Oh, the smell of the bakery from across the street
Got in my nose
As we carried our ladders down the street
With the wrought iron gate rows
I went home and listened to Jimmie Rodgers in my lunch break
Bought five Woodbines at the shop on the corner
And went straight back to work

Oh, Sam was up on top
And I was on the bottom with the V
We went for lemonade and Paris buns
At the shop and broke for tea
I collected from the lady
And I cleaned the fanlight inside out
I was blowing saxophone on the weekend
In that down joint

What's my line
I'm happy cleaning windows
Take my time
I'll see you when my love grows
Baby don't let it slide
I'm a working man in my prime
Cleaning windows (number a hundred and thirty six)

I heard Leadbelly and Blind Lemon
On the street where I was born
Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee
Muddy Waters singin' I'm a rolling stone
I went home and read my Christmas Humphreys' book on Zen
Curiosity killed the cat
Kerouac's Dharma Bums and On The Road

What's my line
I'm happy cleaning windows
Take my time
I'll see you when my love grows
Baby don't let it slide
I'm a working man in my prime
Cleaning windows

What's my line
I'm happy cleaning windows
Take my time
I'll see you when my love grows
Don't let it slide
I'm a working man in my prime
Cleaning windows


Lyrics submitted by yuri_sucupira

Cleaning Windows Lyrics as written by Van Morrison

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management

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Cleaning Windows song meanings
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12 Comments

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  • +1
    My Interpretation

    To me, Van is singing about how he's happy day to day, but he's meant for something more. He's reading books about hitting the road and traveling the country, while dreaming of being a musician.

    The chorus is key: "What's my line? I'm happy cleaning windows"

    • He tells himself and others that he's happy, but it's not the whole story...

    "Baby, don't let it slide, I'm a working man in my prime, cleaning windows."

    • He's spending the best years of his life cleaning windows, when he should be following his heart and passion. He knows deep down that he's meant for more, but for now, he's happy enough cleaning windows.
    thomas1109on February 01, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    i luv this song.......it makes think of someone who has a carefree kinda life just cleaning windows(duh) and doin what he wants. I wish my life will be like.

    queenjaneon October 10, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    Van spent his early days cleaning windows during the week and whaling on the sax on the weekends, very good way to go, this obvoiusly made him happy as the song is sang so joyful and full of energy, like all van songs the intensity is a 10 even when he is whispering.

    lunchbox90857on January 25, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    Such a joyful song, i discovered it on my locals jukebox. Did he write this while he was still cleaning windows? As long as you're happy thats what matters. Brilliant song.

    foxyfmuon August 29, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    I like that Van says the smell of the bakery "got in his nose", rather than just saying he smelled something.

    I agree that it's about his contentedness simply doing a menial job (cleaning windows) and enjoying music.

    herbivoreon October 25, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    He actually says 'number thirty-six'. not 'a hundred and thirty six.

    hammersavageon August 13, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    This sounds like a set of experiences that a lot of musicians, poets, and artists could appreciate: working a menial job, sure, but using that to buy the ability to indulge in art on the sly.

    Notice that he devotes one line to "blowing saxophone on the weekend," but a whole verse to the influences that he describes himself as absorbing and taking to heart.

    Professor Mon September 28, 2008   Link
  • 0
    My Interpretation

    while i agree that a lot of the song is based in memories of working like the narrator, i think the key to this song are in the chorus and their being in the present tense: "what's my line/i'm happy cleaning windows" and "i'm a working man in my prime." to me this song is about what might have happened if he had never become "van morrison"--if he had remained somebody who cleaned windows, who "took his time," who "blew saxophone on the weekends." there are several lines suggesting caution, holding back--"curiosity killed the cat," "take my time." From this perspective the present-day van is more like the music the narrator listens to--in this way, the person who left home to follow their curiosity. At least, I think this accounts for the combination of happiness and wistfulness I hear in it.

    xoqqiyon July 16, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    Just have to say, I've heard this song so many times, but today, I just really heard the instrumental introduction. It's like I never heard it before, and it really gets to my soul!

    InspiringDestinyon March 18, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    I think the message of the song is actually that you DON'T have to feel pressure to follow your dreams or "achieve your potential". I think he's talking about how people expected him to grow into some amazing musician (because he had musical talent), but he unironically was perfectly happy cleaning windows and that there's nothing wrong with that. Not everyone has to "be great" if they can just be happy.

    Also, I disagree with the lyrics on here and other sites. I think he says "in a Down joint" (as in a bar in County Down). Firstly, he is from that county. Secondly he references it in another song on the album ["Northern Muse (Solid Ground)"] and thirdly, I don't know what "that down joint" would mean, otherwise.

    bostonragon September 28, 2022   Link

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