Many's the time I've been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and I've often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
Oh, but I'm alright, I'm alright
I'm just weary to my bones
Still, you don't expect to be bright and bon vivant
So far away from home
So far away from home

I don't know a soul who's not been battered
I don't have a friend who feels at ease
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered
Or driven to its knees
Oh, but it's alright, it's alright
For we've lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road we're traveling on
I wonder what's gone wrong
I can't help it, I wonder what's gone wrong

And I dreamed I was dying
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
Smiled reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flying
And high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying

Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age's most uncertain hours
And sing an American tune
Oh, and it's alright, it's alright, it's alright
You can't be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow's gonna be another working day
And I'm trying to get some rest
That's all, I'm trying to get some rest


Lyrics submitted by Farnsworth, edited by Dubious Merit

American Tune Lyrics as written by Paul Simon

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

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American Tune song meanings
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27 Comments

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  • +5
    General Comment

    Yes, the music of "An American Tune" is in a sense a "flagrant rip-off," since it's at least 400 years old, which is when it turned up in a love song by the German Baroque composer Hans Hassler. And =he= probably stole it from an old Bavarian folk song.

    It was next stolen by no less a personage than Johann Sebastian Bach as a motif for his "St Matthew Passion," and soon became a utiltity tune for singing many different hymns in the Protestant church.

    So it was a favorite of the Pilgrims when they came to America, and eventually was used by the American labor movement for some of their marching songs.

    And that was why singer-songwriter Tom Glazer chose it for "The Whole World Around," a song he wrote for the folk group The Weavers (which included Pete Seeger), later popularized as "Because All Men Are Brothers" by Peter Paul & Mary.

    As the saying goes, "Good artists borrow, great artists steal outright."

    So we have to assume that Simon had his tongue in his cheek when he call the song "An American Tune," since like most Americans, the song is an immigrant.

    Paul Simon began thinking about writing the song in the early 1970s during the preparations for the American Bicentennial in 1976. He was planning something upbeat, with a reference to the American Moon Landing in 1969

    But by 1972, Watergate happened, the economy was in a tailspin, and the antiwar movement and civil rights movements had become increasingly violent. And he and Art Garfunkel stopped performing. There was a lot of talk about the "decline of the American Empire," and some people were wondering if we would even make it to the Bicentennial in one piece.

    There's a story that Simon actually had the dream, which is spelled out clearly in the song, of hovering high above New York Harbor, watching the Statue of Liberty sail away over the horizon. And when he woke up, the song wrote itself.

    The point of the song, I think, is the same as that of Arlo Guthrie's "Patriot's Dream." We can't give up on the struggle for freedom, even when times are hard and things look hopeless.

    Hmm. Might be time for another cover of this one.

    When

    tappankingon November 16, 2007   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    I first heard this song on the car radio when it was initially released. I had to pull off the road and pull myself together. Since the I have learned to perform this song at every appropriate opportunity over the years. It's a powerful song to sing...and sometimes difficult to get through.

    But, it seems like it's time to struggle... yet again...

    Snick

    Snicklefritzon December 08, 2011   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    My interpretation is that this most definitely is NOT an uplifting song (or song of hope). It is, indeed, a beautifully written and performed song...but it is a tragic song ("tragic" is probably too dramatic of a word).

    I think it's a wake up for a dose of reality song. Despite the American Dream, we all are weary and battered...and unfulfilled. In each verse, the protagonist settles, or acquiesces, as he tells himself "it's alright, it's alright"...for we live so well so long...I'm just weary to my bones...you can't be forever blessed...

    In each case, the protagonist tries to convince us or makes an excuse for accepting the disillusionment (that has existed since the Mayflower days...in other words, the "uncertain times" existed during the birth of the Nation, and will continue (forever?).

    It's not that things are necessarily horrific; just a wake up call to that thing we call the American Dream. Simon's use of the melody, calling it the American Tune (as if it were an uplifting anthem, is brilliant). That's my interpretation. :)

    UWDawgfatheron March 09, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    Always struck me as a song sung by an American soldier.

    slagoniaon March 30, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    This is a very good song. But is it really about hope? I dont think I can say yes. To me the last verse means that, yes, whenever we're in times of trouble we come together to sing an "American Tune" but then forget it. Since tomorrows gonna be another working day.

    TheBeavCTon December 12, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    To me it is definitely about the immigrant experience to the U.S. It's both celebrating America as a nation of immigrants, and expressing the bittersweet sadness of never being able to feel fully "at ease" in a new country when you are "so far away" from your original home.

    greenbeanon October 04, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    this is the best song ever

    xxblackoctoberxxon September 12, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    yes, i dig this song quite a lot.

    rockisgroovyon May 07, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    Love love love this song.

    Dave Matthews & Friends do a great version, too.

    gweepson July 24, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    The tune is a flagrant rip-off but you can't really criticise when it's set to such aching lines.

    This was played on a London radio station on September 12th 2001 and nearly made me cry.

    ShineYouDiamondon September 27, 2007   Link

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