"Young Americans" as written by and David Bowie....
They pulled in just behind the bridge
He lays her down, he frowns
Gee my life's a funny thing, am I still too young?
He kissed her then and there
She took his ring, took his babies
It took him minutes, took her nowhere
Heaven knows, she'd have taken anything, but

All night
She wants the young American
Young American, young American, she wants the young American
All night
She wants the young American

All the way from Washington
Her bread-winner begs off the bathroom floor
We live for just these twenty years
Do we have to die for the fifty more?

All night
He wants the young American
Young American, young American
He wants the young American
All right
He wants the young American

Do you remember, your President Nixon?
Do you remember, the bills you have to pay?
Or even yesterday?

You ain't a pimp and you ain't a hustler
A pimp's got a Cadi and a lady got a Chrysler
Black's got respect, and white's got his soul train
Mama's got cramps, and look at your hands ache
(I heard the news today, oh boy)
I got a suite and you got defeat
Ain't there a man who can say no more?
And, ain't there a woman I can sock on the jaw?
And, ain't there a child I can hold without judging?
Ain't there a pen that will write before they die?
Ain't you proud that you've still got faces?
Ain't there one damn song that can make me
Break down and cry?

All night
I want the young American
Young American, young American, I want the young American
All right
I want the young American, young American

Young American, young American, I want the young American
All right
I want the young one


Lyrics submitted by typo, edited by enos40

"Young Americans" as written by David Bowie

Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing

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Young Americans song meanings
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  • +19
    General CommentSeveral people have mentioned the allusion to the Beatles- "I heard the news today, oh boy"...remember the rest of the line? : "..about a lucky man who made the grade..." You see, Bowie's song is about someone who has NOT "made the grade" that is collectively articulated as the American Dream. That, in a nutshell, is the point of the song: American bombards people with a litany of flashy expectations -Ford Mustangs, Barbie dolls, Daddy's heroes (Sports, Hollywood, etc.) material success, etc., but the disconcerting reality is that few people ever attain this tantalizing vision of success, because it's unrealistic, and when their adult lives turn out to be about divorce, alimony, and general failure, they are just confused. The speaker of Bowie's song asks questions like ""We live for just these twenty years
    Do we have to die for the fifty more?" and "Ain't there a man who can say no more?" Because he is confused when he sees that a culture that only values youth and flash leaves everyone over 20 in the lurch-and there's no Hollywood hero who will step in to save the day, because that's just in the movies. In the final evaluation, those who fail to realize that the American Dream is, after all, a dream, will wind up in mid-life wondering what kind of meaning they were really supposed to have sought instead. The ironic part is that Bowie (who is British) is so smart that he manages to critique America without being obvious; most people mistakenly think this song is some kind of celebration of the American way of life. It's not. It's an intelligent critique of our shallow culture and the hollow expectations it encourages in place of anything that could actually provide meaning-religion, literature, learning, family, etc.
    lazerpjon January 03, 2008   Link
  • +7
    General CommentPersonal anecdote: I had this song going through my head when I lost my virginity.
    SteelyManon July 20, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentYeah, I've never seen anyone pull in behind a FRIDGE.
    gandalfeon May 02, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General Comment"Well, well, well, would you carry a razor. In case, just in case of depression?"

    Love that line.
    Cisiteon December 26, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI’ve always loved this song since I heard Bowie interviewed on it. He said it was the closest thing that he had ever performed on record that was absolutely personal, but I don’t see the connections. He said it wasn’t a criticism of America, but a critique of unobtainable expectations.
    I like Lazerpj’s interpretation best. Even better than what Bowie had said.

    Jaggeh however retains a shallow foreigner’s view. Seeing America from afar with an uninformed view. Much like the female in “Young Americans,” if all one watches it MTV and corporate television one would come to realize that “American dream” is unobtainable.
    “Where have all Papa's heroes gone”
    “Well, ain't that poster love?”
    ”Well, it ain't that Barbie doll”
    The yanks, at least in Boston, were as literate and cultured as any Brit. They are very humble, although they do exuberantly love their country. They actually view us (the Brits/Europeans) having ASC.
    Being Welsh and going to college in the States gave me great insight to see that we are often the closed minded ones. They could rationally discuss the Iraq war or global warming, as opposed to the European view of just being against everything.
    I believe that the culture as a whole is not shallow, but as Bowie’s characters in the song are young and haven’t escaped from the cloak of unsatisfiable want that they were marketed by mass media.
    The culture that is sold by the corporations is definitely shallow. Much like us. How long was the nation hooked on the SpiceGirls, and don’t we all play the lotto thinking we will strike it big? It’s the same expectations.

