Do you know what you are?
You are what you is
You is what you am
(A cow don't make ham...)
You ain't what you're not
So see what you got
You are what you is
An' that's all it 'tis

A foolish young man
From a middle class fam'ly
Started singin' the blues
'Cause he thought it was manly
Now he talks like the Kingfish
From Amos 'n Andy
("Holy mack'l dere...Holy mack'l
He tells you that chitlins...
Well, they taste just like candy
He thinks that he's got
De whole thang down
From the Nivea Lotion
To de Royal Crown

Do you know what you are?
You are what you is
You is what you am
(A cow don't make ham...)
You ain't what you're not
So see what you got
You are what you is
An' that's all it 'tis

A foolish young man
Of the Negro Persuasion
Devoted his life
To become a caucasian
He stopped eating pork
He stopped eating greens
He traded his dashiki
For some Jordache Jeans
He learned to play golf
An' he got a good score
Now he says to himself

"I don't understand you..."
"Would you please speak more clearly..."

Who is who
(I don't know)
'N what is what
(Somethin' I just don't know...)
'N why is this
(Tell me now...)
(That's a funny pronunciation if'n ever
I heard one...)
If you don't like
(Where'd you get that word?)
What you has got
(Appropriot? The word is not...)
Drop it in the dirt
(Drop it yeah...)
'N let it rot
(I can smell it now...)
Someone else
(Here de come, here de come...)
Will surely come
(I told you they was comin')
'N pick it up
(That's right!)
'Cause he wants some
(An' he wants it for free...)
And when one day
(There will come a day...)
You wonder who
(I wonder too...)
You used to was
(Who I was anyway...)
'N what you do
(I used to work at the post office...)
You'll scratch your head
(But I don't wanna un-do my doo...)
'N look around
(Just to see what's goin' on)
But what you lost
(Can't seem to find it...)
Will not be found
(A Mercedes Benz...)
Do you what you are?
(I know...)
You are what you is
(I'm the kinda guy...)
You is what you am
(That ought to be drivin' a Mercedes Benz...)
A cow don't make a ham
(A four-fifty SLC...)
You ain't what you're not
(A big ol' red one...)
So see what you got
(With some golf clubs stickin' out de trunk...)
You are what you is
(I'm gwine down to de links on Saturday mornin'...)
An' that's all it is
(Gimme a five dollar bill...)
(And an overcoat too...)
(Robbie, take me to Greek Town...)
(I'm harder than yer husband; harder than yer husband...)
(I'm goin' down to White Street, y'all...)
(Gone down to the Mudd Club, 'n work
the wall...)
('N work the floor 'n work the pipe 'N
work the wall some more...
And here we are at the Mudd Club,
I hope you enjoy yourself, cause the
show's about
To begin...)

Lyrics submitted by nicole

You Are What You Is song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentIt's about being yourself.
    mattalacon February 27, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt is about doing the things you are supposed to do, not doing what you cant.
    Dylbert69on December 01, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's a little bit racist... Who says a black dude can't wear Jordache? Who says a person can't "change who they are"?? So, it's OK when a black guy changes who he is by taking up a hobby that's not particularly associated with white people, for example, he takes up the guitar. But, all of a sudden, if he takes up golf, because that's associated with white people, there's something contemptible about that? I don't understand that view. (I'm giving one obvious interpretation of what Frank says -- although I'm sure that's not *quite* what he's saying.)

    I think Frank is more saying that you shouldn't "change who you are", e.g. take up a hobby, *as part of a scheme to hide your roots.* So, don't take up golf because you're a self-hating black man, take it up if you like it.

    But between the possibility of interpreting this as Frank saying the blues is off-limits to white people, and golf off-limits for black people, and the exaggerated "Kingfish"-speak, this one pushes it.

    But that's what Frank is good at!

