"Once In A Lifetime" as written by Brian Eno, Phoebe Esprit, David Byrne, Christopher Frantz, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth and Ronald Amanze....
And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself
Well...How did I get here?

Letting the days go by
Let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by
Water flowing underground
Into the blue again
After the money's gone
Once in a lifetime
Water flowing underground

And you may ask yourself
How do I work this?
And you may ask yourself
Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife

Letting the days go by
Let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by
Water flowing underground
Into the blue again
After the money's gone
Once in a lifetime
Water flowing underground

Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...

Water dissolving...and water removing
There is water at the bottom of the ocean
Under the water, carry the water at the bottom of the ocean
Remove the water at the bottom of the ocean

Letting the days go by
Let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by
Water flowing underground
Into the blue again
Into the silent water
Under the rocks and stones
There is water underground

Letting the days go by
Let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by
Water flowing underground
Into the blue again
After the money's gone
Once in a lifetime
Water flowing underground

And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right?...Am I wrong?
And you may say to yourself yourself
My God!...What have I done?!

Letting the days go by
Let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by
Water flowing underground
Into the blue again
Into the silent water
Under the rocks and stones
There is water underground

Letting the days go by
Let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by
Water flowing underground
Into the blue again
After the money's gone
Once in a lifetime
Water flowing underground

Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...
Look where my hand was
Time isn't holding up
Time is an asterisk
Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...
Yeah, the twister comes
Here comes the twister
Same as it ever was...


Lyrics submitted by alexboy

"Once in a Lifetime" as written by Brian Eno, Phoebe Esprit, David Byrne, Christopher Frantz, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth, Ronald Amanze

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Once In A Lifetime song meanings
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  • +10
    My OpinionI was driving to Denver to see the final four for Women's basketball. It was a once in a lifetime experience, particularly for the seniors that would be playing the game.

    I was alone. I was to meet my dad who had recently underwent open heart surgery and was now recovering nicely.

    The car I was driving was big, blue (the color of water), and old. I wondered if it would make the distance or would break down, but so what, I'm a man, resourceful, with 2 legs, big, strong, what do I have to fear?

    It was late.

    I've had money or thought I had money at certain points in my life, but not at that minute as I drove on the dark and desolate highway, somewhere in Iowa. I heard the sounds of irrigation sprinklers in the distance. The air smelled fresh, clean, with just a hint of fertilizer, but muted.

    My wife is beautiful, but she thought I was crazy for driving across the country to see some women play a game. When I originally purchased my house, it was so new, so important to me, now it seems like such piece of crap. My kids are doing well in school but doing their own thing.

    I am alone and it is wonderous.

    Well, how did I get here?

    I know how, it was based on preconceptions of things I had to do, on a path I felt oblidged to take, to pursue, wife, house, job, kids, all on "autopilot," of course always with the idea of a "plan," that fulfilled yields emptiness and like a tear in an ocean means nothing, but seems like it does. Ultimately, it is an expression of possibilities, limitless opportunity unfettered by what we think we need to obtain, total freedom, not a nihilistic expression of nothingness, but of choice and movement, like water around obstacles. Mid life, either a regret of things undone, or possibilities to explore.

    It was like tasting ice cream for the first time, what a wonderful song.
    ifinallygetiton April 19, 2012   Link
  • +9
    General CommentThe first time I really listened closely to this song I was on acid, and kept asking my RA about existance, and whether or not people actually exist. He showed me the video for this song (he owned the DVD) to help explain some things. I will say right now, that I have a completly different view than the rest of you, due to that experience.

    The way I interpret this song, is when you are not questioning, you are "letting the days go by." If you don't continiously question existance, you are not doing your job as a human being. Life is about discovering who you are, and discoveries are made by inquiry. The water part of the song is the key to everything in it. Water is pure, it is the most essential part of life for all creatures. However, water is what is keeping us from discovery, it is the barrier between us and god, us and nirvana, us and serenity.

    However, if you go though life without questioning what you have, and who you are, you'll still have all these great things (beautiful house, beautiful wife), as you are being held together by the water. It will always be there to support you, but at the same time it is holding you down.
    p3nguinpi3on June 18, 2004   Link
  • +7
    General CommentThis is one of my favorite songs! The video is crazy too. But i think that this song is just a reminder to us to not let life slip away without fully appreciating it. If you don't pay attention, you may find yourself "in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife" and not even realize why you're there or what it means.
    Quaggion May 22, 2002   Link
  • +7
    Song MeaningThis song is about how most people spend the vast majority of their lives unconscious to what happens. Most people let things happen to them, instead of being a causing and driving force in their life. The "you may find yourself" bits are brief moments of lucidity in an otherwise numb life, where you look around at your life and question how you ended up here.
    "You may tell yourself 'this is not my beautiful house,' and you may tell yourself 'this is not my beautiful wife!'" That is literally the reaction to waking up and seeing things are the way they are, and wondering what happened, where you let all that time go. You find yourself somewhere and you don't know how it happened, because you've been unconscious to the entirety of your life up until that brief moment of clarity.
    Rionon May 24, 2013   Link
  • +6
    General CommentThe unexamined life is not worth living.
    Rasputin007on January 03, 2005   Link
  • +4
    General CommentI think this song is about a middle aged guy who has all these things, but doesn't know how he got them. He has lived in a haze during his life, the water symbolized the passing of time, holding him under where he cannot enjoy his surroundings
    punchykon May 01, 2002   Link
  • +4
    General Commenti think its a little simplistic to say that this song is just about appreciating what you have...

