"Swimming Song" as written by and Wainwright....
1.
This summer I went swimming,
This summer I might have drowned
But I held my breath and I kicked my feet
And I moved my arms around, I moved my arms around.

2.
This summer I swam in the ocean,
And I swam in a swimming pool,
Salt my wounds, chlorine my eyes,
I'm a self-destructive fool, a self-destructive fool.

3.
This summer I swam in a public place
And a reservoir, to boot,
At the latter I was informal,
At the former I wore my suit, I wore my swimming suit.

4.
This summer I did the backstroke
And you know that's not all
I did the breast stroke and the butterfly
And the old Australian crawl, the old Australian crawl.

5.
This summer I did swan dives
And jackknifes for you all
And once when you weren't looking
I did a cannonball, I did a cannonball.


Lyrics submitted by kaleidoscope_eye

"The Swimming Song" as written by Loudon Wainwright

Lyrics © Spirit Music Group

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Swimming Song song meanings
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9 Comments

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  • +1
    My InterpretationTo me it's about coping with life. 'I might have drowned/but I held my breath, and I kicked my feet/and I moved my arms around' - life is overwhelming, but we do our best and struggle through it and maybe our swimming improves ever so slightly.
    voldermaniaon November 13, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love how Loudon's songs don't seem to be about anyhting but exactly what he states. This summer he went swimming! Or at least, I can't find a hiding meaning behind it. I like swimming.
    forksarentcoolon October 02, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI happen to disagree with tthe comment that this song is just about swimming. While a lot of Loudon's early stuff is pretty one-dimensional (cite: The Acid Song), I think this is probably his most meaningful song of his early albums. This song is all about experience, and I think that the summer he is referring to is all about his childhood to adulthood, and how you learn to see things differently and to take things slow. At the same time you take risks, and you calculate mistakes. It's about the person he portrays himself to be and the person he really is. The song is my favorite of his massive repertoire.
    bzenzon December 21, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAbout way more than swimming, cmon. He might've drowned but he held his breath and kicked his feet and moved his arms around. It's about living life to its fullest without fearing death.
    imgladimaliveon February 01, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentEarl Scruggs Revue sings it so much better.
    mamorton September 01, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHaha, I always thought it being about experience was the really really obvious part. Always seemed very sexual to me :D Just something to think about.
    AeroplaneIslandon April 19, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Commentpretty sure its about being a alcoholic...not just the self destructive part, but lines like once when you werent looking i did a cannonball, seem like hes describing all the ways to drown in booze. chances are im wrong tho
    wishbonewishboneon May 23, 2009   Link
  • 0
    Song Meaningthis might be a stretch but i think it might be about a relationship.

    This summer I went swimming,
    This summer I might have drowned
    But I held my breath and I kicked my feet
    And I moved my arms around, I moved my arms around.

    it may have been a first love, but the speaker is talking about how he was all into the relationship at first, and ultimately could have drowned with how deep he got into it. though, he held his breath and kicked, moved about and stayed afloat.

    This summer I swam in the ocean,
    And I swam in a swimming pool,
    Salt my wounds, chlorine my eyes,
    I'm a self-destructive fool, a self-destructive fool.

    he had different experiences (ie., strokes), different places to wade, etc. while these lyrics are very simple and convey the physical meaning, i think salt my wounds, chlorine my eyes could also mean some sadness in that summer relationship.

    i'm a self-destructive fool, well, we've all been there.
    rbcgirlon March 01, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think it's about being an alcoholic, pretty much definitely. First off, he was well known for struggling with alcoholism. And secondly, the metaphor of swimming is so often used to represent alcoholism in songwriting that it's pretty obvious. Here are some points to back it up:

    'Salt my wounds, chlorine my eyes, I'm a self-destructive fool'...this shows that he knows it's bad for him, but he still does it anyway

    'This summer I swam in a public place
    And a reservoir, to boot,
    At the latter I was informal,
    At the former I wore my suit, I wore my swimming suit.'...this says to me that when he's in public he's being polite and formal by 'wearing his swimming suit', aka keeping his drinking under control, but when he's on his own at the reservoir he's 'informal', which I'm assuming means skinny-dipping, aka being reckless and wild with his drinking.

    This is again emphasised in the final verse: 'This summer I did swan dives
    And jackknifes for you all
    And once when you weren't looking
    I did a cannonball, I did a cannonball.'..showing that when in public, he does more elegant and sophisticated moves like swan dives and jackknifes, representing him faking keeping his drinking under control, but then 'when you weren't looking' he does a cannonball, suggesting he loses control of his drinking when nobody is around.
    dezdenpettyon August 22, 2013   Link

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