    BTW, I'd appreciate it if someone could clarify what the Kingfish is:

    A foolish young man
    From a middle class fam'ly
    Started singin' the blues
    'Cause he thought it was manly
    Now he talks like the Kingfish
    From Amos 'n Andy

    -What the hell is "Sariiee", wth is the Kingfish, and wth is Amos 'n Andy?
    just12on November 28, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think you might be too young just12. go on line and look these things up before you comment. there was a time when things happened b4 you were born. it was called the past.. you might find it interesting. provided you can read at all..
    downriveron November 28, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's not Kingfish, it should be Thing-Fish.
    flavour countryon February 07, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentProvided I can read?

    Are you retarded? My writing was surely coherent, was it not? Since no one who can write English can't read English, excepting those with neurlogical disorders, surely I can read.

    I did that research on the Kingfish, and he's a character on a show called Amon 'n Andy which is also somewhat offensive in its portrayal of black folks -- because it was the only show on TV that regularly featured black characters. It's fine to show idiotic or backward people of any color on TV, but when it's the only depiction of them, the effect is not pleasant.

    So, flavour_country, you can rest assured that it was supposed to be Kingfish. (This is backed up by the fact that the voice Frank aped was indeed the Kingfish's voice.)

    Finally, to downriver: I'm not all that young. Is it not OK to "come as you are", and post on a song, just giving your initial impressions, without doing f'ing research? Now, I like research, but it's absurd to require that of people who wish to avoid criticism.

    BTW, if you remember Amon 'n Andy from the original broadcasts, that means that you were alive and old enough to have listened to the radio back in the 1920's, or to the TV in the 1950's. That'd make you at least 60, if not 100.

    And I doubt any 60 year old with any self-respect would've used "b4" in a posting. (Unless he aspires to be a 13 year old girl when he grows up.)

    So, don't pat yourself too hard on the back for having watched more TV re-runs of an old show which only caught on because it portrayed blacks as dullards who would happily or at least unwittingly remain at the back of the bus for all time.
    just12on February 28, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOh yeah, and the point I made in the original post still stands: self-hate isn't cool, but the idea that race should constrain our actions is absurd and wrong.

    You don't have to know who the Kingfish is to see that.
    just12on February 28, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentjust12 no need to go into intricate detail about this song, if you did you research you would already know that this song came off the cast recording album "Thing-Fish" and also the record "You are what you is". I can't possibly see why this song would be racist only due to him bringing people of all colors in the video he made for it?? It's not racist, he's just reflecting what he saw in his time.
    matjezelon September 20, 2008   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationThe song is about Tiger Woods! :D
    jonjeff94on May 10, 2013   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationWell spotted jonje, but I reckon that given the time this song emerged (1981) it's more likely that Woods was actually inspired by this song, and that this song is actually part of the Tiger Woods success story !

    Just12, I see your comment is from 2008, so are you now Just19 ? So, hey nineteen (a great Steely Dan song), do you think this song has anything to do with Aretha Franklin ?

    Zappa's song strikes me as clearly lampooning just the sort of racial stereotypes that Amos'n'Andy and culture from that time perpetuated. I think you have the wrong end of the stick Mr Just. Zappa led a racially-integrated band and this song was co-sung by either Ike Willis or Ray White, both of whom are Afro-American. What do you think they thought of it ? Racist ?

    It seems to include both an attack on white musicians borrowing the blues and black guys aspiring to be yuppies. The black guy adopts some of the more saccharin aspects of white middle-class culture and the white guy starts to express inverted-snobbery.

    It's not taking the mickey out of real Afro-American lifestyles or values, more just a song about fashion victims. It's also very much of it's time, the early '80s, a time when people of all works of life were very much into appearances. Well I guess they still are, but the racial and class roles of the '80s seemed very caricatured, with the benefit of hindsight.

    Zappa hated the rise of the yuppies. He hated hipsters who were "slumming". He spent most of his oeuvre critiquing people. He was an equal opportunity misanthropist.
    musocdon April 29, 2015   Link

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