"All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints" as written by and Paul Simon....
Over the mountain
Down in the valley
Lives a former talk-show host
Everybody knows his name

He says there's no doubt about it
It was the myth of fingerprints
I've seen them all and man
They're all the same

Well, the sun gets weary
And the sun goes down
Ever since the watermelon
And the lights come up

On the black pit town
Somebody says what's a better thing to do
Well, it's not just me
And it's not just you

This is all around the world

Out in the Indian Ocean somewhere
There's a former army post
Abandoned now just like the war
And there's no doubt about it
It was the myth of fingerprints
That's what that old army post was for

Well, the sun gets bloody
And the sun goes down
Ever since the watermelon
And the lights come up

On the black pit town
Somebody says what's a better thing to do
Well, it's not just me
And it's not just you

This is all around the world

Over the mountain
Down in the valley
Lives the former talk-show host
Far and wide his name was known
He said there's no doubt about it
It was the myth of fingerprints
That's why we must learn to live alone


Lyrics submitted by dank

"All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints" as written by Paul Simon

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints song meanings
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19 Comments

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  • +2
    General Commenti think this song is a play on the commonly-known scientific fact that every individual has a unique set of fingerprints. i'd have to disagree with simonfan a little here and say that i don't think paul means that even though our fingerprints are different our hands are similar - hence the essential similarity between human beings. I think the similarity he's acknowledging is on a more metaphoric level - like an inner thing rather than anything discernable on a physical level. As for the line 'there's no doubt about it, it was the myth of fingerprints, that's what that old army post was for' - i take that to mean that the 'myth' of fingerprints (our impression that we're all so different and have irreconcilable differences) is the reason why that army post was installed in the first place (with army post as a symbol for times of war) - i.e. human conflict is based on the 'myth of fingerprints'. What I'd like to know though is what the 'watermelon' in the chorus is about...
    ngnauhon June 21, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI agree with most of what's been said. Simon, it seems to me, is talking about the hypocrisy of saying we value individuality (no two fingerprints are alike), while at the same time stereotyping entire groups out of prejudice (whether it's illegals, republicans, moslems, blacks, gays, evangelicals, or old white men) One classic racist remark from a few decades back is "All of you people look the same.")

    As I noted in my comments on the song "Graceland," I think a theme of the entire album is how deeply ambivalent Americans are about the powerful stream of African and African-American culture that runs through every part of our society.

    I don't know who the "former talk show host" is in the song (it's too soon to be about Arsenio Hall and too late to be about Phil Donahue, who lost his job to Oprah), but that person is clearly bitter about some act of prejudice that killed his career because he was a black, a gay, a jew, or what have you. His advice is to "learn to live alone," without trusting your fellow man.

    The clues that Simon is thinking about race are phrases like "ever since the watermelon," reminding us of the not so long ago days when it was okay to joke that all black people ate watermelon, and "black pit town," which not only refers to the "black pits" of a watermelon, but segregated black towns in America and black mining pit camps in South Africa.

    So, unless I'm reading too much into it, this is shorthand for the history of colonialism, which began with "army posts over the ocean somewhere" where people of color were conquered, "grew heavy," and later "grew bloody" as colonies finally threw off their conquerors in bloody revolutions.

    Or it could just be a song. :)
    tappankingon November 16, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis is a very complicated song, much to be expected from Paul Simon. I think the phrase "myth of the fingertips" is significant. Each person's fingertip is different but that shouldn't suggest that we are that different from each other. The talk show host was a famous person but he's no better than you and I. Wars are started because of racism but we're it's just "the myth of the fingertips".
    b-rad1796on March 05, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Commentb-rad1796 its the myth of fingerPRINTS not figerTIPS mate. ;)
    apart from that i'd say your quite close to being right.
    this is an absoutely beautiful song i love it
    the imagery in it is great
    attila_carnakion March 15, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI have often wanted to take a shot at this song so here goes.

    First off "the Myth of Fingerprints" is actually that no two are alike. It's a myth. With six billion people, fingerprints are often shared but rarely enough that you can still use them as evidence.

    The talk show host is Dick Cavett. Read the Wikipedia article about him and I think you will agree.

    Out in the Indian Ocean somewhere
    There's a former army post
    Abandoned now just like the war

    This can only be Diego Garcia since I don't believe there are any other American bases past or present in the IO. The story of how the native peoples were removed wholesale (they were the descendants of slaves that worked the plantations) Since this song was written in the 80's, he may not have known that the base was still in use.

    Black Pit Town - A pit town is a mining town, usually referring to places in England that mined coal. A Black pit town would be Soweto or other mining towns in South Africa.

    Watermelon- Like everyone is saying. Racist American humor.

    My one "out on a limb statement" is "A People's History of the United States" came out in 1980. It was an interesting take on history and probably was a book that Paul Simon was influenced by.

    So here is my read on the meaning of the song. This is a song about how Capitalism is built upon the backs of a subclass. Look to different capitalist societies and you will see the same fundamental abuse of power hence same fingerprints but different perpetrators - the myth of fingerprints. All around the world.
    Emmentaleron October 09, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWith regards to "Ever since the watermelon"
    Reading other sites, it seems, although I can't verify it, that Mr. Simon has said that he never intended it to have meaning. But like many lyrics, including those that I have written, incidental or accidental meaning is created. When one is thinking about lyrics for a song, imagery that the writer may not fully understand begins coming to mind. Those images, like free association, may have symbolic and archetypal meaning. Besides being common to most areas of the globe, watermelon is one of the first cultivated fruits. It dates back to around 2000 BC. So not only does it do as a symbol of ancient times, it works quite well as a symbol for "common threads" that connect us all.
    plus4dbon March 15, 2011   Link
  • +1
    My OpinionWith all Paul Simon lyrics, it's key to know how he begins writing: by singing phrases over music tracks. "Mrs. Robinson," for example, began as "Mrs. Roosevelt," until Mike Nichols approached Paul about writing the music for "The Graduate." This song has always been one of my favorites, and does echo the theme of "Cars Are Cars" from the previous album. As for "ever since the watermelon," one of my theories is that he meant to sing or began to sing "ever since the world began" and "world began" morphed into "watermelon."
    nelson1965on August 12, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General Commenthow has nobody commented on this yet?... i don't know about the meaning, but i love the imagery...
    stupid_nameon January 31, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentNot a real well known paul simon song, but a good one nonetheless
    MattieCampon January 31, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI agree with b-rad1796. I think this song is about any sort of prejudice. "The myth of fingerprints" is the general publics obsession with ranking people. When he talks about the army base I think he saying wars are also created over our need to rank ourselves.
    Jaws201020on July 20, 2006   Link

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