"Illegal Smile" as written by and John Prine....
When I woke up this morning, things were lookin' bad
Seem like total silence was the only friend I had
Bowl of oatmeal tried to stare me down... and won
And it was twelve o'clock before I realized
That I was havin' no fun

[Chorus]
But fortunately I have the key to escape reality
And you may see me tonight with an illegal smile
It don't cost very much, but it lasts a long while
Won't you please tell the man I didn't kill anyone
No I'm just tryin' to have me some fun

Last time I checked my bankroll,
It was gettin' thin
Sometimes it seems like the bottom
Is the only place I've been
I Chased a rainbow down a one-way street dead end
And all my friends turned out to be insurance salesmen

[Chorus]

Well, I sat down in my closet with all my overalls
Tryin' to get away
From all the ears inside my walls
I dreamed the police heard
Everything I thought... what then?
Well I went to court
And the judge's name was Hoffman

Ah but fortunately I have the key to escape reality
And you may see me tonight with an illegal smile
It don't cost very much, but it lasts a long while
Won't you please tell the man I didn't kill anyone
No I'm just tryin' to have me some fun
Well done, hot dog bun, my sister's a nun


Lyrics submitted by Bobo192

"Illegal Smile" as written by John Prine

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Illegal Smile song meanings
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25 Comments

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  • +3
    General CommentHilarious - those who think this ISN'T about grass or LSD. No reason to call his smile "illegal" if it's not. He's sayin' "won't you please tell the man I didn't hurt anyone" - why would he say that? Everybody who has ever smoked weed thinks the same thing - the stuff doesn't hurt anyone, so why the hell is it illegal?

    He's got an "illegal smile" for a reason...
    shanefon December 26, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentObviously this song is about drugs, whether it is referring to LSD or marijuana I cannot safely say, as the lyrics seem to point to both. I always thought it was about weed, but I can see how LSD would make sense too. For those that said this song isn't about drugs, of course John Prine didn't come right out and say "Yes, this song is about smoking weed." A lot of artists don't just come clean and admit their songs are about drugs because that attracts negative attention from certain people. The Beatles also denied drug references in a lot of thier songs, but just listen to some of their lyrics. "...I get high with a little help from my friends..." Anyone can tell that Illegal Smile is definately about either LSD or marijuana, and I'm still stuck with it being about weed. It's a great tune! John Prine is awesome!
    beatleslover420on April 15, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis song is almost definitely about drugs. There is no reason for anyone to have an "illegal smile" without the use of illicit substances otherwise it would have no reason to be an illegal smile.

    It sounds like he had a bad LSD trip, in the beginning he says he's having a crappy day so he decides to drop acid (which is an obvious mistake for someone experienced with LSD to make) then he gradually progresses through the story ending up in his closet where he experiences irrational paranoia and delusions.

    The chorus of the song seems to take defense of the drug

    The randomness at the end seems just like an LSD sort of thing too. Hot Dog Bun, My Sister's a Nun. Lots of people tripping their nuts off will say strange things, I've seen people recite their ABC's, list different types of cars for 3 hours, or simply just say anything that rhymes rapid fire.

    Also an "illegal smile" moment to Ted Kooser... I read that as "I was stoned out of my mind when I wrote this."

    Either way it's a good song...but definitely about drugs whether he'll admit it or not. If it was just vague references within the lyrics it'd be another story but everything is explicitly stated in the song and parallel with a heavy psychedelic intoxication of some sort.
    Inbleachon March 11, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI stand corrected. My dad got the anthology which includes a book with a bio and meaning behind each song. Illegal Smile is not about drugs although Prine admits that potheads have taken it up as an anthem.
    reflect4everon January 11, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentJohn Prine is fucking with you. This song is about LSD, and he knows it too.
    Kyomaraon October 08, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Commentray killeen - what makes you think that life isn't an illusion? ;)
    dirkadirkaon May 02, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIt's acid.
    Zorro3on May 12, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentC'mon, folks, don't get hung up on the "pot vs. LSD" thing, 'cause that's not the point. Consider that this song was released in 1971 and put it in the context of the times.

    Also, consider the Wikipedia article that sez...

    "... In the same essay, Prine explains that... the album opener "Illegal Smile" was "not about smokin’ dope. It was more about how, ever since I was a child, I had this view of the world where I can find myself smiling at stuff nobody else was smiling at. But it was such a good anthem for dope smokers that I didn’t want to stop every time I played it and make a disclaimer..."
    teekayeon July 18, 2016   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti'm not positive but i think this song is about weed. i think he's saying he'll be having the crappiest day and he can sit down with a fat blunt and smoke it all away...escape reality...i think that b/c he says it's illegal and then he compares it to killing some one and that's illegal too but sh-t weed isn't as bad as they make it sound.....those are my thoughts
    Mereteon May 12, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General Commentmerete has the idea. however, i highly doubt john prine smoked blunts. he seems more like the type that would smoke the sticky icky out of a corn cobbed piped or something. anyways, this songs is about smoking weed.

    if the rest of the song didn't give it away, i hope this part did:

    Well, I sat down in my closet with all my overalls
    Tryin' to get away
    From all the ears inside my walls
    I dreamed the police heard
    Everything I thought... what then?

    ...i can't count the number of times when i was blazed and thought the police were listening/watching me. john prine is the man.
    jukeboxheroon October 09, 2004   Link

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