"Only A Fool Would Say That" as written by Walter Carl Becker and Donald Jay Fagen....
A world become one
Of salads and sun
Only a fool would say that
A boy with a plan
A natural man
Wearing a white stetson hat
Unhand that gun begone
There's no one to fire upon
If he's holding it high
He's telling a lie

[Chorus]
I heard it was you
Talkin' 'bout a world
Where all is free
It just couldn't be
And only a fool would say that

The man in the street
Draggin' his feet
Don't want to hear the bad news
Imagine your face
There is his place
Standing inside his brown shoes
You do his nine to five
Drag yourself home half alive
And there on the screen
A man with a dream

[Chorus]

Anybody on the street
Has murder in his eyes
You feel no pain
And you're younger
Then you realize

[Chorus]


Lyrics submitted by AbFab

"Only a Fool Would Say That" as written by Walter Carl Becker Donald Jay Fagen

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Only A Fool Would Say That song meanings
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26 Comments

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  • +3
    General CommentTwo references to John Lennon, or at least the Beatles: "imagine" and "brown shoes" (although Old Brown Shoe was written by George Harrison, but who shared Lennon's hippie utopia mindset), as well as references deriding his vision in Imagine of everyone living freely and "You may say I'm a dreamer" in the line "A man with a dream".

    I think the gun reference - "unhand that gun begone, there's no one to fire it upon" replies to pointing fingers at others (as pointing at others tends to look like the gun position kids use when playing cops and robbers) and that there's no one who is deserving of blame (having the accusation targeted at them).

    Thus the "if he's holding it high, he's telling a lie" means if he's pointing it at those high up, especially someone who would hold a "bed-in" protest at the Amsterdam Hilton, like Lennon, (or as if he is higher and better than everyone else), he's a hypocrite.
    ImaniOUon February 27, 2010   Link
  • +3
    General Commenti think this song was written about an idealistic-talking southern politician. possibly Jimmy Carter
    tennisluvr71on February 29, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe Spanish line at the end of the song roughly translates into "Only a fool would say that"
    slusichon May 21, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIt's a letter to hippies. Pointing out what's obvious, but we hate to admit: their 'message' is something that only fool's and fraud's wear on their sleeve. One more reason to love Steely Dan. I kind of thought it might be about Martin Luther King and cynisim caused by his death (man with dreams, shooting, etc) ... but reconsidered.
    thelighton May 22, 2008   Link
  • +2
    Song MeaningAm I the only one here who sees this song as an ironic (Steely Dan ironic ... who'd 'a thunk it?) comment on cynicism itself?

    This is my favorite 'Dan song (I love the remake by Ivy too), and maybe I have been taken in by the irrepressibly upbeat melody. Despite the exhausted working man counterpoint in the lyrics, I always kind of put some mental quotation marks around "fool", with the idea that we should all be such "fools."

    As for the idea that Lennon or Dylan are being called out for hypocrisy of some sort, that just seems way more overt than the Becker and Fagen I have experienced. They might allude to the contradictions in a situation and let listeners draw their own conclusions, but directly going after individuals is not their MO.
    waybackmachineon January 25, 2012   Link
  • +2
    Song MeaningAm I the only one here who sees this song as an ironic (Steely Dan ironic ... who'd 'a thunk it?) comment on cynicism itself?

    This is my favorite 'Dan song (I love the remake by Ivy too), and maybe I have been taken in by the irrepressibly upbeat melody. Despite the exhausted working man counterpoint in the lyrics, I always kind of put some mental quotation marks around "fool", with the idea that we should all be such "fools."

    As for the idea that Lennon or Dylan are being called out for hypocrisy of some sort, that just seems way more overt than the Becker and Fagen I have experienced. They might allude to the contradictions in a situation and let listeners draw their own conclusions, but directly going after individuals is not their MO.
    waybackmachineon January 25, 2012   Link
  • +2
    My OpinionWhile listening I hear
    "Imagine your face
    There in his place
    Standing inside his brown shoes"

    But the lyrics posted read "There is his place". Anybody else notice? Maybe only a fool would bring it up.

    To me this song is about point of view and one man's utopia is another man's hell and that everything has a price or consequence, no such thing as " a world where all is free" and how foolish and potentially dangerous it is to think otherwise. Anybody who says they have found the answer is either selling something or fooling themselves.

    Of course, what do I know?
    gregclon March 19, 2013   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationSome have commented about how this song might be a repudiation of the late 60's/early 70's idealism of Lennon and other musicians. I think it's more complicated than that. While there are a number of SD songs of that era which were critical of the counterculture, I do believe that both Don and Walt were sympathetic to the ideals - it was just that they didn't think the counterculture was doing anything productive toward achieving those ideals.

    In that respect, it seems to me that this song is more Randy Newman-esque in giving voice to a character outside of themselves. A character who is ridiculing the Lennons as well as a lot of straw men, but also thinks that only a fool could believe in a better world.

    In other words, this song is a dig at both sides of the argument. Walt and Don always keep you guessing.
    jaymeisteron July 15, 2013   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI just want to point out the incredible irony of the second verse.

    He's referring to an "exploited worker" one the fool Marx would call a proletariat. And he asks how would you feel if you came home at the end of the day and on the TV was John fucking Lennon.

    I think what he's saying is Lennon was out of touch from the common man. Marx wasn't in touch either. Never really worked or did anything.

    Not everything can be learned from sitting in a library and mooching off of wealthy friends.
    bkabbotton July 21, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General Commentok well that was useless saying that these were not the complete lyrics. what good does that do. here are the complete lyrics.

    A world become one
    Of salads and sun
    Only a fool would say that
    A boy with a plan
    A natural man
    Wearing a white stetson hat
    Unhand that gun begone
    There's no one to fire upon
    If he's holding it high
    He's telling a lie

    CHORUS:
    I heard it was you
    Talkin' 'bout a world
    Where all is free
    It just couldn't be
    And only a fool would say that

    The man in the street


    Draggin' his feet
    Don't wanna hear the bad news
    Imagine your face
    There is his place
    Standing inside his brown shoes
    You do his nine to five
    Drag yourself home half alive
    And there on the screen
    A man with a dream

    CHORUS

    Anybody on the street
    Has murder in his eyes
    You feel no pain
    And you're younger
    Then you realize

    CHORUS
    welcometothemachineon September 15, 2006   Link

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