretation which is pretty much mutally exclusive with the previous interpretation I posed.

    My other interpretation is just that the song chronicles the American dreamer, and the lines I mentioned about are central to that. Sonny maybe fell short of his American dream, or even attained his American dream and it wasn't what he had hoped.

    Again, this song to me is distinctly American in all interpretations.
    twollamaloveon August 23, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOn the internet I found the following quote "...When asked of its meaning, Simon answered, "The cross, the burden that we carry, is in the ballpark, it's doable."...".
    This makes the song a lot lighter in content I think.
    jolartion September 23, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's a retrospective, and its a look into the future, a true achievement in language.

    its basically a man looking back into his life and how he perceived it in his youth.

    "Accostumed to a smooth ride, maybe just a dog who's lost his bite" is a clear explanation of how he felt before, as a rough and tumble type of person who'd rather have it tough than easy, but time and experiece have changed this, and its not bad, its just experience, its just life.

    The title is usually misintrepreted as the obvious child (a child being obvious), but its basically a figure of speech of someone talking down to someone else "its not possible to deny the obvious" being patronizing witha sense of affection (parenthood).

    The fact that you cannot be in permanent revolution is evident, the most beatiful verses in the piece are sang as a remembrance: "These songs are true, These days are ours, These tears are free". but its looked at as if even thou it was a reality at the moment its not exactly how it is right now, and its not saddening or angry, its just different.

    the calrification of the "cross in the ballpark" is welcome, but is also fits within the theme as a very hopeful comment to tell someone who's looking into the future (the challenge can be taken and achieved it seems). thanks to jolarti for that, I thought i was lost with a dead baseball player analogy...

    Sonny wanders beyond his interior walls, the future self of the speaker (his son) looks at his life the same way his father did before him, and realizaes he is quite content with life as it has been and whatever will come.

    I love it, it has become a mantra for me, "I dont expect to be treated like a fool no more"

    tnx all
    Gs_topcowon November 09, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWow, gs_topcow, you have got a great upbeat look on this. It does give me some perspective, but I still can't think it's all positive. The flipping through the yearbook, the smoother ride line, he's a dog who's lost his bite, these are all indications that life is getting harder, not easier. The thinning hair line suggests that he is not content with life (perhaps he is letting go of his dreams a little to become more content, but this is a progression through the song if anything).

    I do agree that the phrase "the obvious child" implies that there is wisdom in obvious or childish notions. I have always felt that, and it is perhaps my favorite line in the song.

    I have more thoughts, but I could go too long. Anyway, great song. It stirs every very positive and negative emotions for me all at once; all in relevance to getting older.
    twollamaloveon November 21, 2006   Link

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