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.

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

American Tune song meanings
Add Your Thoughts


sort form View by:
  • +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.


    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...


    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 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 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

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!

More Featured Meanings

Album art
Fast Car
Tracy Chapman
"Fast car" is kind of a continuation of Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run." It has all the clawing your way to a better life, but in this case the protagonist never makes it with her love; in fact she is dragged back down by him. There is still an amazing amount of hope and will in the lyrics; and the lyrics themselve rank and easy five. If only music was stronger it would be one of those great radio songs that you hear once a week 20 years after it was released. The imagery is almost tear-jerking ("City lights lay out before us", "Speeds so fast felt like I was drunk"), and the idea of starting from nothing and just driving and working and denigrating yourself for a chance at being just above poverty, then losing in the end is just painful and inspiring at the same time.
Album art
Cajun Girl
Little Feat
Overall about difficult moments of disappointment and vulnerability. Having hope and longing, while remaining optimistic for the future. Encourages the belief that with each new morning there is a chance for things to improve. The chorus offers a glimmer of optimism and a chance at a resolution and redemption in the future. Captures the rollercoaster of emotions of feeling lost while loving someone who is not there for you, feeling let down and abandoned while waiting for a lover. Lost with no direction, "Now I'm up in the air with the rain in my hair, Nowhere to go, I can go anywhere" The bridge shows signs of longing and a plea for companionship. The Lyrics express a desire for authentic connection and the importance of Loving someone just as they are. "Just in passing, I'm not asking. That you be anyone but you”
Album art
Bee Gees
@[Diderik:33655] "Your a holiday!" Was a popular term used in the 50s/60s to compliment someone on their all around. For example, not only are they beautiful, but they are fun and kind too ... just an all around "holiday". I think your first comment is closer to being accurate. The singer/song writers state "Millions of eyes can see, yet why am i so blind!? When the someone else is me, its unkind its unkind". I believe hes referring to the girl toying with him and using him. He wants something deeper with her, thats why he allows himself to be as a puppet (even though for her fun and games) as long as it makes her happy. But he knows deep down that she doesnt really want to be serious with him and thats what makes him.
Album art
American Town
Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran shares a short story of reconnecting with an old flame on “American Town.” The track is about a holiday Ed Sheeran spends with his countrywoman who resides in America. The two are back together after a long period apart, and get around to enjoying a bunch of fun activities while rekindling the flames of their romance.
Album art
Plastic Bag
Ed Sheeran
“Plastic Bag” is a song about searching for an escape from personal problems and hoping to find it in the lively atmosphere of a Saturday night party. Ed Sheeran tells the story of his friend and the myriad of troubles he is going through. Unable to find any solutions, this friend seeks a last resort in a party and the vanity that comes with it. “I overthink and have trouble sleepin’ / All purpose gone and don’t have a reason / And there’s no doctor to stop this bleedin’ / So I left home and jumped in the deep end,” Ed Sheeran sings in verse one. He continues by adding that this person is feeling the weight of having disappointed his father and doesn’t have any friends to rely on in this difficult moment. In the second verse, Ed sings about the role of grief in his friend’s plight and his dwindling faith in prayer. “Saturday night is givin’ me a reason to rely on the strobe lights / The lifeline of a promise in a shot glass, and I’ll take that / If you’re givin’ out love from a plastic bag,” Ed sings on the chorus, as his friend turns to new vices in hopes of feeling better.