Let us be lovers, we'll marry our fortunes together
I've got some real estate here in my bag
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner's pies
And we walked off to look for America
Cathy, I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
Michigan seems like a dream to me now
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I've gone to look for America

Laughing on the bus, playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said, be careful, his bowtie is really a camera
Toss me a cigarette, I think there's one in my raincoat
We smoked the last one an hour ago
So I looked at the scenery
She read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field

Cathy, I'm lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping
And I'm empty and aching and I don't know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all come to look for America
All come to look for America
All come to look for America

Lyrics submitted by amgsl500, edited by georgeporter

America Lyrics as written by Paul Simon

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

America song meanings
Add Your Thoughts


sort form View by:
  • +11
    General CommentI'm not sure what else to say about this song, except that it's truly a beautiful one, and very touching! I feel it refers to the elusive American Dream, the promise young people are assured as they set out on the world that they can conquer anything. A theme seen throughout the works of Hemmingway, Fiztgerald, and Kerouac, it is merely that: a dream. As the two lovers here progress on their journey, they run out of cigarettes, they grow bored, and they go to sleep. There is nothing left to do but count the cars in the turnpike, who are of couse all doing what they are doing- looking for America.
    carabiner86on May 09, 2003   Link
  • +8
    My InterpretationTo me, Kathy is not with Paul in this song.

    Paul mentions Kathy and, whilst it might seem like the way he is talking sounds like he's with her, if we delve deeper we could see that she isn't.

    Kathy is Paul's lover who he met in England. However, she didn't want to know him when he was famous. In fact, she refused to talk to the media about him and refused to attend the re-opening of the train stop where Simon wrote Homeward Bound. She didn't want to be anything extraordinary. She was ordinary Kathy from round the corner.

    Simon, on the other hand, wanted bigger things. He was going back to America (perhaps with Art as it mentions two people in the song) on a train. We can tell he missed Kathy who wasn't with him by the desperate phrases he uses - "Kathy, I'm lost," for example.

    Back to my point: Kathy is not with him. This song is in the form of a letter. "Kathy, I sit" is him recounting his travels to her, action by action, in hope that she will respond and be interested.

    "I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine." Whilst Simon is on his travels and all the way to America, she is at home, minding her own business, reading a magazine. Nothing special.

    "Though I knew she was sleeping," is, to me, the most obvious. Whilst it might seem that she has merely become tired on this trip, what is actually happening (in my head, anyway), is Simon is yearning for her but, due to the time difference, she is sleeping. It is night time in ordinary England for ordinary Kathy but on the way to exciting Michigan, the day is nowhere near over for the thoughtful and almost desperate Paul Simon.

    Anyway, that's my interpretation. If you have no idea who Kathy is (I Googled her because she features rather prominently in Simon's writings), then this is a beautiful love song. If you do, I hope you can understand the method to my madness. Even if we don't agree with each other, let's be honest: this is one of the best songs of all time, and we should admire it instead of bickering.
    georgeporteron March 21, 2013   Link
  • +7
    General CommentThis song first came out when I was in high school, and it has been decades since I really paid any attention to it, but now - looking at the lyrics and singing the song in my head - I can appreciate the genius behind it.

    Look at how the mood of the song slides from optimistic exuberance to a feeling of emptiness with each verse painting a slightly different mood among the two lovers. I especially like the transition from the silliness of “I said ‘Be careful his bowtie is really a camera’” to the impending gloom of "Toss me a cigarette, I think there's one in my raincoat".

    WOW!! Absolutely beautiful.
    zarumbaon June 12, 2003   Link
  • +5
    General CommentI just love how from even the first few lines, there's this whole bittersweet feeling to it. Throughout the entire song, you can just feel it spiraling down...the cigarettes, the spy, the empty feeling...all leading up to that gorgeous line "counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike." That line is absolutely beautiful, and it conveys such a profound feeling of chaos and being so lost in the midst of it. The lyrics are truly amazing.
    cherujon January 15, 2006   Link
  • +5
    Lyric CorrectionAlmost every time, like clockwork, I'm cruising through the beginnings of this tune, and as soon as I come to the lyric "...and the moon rose over an open field...", I well-up with tears. I don't even know exactly why. I think it is such a stark change in the tone of the song, that it smacks me in the face. It is just such an amazing song! When I heard David Bowie play this at "The Concert For NY" I was blown away. He sat in front of the audience, as an opener, crossed his legs and played the Casio synthesizer thing and sang this tune. It was amazing! Check it out on YT. Cheers to all you S&G fans out there!!
    thejabrotheron October 21, 2011   Link
  • +4
    General Commentthe lyrics are so perfect because they play alongside a home movie of each listener's imprefect little life...
    bleedingmaskarahon July 31, 2005   Link
  • +4
    General CommentI am an old fart, but here is my contribution:

    This song has haunted me since it first came out in my adolescence. Basically, it is describing the existential angst of looking for meaning in your life (America) outside yourself, not finding the answer and realizing that everyone else is looking for their meaning, also. We are all on the New Jersey turnpike, looking for America and we when we are the only one awake, we are empty and aching and we don't know why. The song perfectly describes the human condition.

    Re the Michigan comment--the trip started in Michigan and as he looks back at his past life, that life seems like a dream--unreal--to him now. The only reality is the bus, the moon, and Kathy sleeping as the cars and trucks rush past in the dark.

    The real estate is weed. Duh. I was there in those days. . . .
    annie1030on September 03, 2007   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI love how their songs are like little glimpses into random episodes of people's lives. I think this one is about two young people discovering themselves and the future, hippie-style. And Art's voice is simply beautiful.
    Crimsonicityon June 11, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General Comment"Kathy, I'm lost," I said, though I knew she was sleeping
    I'm empty and aching and I don't know why

    I find myself asking this question all the time. But i dont think the america i would find today would be any help to the chaos.

    "Let us be lovers we'll marry our fortunes together."
    "I've got some real estate here in my bag."

    The Only Possesions you need can fit it a bag.
    I love it.
    Take Me.
    AFellowHutchinon April 21, 2004   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis song is so incredibly beautiful. I think it IS about the American dream.

    Oh, piece of trivia - Paul Simon's girlfriend at the time was named Kathy and she was British, so it makes sense. See also "Kathy's Song," quite possibly one of the most beautiful songs ever written. The arrangement of "America" is easily better than that of "Kathy's Song", though.
    edge of the worldon February 28, 2005   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top