"Happiness/The Gondola Man" as written by and Steven P. Smith....
Activity's killing the actor
And a cop's standing out in the road
Turning traffic away
There was nothing she could do until after
When his body'd been buried below
Way back in the day

Oh my, nothing else could've been done
He made his life a lie
So he might never have to know anyone
Made his life the lie you know

I told him he shouldn't upset her
And that he'd only be making it worse
Involving somebody else
But I knew that he'd never forget her
While her memory worked in reverse
To keep her safe from herself

And oh my, nothing else could've been done
She made her life a lie
So she might never have to know anyone
Made her life the lie you know

What I used to be will pass away and then you'll see
That all I want now is happiness for you and me
What I used to be will pass away and then you'll see
That all I want now is happiness for you and me
What I used to be will pass away and then you'll see
That all I want now is happiness for you and me

Lyrics submitted by dragonflower44

"Happiness/The Gondola Man" as written by Steven Paul Smith Steven P. Smith

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Happiness/The Gondola Man song meanings
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  • +4
    General CommentI believe this song is a flashback about a man who had a bad experience with love and made himself believe he never wanted to get close to someone ever again. "he made his life a lie so he might never have to know anyone"

    But he met a girl, and he reluctantly fell in love. telling himself he shouldn't, but knowing that he would just keep thinking about her if he didnt embrace it. "i told him he shouldn't upset her, and he'd only be making it worse involving somebody else"

    Then the first verse happens, and he is killed by a car. "and a cop's standing out in the road turning traffic away"

    And she is broken, not able to begin her memory erasing process of morning until his body is under ground, "while her memory worked in reverse to keep her safe from herself" Trying to not kill herself, she severs ties with the world. she becomes like he was "way back in the day", living her life a lie, not wanting to love again.

    The last lines are what he wants to tell her after he is dead. "The part of me you feel like now will pass away, you will get over me, then you will be happy, like i was before i died."

    "what I used to be will pass away and then you'll see
    that all I want now is happiness for you and me"
    kittykhmbon March 09, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General Commenti agree, this is probably the best song ever.

    It's about people who hide who they really are for fear of being shamed... and for fear of having to realize they're just as human as everyone else... not only to be unknown to everyone, but never having to REALLY relate to anyone...

    i think that the repeated refrain is about when the person finally escapes from that cycle...

    as far as the relationship between the 'he' and 'she' in the song... i don't think that the guy necessarily died, just that the girl (whom im not sure is the same 'she' in both verses) was powerless to do anything to expose the person's falsities while he was still out building his reputation...
    schizorageon August 11, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General Commentit's about drugs!

    .... kidding
    ethanjhaywardon January 03, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentNaptime, aquick lesson if you'll allow me: Explanations not explinations. Inaccurate, not unaccurate. Also there is no '(apostrophe) in the word "want". Finally, "probly" is spelt probably. Jesus Christ, why can't anyone spell anymore?
    badgeon May 05, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentDoes anyone have some REALLY GOOD TABS for this. All the ones I have had suck. BTW the son is called "Happiness (The Gondola Man.) A gondala man spends all of their lives schouffering other people around. (on boats in Venice!) I believe. So maybe it's about pleasing another person, and getting nothing out of it. Or that man always looking happy.
    Candymiseron May 28, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think the first line -- "activity's killing the actor" -- together with the "cop turning traffic away" language -- is using a murder as a metaphor for some kind of irreparable damage to someone's personality that occurs as a result of that person's encounter with the world. In other words, what happened in that person's life ("the activity") killed something inside of that person ("the actor"). While I'm not sure Elliott Smith is singing about himself, I wouldn't be surprised if this line was inspired by traumas he is said to have experienced in his own childhood -- and a sense they resulted in something wrong with him that could never be fixed, at least not until his death or some other radical separation from who he is.

    The next set of lines similarly emphasizes that the deep-seated problem he's talking about is something that no one else can fix: "There was nothing she could do until after. When his body been buried below." I think that means that whatever it is that's been killed inside of him is already dead -- and *more* than dead, buried -- and so those people who might *hope* revive him and restore his ability to live a happy life are fooling themselves.

    And, as with other themes in his songs, this theme --the theme of something deeply wrong in a person's life that can never be fixed -- comes up repeatedly in his lyrics: e.g., in Division Day ("naked except for a perpetual debt that couldn't be stripped away -- an unrightable wrong"); in Pitseleh ("i'm so angry i don't think it'll ever pass"); I Didn't Understand ("my feelings never change a bit i always feel like shit i don't know why i guess that i just do").

    And as in some of these songs, I think "Happiness" is also about how, when a person is damaged inside, that damage can cause pain (or worse) to other people which is why it only makes it worse for that person to "involv[e] somebody else" in his life.
    islanduniverseon December 17, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"Activity's killing the actor
    And a cop's standing out in the road turning traffic away"
    awesome lines... makes me think of an actor in a scene in the middle of a city while everyone is crowding around to try to see him. But all of that is killing the actor, the things he is faking to be and the crowd around him. The cop standing in the road turning people away could be friends, music, or a reputation. His body been buried away is a metaphor for his actual self being lost or purposely suppressed beyond being able to show. He's a liar to people since he isn't himself. But he wishes happiness onto the people he lies to particularly one person who lies to him back. I like Elliott Smith's lyrics because they can be so ambiguous but he connects everything smoothly and he does it in a really really intimate truthful sense. almost as if he is just spilling his mind out onto the paper. You could think about what he is saying forever because its truthful.... you can't fake something like this i dont think?
    Brenguyon November 25, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentActivity's killing the actor - I think Elliott means the writer is the actor, and being fake and full of lies is killing them. Not necessary death, but they have had enough, and needs to be free of this burden.

    The song is a sad but also happy song, as the writer is able to resolve there issues by ending it for the good of both parties. So in a sense its a bitter sweet feeling, losing the one you thought you loved but at the same time feeling freedom by doing what is right for both parties and freeing yourself from what was troubling you.

    Great song :-)
    Cruz84on May 17, 2010   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationThis song, for me, is about a relationship where one partner wasn't being themself and the other wasn't either. They were so caught up in making sure that one another liked each other that they never really got to enjoy themselves and ultimately be happy. Maybe they hid secrets about their pasts to save their relationship when they should have just enjoyed themselves and put the past away.
    performeron October 20, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis is the best song ever.
    pianic88on April 13, 2004   Link

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