    Jaggeh, The Yanks are as good or as bad as us, I think it is you who is starting wake up and open his eyes to how the others on the other side of the pond think. Get off your horse and go over and meet them sometime.
    -JJP
    JJPon June 27, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI am on board with JJP’s assessment that this is a song about missed expectations and the resulting disillusionment. I think in Young American's Bowie is capturing the American zeitgeist for the mid 70's by creating an allegory of a couple of young American's going through a predictable, disintegrating relationship in the 50's 60's and 70's. I think the zeitgeist he presents is a nation struggling with it's loss of innocent, idealistic, and conventional expectaions of life that was given up because of it's craving for something more that turned out to be brief, failed and disappointing. I think he did this out of his love of creating characters and because it would be appeal to the sentiment of the mass markets of the time. I think he is sympathetic to the character he creates in this song and the country he portrays and I think the experience of disappointment probably reflects some of his own experience in social consciousness and maybe his personal experience.

    In the first three verses he accomplishes this by creating an allegory of two Young Americans who represent the dichotomy of the nation's struggle between expectations of a fictionalized, conventional and idealistic experience (the YA man) and the actual experience of the nation's disillusioned people (the YA woman). They start off in the first verse as clearly being two characters from the 50's (making love in a parked car; a man so innocent and naive he reflectively utters corny, dated 50's language "Gee my life's a funny thing...") While the woman accepts this idealistic, conventional way of life "Took his ring took his babies" she is not satisfied just as America grew dissatisfied with it’s social conventions.

    In the next verse she is in the 60's (with her Mustang) and looking out from her conventional world she is tempted by a slinky vagabond (the break from social convention and the promise of social progress of the 60's) however the affair turns out to be not so much about a better world but is more just a passing fling dressed up in the language of big social progress but does not produce much of what was hoped for (But the freak, and his type, all for nothing...Showing nothing, he swoops like a song).

    At the end of the story she is left unable to return to the heroes and values of the past (Where have all of Papa's heroes gone?) and the even those who held onto the idealistic and conventional spirit know it may die out (Her breadwinner calls from Washington...begs…do we have to die for these 50 more?)

    The rest of the song gives the then contemporaneous (1975) rundown on American culture and it's so-so social progress and disillusioned state part way through the 70's. I agree with discerner that there is a lot of commentary on racial progress that I too don't understand completely. However, I disagree with Discerner's assessment on the “blushing at all the afro-sheilas.” I think that would be more appropriately posted next to “Hold me closer Tony Danza” on a misheard lyrics blog.
    srjon June 01, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIt definitely says 'pulled in just behind the fridge' on the record sleeve.
    Also it says the chorus is 'all night - she wants the young american / it's all right - but she wants the young american', 'now have you been the un-american', 'look at your hands shake'.
    I'm not sure exactly what he's getting at, but it's definitely a song about disillusionment and disappointment, about having to settle with what you can get and about coming to terms with the unfair bits of real life.
    okayaicoon August 02, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentYou got some of the lyrics wrong on this......I have the ones from the album posted now though.
    bowiegurlon April 26, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentNever mind it won't let me post one to....the easiest mistake for everyone to realize is,

    They pulled in just behind the bridge
    He lays her down, he frowns
    "Gee my life's a funny thing, am I still too young?"
    He kissed her then and there
    She took his ring, took his babies
    It took him minutes, took her nowhere
    Heaven knows, she'd have taken anything, but
    bowiegurlon April 26, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentRigheous tune...

    Pulled in behind the fridge...love it!! Yeah it's a brige she pulled in just behind in her Mustang. Their doing it in the back seat....freak passes by and she sees him.

    Love the 20yrs/50yrs quote and "Ain't that close to Love" as well.
    sportcarderon June 08, 2002   Link

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