"Dr. John" as written by and Michael Holbrook Penniman....
I look for joy in a strange place
From the back of the bar
From afar
I see the look on my mama's face
When her son's in the corner, undone

She says that my life is over
But boy, you don't know what you got till it's gone
Come put your head upon my shoulder
She gave me her hand, but I ignored her

Oh, Dr. John
What am I doing
What am I doing I wrong?
Cause I keep on trying
Something ain't going
Something ain't going on
Oh, Dr. John

I look for joy in a strange place
From the back of a bar
From afar
I see the look on my daddy's face
When his son's fallin' over, undone

Well Father my life is over
Well I didn't know what I had now it's gone
Can I lay my head upon your shoulder?
If I fall asleep, will it be over?

Oh, Dr. John
What am I doing
What am I doing I wrong?
Cause I keep on trying
Something ain't going
Something ain't going on

Oh, Dr. John
What am I doing
What am I doing I wrong?
Cause I keep on trying
Something ain't going
Something ain't going on

They say I'm a big heartbreaker
But Doctor, I never hurt you
Isn't it obvious?

Oh, Dr. John
What am I doing
What am I doing I wrong?

Cause I keep on trying
Something ain't going
Something ain't going on

(Another day, another break up)
Oh, Dr. John
(Hold on, and on, Hold on, and on)

I keep on trying
(Another day, another wake up)

We hold on, and on
We hold on, and on

Oh, Dr. John
(Another day, another wake up)

We hold on, and on
We hold on, and on
(Another day, another wake up)

(I keep on trying)
We hold on, and on
We hold on, and on

Oh, Dr. John
What am I doing
What am I doing wrong?
I keep on trying
Something ain't going
Something ain't going on

Dr. John

Ooh, ooh, ooh

Dr. John.


Lyrics submitted by nightsky13

"Dr. John" as written by Michael Holbrook Penniman

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Dr. John song meanings
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10 Comments

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  • +1
    General CommentLightpiez is spot on. It's about alcoholism. Dr. John = Jack Daniels. But why...???



    One might take a step further by saying this is not a struggle with alcoholism relationships/sex, but his sexual identity itself. Maybe due to the rejection from his parents about his sexuality...???

    Thus, Dr. John, what am I doing wrong...?

    ...Nothing. You're gay. It's your parents who have the trouble accepting it. Your life isn't over. But the straight boy they thought you were is dead. Maybe if you dream it away the denial will stop along with the rejection? Nope. So stop holding on and on... to the boy they thought they knew.

    The interesting part is that the mother seems a bit more accepting while he is struggling with his father whom he is seeking acceptance from the most. Perhaps daddy took it hard?

    "You say I'm a big heart breaker. But, Doctor, I've never hurt ya. Isn't it obvious?"

    Broke his daddy's heart. But it's not his fault his daddy's heart got broken. It's the father's rejection/denial.



    And that, folks, would be my pence worth.
    0sm0sison July 06, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love this song! No idea what it's about. But I'm surprised there are no comments here!

    Mika is brilliant!
    ilovethekillers21on October 25, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Commentim not sure about the meaning but i think it may be about looking for love or happiness, but he's just not finding it, instead he's just having loads of hook-ups, there for loads of break-ups and he's frustrated because he doesnt know why he cant find happiness. I'm not sure who doctor john is menat to be or represent, maybe a phychatris? a friend? a kinda imaginary voice in his head even, or maybe even drugs or alchol or something
    Saoirsefluffballon November 15, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI agree, I think Dr John is supposed to be a psychiatrist. I think too it could be one of those relationships that is perpetually breaking up (we all know those ones), this is due to the 'we keep on trying'. The back of the bar could be a possible battle with alcoholism or of course some other drugs and hook-ups with anyone.

    I find it interesting that he rejects his mother but asks his father to put his head on his shoulder and tells his dad what his mum told him. Possibly a realisation and backlash to his mothers didactic musings but I really have no idea on that one maybe his dad can relate better.

    Trying to wrap my head around this part too:
    'You say I'm a big heartbreaker
    But, Doctor, I've never hurt ya
    Isn't it obvious?'

