"Night By Night" as written by Walter Carl Becker and Donald Jay Fagen....
It's a beggars life, said the Queen of Spain
But don't tell it to a poor man
Cause he's got to kill for every thrill
The best he can
Everywhere around me
I see jealousy and mayhem
Because no men have all their peace of mind
To carry them
Well I don't really care
If it's wrong or if it's right
But until my ship comes in
I'll live night by night

When the joker tried to tell me
I could cut it in this rube town
When he tried to hang that sign on me
I said take it down
When the dawn patrol got to tell you twice
They're gonna do it with a shotgun
Yes, I'm cashing in this ten-cent life
For another one

Well I ain't got the heart
To lose another fight
So until my ship comes in
I'll live night by night

Well I don't really care
If it's wrong or if it's right
But until my ship comes in
I'll live night by night


Lyrics submitted by cgibbs87

"Night by Night" as written by Walter Carl Becker Donald Jay Fagen

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Night By Night song meanings
Add your thoughts

12 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +2
    General CommentThe protag has led a dark late-night kind of life, maybe as a grifter or hustler, and he's thinking of changing his ways, sick of all the jealousy and mayhem. Someone tries to convince him to stay with it, but he refuses (take it down) because he knows that sooner or later it'll all catch up with him (... with a shotgun). So until he finds a way to live legit (until his ship comes in), he'll just get by, night by night.
    rainwalkon March 21, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI agree with Rainwalk... it's about a street hustler who'll do whatever he needs to do to survive, but also wants to find a legitimate way to live, but until then he'll live "night by night."

    My fave song off Pretzel Logic.
    YourGoldTeethon April 13, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"Night by Night" is a term used in Alcoholics Anonymous that refers to the way that you have to plan your nights out so that you don't go off randomly drinking because there's nothing else to do. The protagonist is tired of living a life of illegality and wants to stop. He plans to do this by living "Night by Night"
    Bazooka27on August 23, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song sounds like the 1970's. If someone asked you what the 1970's sounds like, you send them a clip of this song.
    SignInStrangeron September 16, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentYay. First to post. This is one of my favorite sd songs. I've never really understood it. Someone please explain what it's about. Lewis
    blackfridayon October 22, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI have a different view of the joker. The joker, which some equate with Jesus (dylan in Watchtower, for example), is a character from a 12-steps (a la AA) program who has told him to leave NYC for a less stressful environs. He knows he won't be able to deal with life in "a rube town" - hence "Take it down" - too boring. Yet, he still has the dilemma - life on the edge is, well, too on the edge. So, he is cashing in his 10-cent life to just try to hang on - night-by-night.
    montresoron April 11, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is about a bum's life. The lyrics are self explanatory. It starts out telling you it's about a bum, or at least a "poor man". In the second verse, the line "When the dawn patrol got to tell you twice
    They're gonna do it with a shotgun", means that this poor bum probably has been caught sleeping somewhere he shouldn't have one too many times by the police, and he's just recalling that they wake you up with a shotgun, if necessary, to get you to leave. When he says "But until my ship comes in
    I'll live night by night", he literally means that he has to live each night like it's his last until something better turns his life around.
    The lines "When the joker tried to tell me
    I could cut it in this rube town
    When he tried to hang that sign on me
    I said Take it down", is Becker and Fagan's cynicism and facetiousness.It's their way of saying " I mean to be a bum", even though we all know that's not true. It's a great song. Well, that's my two cents anyway.
    liveswithanevilbon November 13, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentPossibly a little reference to their first album, "Can't Buy A Thrill" in the line:
    "'Cause he's got to kill for every thrill."

    Although the narrator is a "loser," he's no fool.
    ChiTownHustleron October 20, 2010   Link
  • 0
    My Interpretationi used to listen to this tune alot in college and played it many times in clubs...
    he's talking about his ridiculous life as a musician..

    When the joker tried to tell me
    I could cut it in this rube town
    When he tried to hang that sign on me
    I said take it down

    agents and promoters...

    When the dawn patrol got to tell you twice
    They're gonna do it with a shotgun
    Yes, I'm cashing in this ten-cent life
    for another one

    sleeping illegally in your car or on the beach.
    he's disgusted with the lack of respect and the seeming hopelessness of his current situation, he's only really feeling alive night by night. obviously that is all in the past...
    dwdudeon February 20, 2013   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningMy take on this has always been opposite of what's mostly been posted so far. it is a rebellion against the square, clean lifestyle and the constant accountability that comes with it. Sort of an early form of Deacon Blues, (lyrically not musically).
    mark102077on December 12, 2016   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top
explain