Good evening Mr.Waldheim
and Pontiff how are you?
You have so much in common
in the things you do

And here comes Jesse Jackson
he talks of Common Ground
does that Common Ground include me
or is it just a sound

A sound that shakes
oh Jesse, you must watch the sounds you make

A sound that quakes
there are fears that still reverberate

Jesse you say Common Ground
does that include the PLO?
what about people right here right now
who fought for you not so long ago?

The words that flow so freely
falling dancing from your lips
I hope that you don't cheapen them
with a racist slip

Oh Common Ground
is Common Ground a word or just a sound
Common Ground
remember those civil rights workers buried in the ground

If I ran for President
and once was a member of the Klan
wouldn't you call me on it
the way I call you on Farrakhan

And Pontiff, pretty Pontiff
can anyone shake your hand ?
or is it just that you like uniforms
and someone kissing your hand

Or is it true
the Common Ground for me includes you too

Oh, oh, is it true
the Common Ground for me includes you too

Good evening Mr.Waldheim
pontiff how are you
as you both stroll through the woods at night
I'm thinking thoughts of you

And Jesse you're inside my thoughts
as the rhythmic words subside
my Common Ground invites you in
or do you prefer to wait outside

Or is it true
the Common Ground for me is without you

Or is it true
the Common Ground for me is without you

Oh is it true
there's no Ground Common enough for me and you

Lyrics submitted by JohnnyHolocaust

Good Evening Mr. Waldheim Lyrics as written by Lou Reed

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Good Evening Mr. Waldheim song meanings
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  • +2
    Song Meaning
    Kurt Waldheim was an Austrian politician who served as Secretary General of the UN during the 1980s; it was later revealed he had been involved in Nazi activities as a young man which he covered up to help his political career. Jesse Jackson, who is still very much around today, was a black civil rights leader who sought the Democratic nomination in 1984 and 1988. He won a few primaries, but was considered a bit of an extremist, particularly for some off-color things he said about Jews, and his apparent uncritical embrace of the Palestinian cause. This song, as I see it, is mostly just calling out these self-righteous figures for their hypocrisy. I am not sure if the mention of the Pope (Pontiff) are in specific reference to anything unfolding at the time, or just a general dislike of papal pomposity.
    J.J.on August 26, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    I think this song is a reaction to what Lou Reed perceived as a wave of antisemitism at the time. Someone else pointed out that Kurt Waldheim was a politician who covered up his involvement in the Nazi Party, while Jesse Jackson made some notorious comments like referring to New York as "Hymietown," uncritically supporting the terrorist PLO, and refusing to repudiate Louis Farrakhan, who also spoke out against Jews. "If I ran for president and once was a member of the Klan, wouldn't you call me on it?"–obviously it wouldn't be okay for a white guy to lead a political career after a history of involvement in hate groups, so why do Kurt Waldheim and Jesse Jackson get to? I think this is what Lou means by "there are fears that still reverberate"–antisemitism still ripples through the world, even more than forty years after the fall of Nazi Germany. The mention of the papacy I took to be a reference to the Reichskonkordat, which was a treaty signed with Nazi Germany that was widely seen as the Catholic Church implicitly validating the racist policies of the Nazi government, or at least explicitly not speaking out against them.
    hatwheveron February 18, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General Comment
    Others have covered it, I'll just add that in Reed's short film, "Red Shirley," he interviews a cousin whose parents were killed in the Holocaust, and ends with her reminiscing about the civil rights march on Washington. There were a lot of Jewish civil rights activists, probably because someone like Shirley would have been in a good position to sympathize with any oppressed group. So to see a black civil rights leader making antisemitic remarks must have struck Reed as bitterly ironic. I think that's what he meant by "what about people right here right now who fought for you not so long ago?"
    rosalyreon October 21, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General Comment
    I love Lou Reed and when this song first came out in the early 1990's I didn't know what to make of it. There was hysteria about Waldheim being a so-called Nazi, it was after Israel, for example, had invaded Lebanon and enabled the slaughter at Shatillah and Sabra. I listened closely to the song a couple of years ago and felt really pissed off that Lou could be so blatantly racist. He mentions the PLO, Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson and Waldheim, and, of course, the Pope. Now I hate the Pope as much as any rational human being but to throw the stones from his glass house at the other four shows how blind he is to the realities of white supremacy, not to mention the insane act of European Colonialism which the White Supremacist world inflicted on about the only people who never persecuted Jews, namely the Palestinians. Where is your sense of common ground with these people who have been been slaughtered and abused and dispossessed by your Zionist brethren, Lou? ,
    dieter03on July 13, 2020   Link

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