    This may support the notion that Dr John is his drugs too, he doesn't hurt the drugs but is seeking solace in them and is possibly mad that they can't (and won't) give him all the answers.
    mrbenjaminon December 02, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHonestly, I don't think this song is all that difficult to read. At least, in my opinion, it isn't. It sounds fairly simple: It seems he's in love with "Dr. John".

    Hence the bit:
    "You say I'm a big heartbreaker;
    But, Doctor, I've never hurt ya.
    Isn't it obvious?"

    Just my .2 cents.
    superaristocaton March 01, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think this song is about Mika's relationship with his parents. I'm not quite sure what he means by looking for joy in the "back of the bar," but I think it's about his parents not understanding him. (Mika has dealt with this topic before. Consider "Stuck in the Middle") "Dr. John" is a psychiatrist that his parents are talking to to understand what they did wrong with him. I think when he is talking directly with Dr. John, he's meeting with him himself.
    elise12192on November 04, 2010   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationI believe that some of the others were on the right track when they said Dr. John was referring to his drugs, but I believe it's more specifically about a man being pelted with one-night-stand upon one-night-stand who is turning to alcoholism and trying to find out where he went wrong.

    (I look for joy in a strange place
    From the back of a bar, from afar
    See the look on my momma's face
    When her son's in the corner, undone)

    He's trying to find solace in his pick-ups, but knows he's not likely to find anything. His loved ones try to support him but he turns them away.

    (Oh, Dr. Johhhhn
    What am I doing?
    What am I doing wrong?
    'Cause I keep on trying
    Something ain't going
    Something ain't going on)

    He tries to turn to alcohol (Dr. John - Jack Daniels) to help "cure" him and find the right path in his life, which he realizes is less than ideal. He acknowledges that no matter what he does, he can't seem to find happiness in what he's doing right now.

    You can tell that it's not just alcoholism, but a combination of that and a history of one-night-stands from some of the other lines. "Another day, another break-up" in particular. But that's just my take on it.
    LIGHTPIE7on March 29, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMika explained: "When you've had too much to drink and you're reminded of things you'd rather forget... I always wished there was this mystical figure I could talk to. I started to call him Dr. John. He's this triangular-shaped, perfect older man with just the right ingredients of madness and humility... he's got a big white beard and he's covered in feathers that he steals from his pet peacock." (Seeing the interviewer looking baffled, he added) "There's this whole world that goes with my songs!"
    Luckaon May 08, 2013   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationTo me it's nothing to do with addiction. The speaker is in that phase that most twentysomethings go through at least once: it feels like everyone else in his cohort has it figured out, and they're moving on while he's falling behind. Even though he's trying, it seems like every time he makes a little progress something happens to erase it. He blames his parents for his failure to establish himself as a functionally independent adult, while recognizing that they've done a lot for him and want him to succeed. He also sees the opportunities he squandered, the relationships he wasn't mature enough to maintain, and how much more work lies in front of him if he ever wants to become a real adult.
    "Dr. John" is this particular bar's permanent resident--the guy who's there every day from open to close. He and the narrator aren't exactly friends, but they've spent enough time in the bar together that they talk to each other a bit. The narrator winds up here again and again, even though he doesn't particularly like this bar. It's where he goes when he gets knocked back to square one.
    The "heartbreaker" comment in the bridge is a moment of self-awareness: the longest relationship he's had in his adult life is with Dr. John. He has to stop drunkenly bemoaning his fate if he wants to move forward. Maybe he'll wind up at rock bottom again in a few weeks, but it's better than spending those weeks wallowing in self-pity.
    yennafroston October 01, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI initially thought it was about autism when listening to it but, after reading the lyrics, I think it's about depression. I think he keeps "trying" but things aren't getting better and I think he may even have suicidal thoughts, which is the significance of "another day, another wake up" toward the end. Of course, another significance could be that his life feels repetitive and nothing's changing. I think the lyrics suggest that he has pushed everyone away, rejecting his parents support and ending various relationships. I think it does tie in with themes of alcoholism. I think he's looking for joy in a bar because he's trying to escape his depression through drinking. Dr John is presumably a therapist.
    Drabswinon March 15, 2017   Link

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