    for one, pay attention to the delivery of the verses in contrast to the chorus. the verses are delivered like a sermon, then the chorus comes in like the choir. the character speaking is describing a sort of life process where people don't ask questions, where they blindly follow a certain path in life, getting a job, getting a wife, getting a car, without stopping to ask if this is what will make them happy. so byrne is comparing people who oversimplify and don't question their own life choices with people who blindly follow religions without questioning if its the right path for them or not.
    zooey74on May 25, 2004   Link
  • +4
    General Commenti think it's about how when you're young you have all these ideals that you live for, and when you get out of college you start making compromises. you take a corporate job because you're tired of being shit poor. and so you meet a woman and your family or coworkers or "the american way" persuade you to marry her. and all the sudden you wake up at 40 thinking, "what the fuck is this? how did i give up so much to land here?" as you realize that you've sold all of your ideals for "success."
    stevenminguson May 27, 2005   Link
  • +4
    General CommentOnce In A Lifetime: An theoretical interpretation

    Once In A Lifetime tells of a man (or a woman) who all of a sudden -- comes to terms with the banality and disconnection he feels towards his present life's situation. The first verse describes his initial shock, in the realization that all of this somehow feels very unfamiliar. He starts questioning surroundings, then the chorus comes in. The chorus is a sudden ephiphany realizing what's been passing him by day-by-day, as the last sentence of the first verse literally asks the question: "Well...How did I get here?"

    The chorus answers with "Letting the days go by and letting the water hold me down." The water in this context seems completely negative, in my opinion representing every obstacle in life that prevents the main character from truly finding himself. It is an epiphany, and the realization comes from the fact that he's letting materialism and disconnection from reality cause the days to go by. Letting the water pull him down.

    Despite him having an epiphany that the water is preventing him from enjoying life -- the simple acknowledgement of the water implies that the negativity may remain as the water is not completely out of his thoughts. So the chorus offers a What Happened / This is why sort of call and response. At this point he snaps out of the brief realization, this time a bit more grounded in reality.

    In this next verse the character becomes more questionable of his present life situation, at the end declaring that he doesn't even belong and that it is all wrong! Then it goes back into a second epiphany of the same topicality as his first. The realization that he can change his current setup -- in this chorus I feel that water means "I can hear the water of life within me and beneath my feet -- I am still alive and can change this setup!" Unfortunately, I fear the water may just mean something else that is materialistic.

    Because the next bit has the main character freaking out down the line again. In his new situation, the one he thought would work in his most recent epiphany, he thinks that he should be emotionally content -- but he is not. New situation, but it is the "same as it ever was".

    In the next verse, particularly as evidenced by the distortion throughout the verse, the world is tempting him to let the water pull him down again. It is just a metaphorical way of describing all of life's negative moods and petty desires blinding each of us. This next time however, the third epiphany that is still the same in subject matter as his last two causes him to go insane. He commits suicide, through drowning. He's lost in himself and cannot figure anything out. The water will literally hold him down until he floats lifelessly to the top, the water flowing underground.

    As he is dying, the next verse are his final contemplations on reality. They are self-explanatory.

    The epiphany he stumbled upon repeats twice, as if that is all that is left on his mind (in addition to the repeated "same as it ever was" which is the specific thought that drives him to suicide.")

    Now I personally do not believe this is a literal suicide, I think it is a metaphorical one describing him coming to terms with the superficiality of the world and having an ego death. I just think the water imagery tells the LITERAL side of death, but intended to illustrate the metaphorical concept of an ego death and reconnection with the world.
    AndrewVSon August 10, 2010   Link
  • +4
    My InterpretationI actually don't believe this is about living your live like a zombie without any meaning. I think he is talking about how people imagine time and how it affects our lives.

    Most people think about time as a stream that leading us from one point to another, and thus live their lives always looking forward, trying to get to a point that they are not at.

    I think in reality, time doesn't really exist. All things are just sitting there, they have always been the same, and if they change it is because of a property that always existed in them.

    When people look at it this way they realize that everything around them truly exists, it is not changing into it's true form, or degrading away. He says "time isn't after us" most people always live in fear of running out of time, and they feel that they are waiting for things to get better, not realizing that everything they image will exist in the future is right in front of them.

    People are "letting the days go by", not pursuing their strong desires, thinking that something needs to be different before they can get to them. People's lives are awkwardly shaped around this, they are confused and try to move foreward, guessing at what to fill their lives with like a beautiful house and wife.

    The way we imagine time is what sets us apart from other animals so much. When they have a desire, they will not do anything else until that desire is met, or a more urgent desire comes.

    It's about existentialism, like that carl jung quote "the ultimate question is: is man connected to something infinite?". We feel haunting existential uncertainty. In part because of the way we imagine death as a stream that is rapidly moving us away from our existence. What I think is, all things are made of matter, your brain, your thoughts and feelings, are all just interpretations of different arrangements of matter. So if a thought or feeling existed at some point in your mind, it certainly exists, and there is no need to be afraid of losing it. If all things are simply material, then when you die you will exist simply as much, or as little, as you did before.
    willsmithon February 02, 2013   Link

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