Cut this picture into you and me
Burn it backwards, kill this history
Make it over, make it stay away
Or hate'll sing the ending that love started to say

There's a kid a floor below me saying
"Brother, can you spare sunshine for a brother, Old Man Winter's in the air"
Walked me up a story, asking how you are
Told me not to worry, you were just a shooting star

Sweet Adeline
Sweet Adeline
My Clementine
Sweet Adeline

It's a picture-perfect evening and I'm staring down the sun
Fully loaded, deaf and dumb and done
Waiting for sedation to disconnect my head
Or any situation where I'm better off than dead

Lyrics submitted by EnjOy IncUbus, edited by depersonalised

Sweet Adeline Lyrics as written by Steven Paul Smith

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Sweet Adeline song meanings
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  • +5
    General CommentYeah, this song is musically crazy, especially the chorus...Eb - Bb - F - Ab - Db - E.....doesn't even make logical sense, but it's wonderful. Also, I don't know if anyone else noticed this, but the song is musically symmetrical: 2 verses, chorus, then the length of about two verses. The song is 3:15 long...the chorus starts at 1:34. Most songs have climaxes about 2/3s through, but here Elliott makes a perfect apex of sound right in the middle of things. I love this guy.
    yuccachuckeron May 14, 2004   Link
  • +5
    General CommentFrom:
    In an interview with a French reporter in 1998, he said: "I was born in Nebraska and I grew up in Texas. There was only country music. I liked some things though, mainly Hank Williams. On my mother's side, everyone was a musician but no one made a living out of it. Although they were very good technically. My grandfather was a Dixieland jazz drummer, my grandmother sang standards like "Moon River." (He has said that the title of the song Sweet Adeline was inspired by his recollections of his grandmother's singing in her glee club, the Sweet Adelines.)
    MARY Kon December 23, 2004   Link
  • +3
    General Commenteveryone has come up with many thoughtful (and divergent) interpretations of the first verse. when people want to forget a traumatic period of their life, burning photos--or cutting certain faces/people out of the photos--are common images for trying to rewrite one's memories, one's "history". i think elliot is trying to decontruct that imagery.

    "cut this picture into you and me" is paradoxical. with this sort of image, cutting usually means to remove. but what does he mean, by following this with "into you and me"? typically you cut "apart", not "into" (a photo, anyway)

    he suggests that by cutting, he wants is to reintegrate something (not separate it). similarly: if burning is destructive, what would it mean to "burn it backwards"? perhaps he wants to reverse the process of memories being lost or revised. if he fails in this effort, the past will be viewed through the lens of hate, not love.

    sometimes we cling to memories even if they're painful, because losing them would be worse.

    just the other day i was thinking about how we forget things, but it's a process beyond conscious control. you can never choose which memories you might want to forget.

    "spare some sunshine" could be a reference to heroin, given the context. "old man winter's in the air": opiates tend make you feel warm, which would be important to someone who may wind up living on the street. also, if you're already addicted--and you're sick, because you can't get your fix--you feel so intensely cold inside that nothing seems to help.

    probably not about alcohol. elliot refers to these words being spoken by a "kid". late-stage alcoholics tend to be older. heroin addicts are often younger (because it takes less time to hit bottom, and because many junkies don't live very long). OTOH the phrase "brother can you spare" is deliberately old-fashioned, and elliot may have intended to evoke images of depression-era hoboes.

    i don't mean to be judgemental; i'm an addict. though i have a lot of health problems & therefore get my drugs from the medical system...a blessing, because it's the junkie lifestyle that kills you, not the drugs

    i never thought of "fully loaded" referring to a gun; i assumed it meant drunk or high. but the ambiguity may be intentional.
    mandcon April 02, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentHee, my name's Adeline.
    Adeon May 06, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General CommentMan this song exemplifies how great Elliott really was. I always loved this song but just reading the lyrics again on this site, it blew me away
    Kid_Aon June 04, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI've always thought this song was about a break up. Maybe I'm looking at this too simply, but maybe you guys are looking at it too deep.

    "cut this picture into you and me"
    --- Cut a picture of us together into halves.

    "burn it backwards kill this history"
    --- The backwards confuses me, but burning it is what matters. forgetting your past love after a breakup.

    "make it over make it stay away"
    --- Rearrange the love in your mind to make the feelings that you miss him or her stay away. Or maybe the actions that caused the break up, make them into something you can understand, make yourself the good one if your actions led to it.

    "or hate'll say the ending that love started to stay"
    --- Love started to stay the ending -ward it off. Love followed through would have made it last longer than it was going to. Hate says the ending of the love through something like, "I hate you, it's over, blah blah blah..."

    "there's a kid a floor below me saying brother can you spare
    sunshine for a brother old man winter's in the air"
    --- I personally don't think this has anything to do with class. A kid just lives below him and is trying to make him smile. The kid's wise and poor and needs that small comfort from Smith to cheer both of them up. Establishing Smith as visably depressed.

    walked me up a story asking how you are
    ---walked him up to his apartment...

    told me not to worry you were just a shooting star
    --- Smith tells the kid she's gone and the kid again tries to cheer him up. Tells him that she was never gonna be able to stick around. Establishes the girl as bright and lovely and mysterious and transitory.

    sweet adeline
    sweet adeline
    my clementine
    sweet adeline

    ---The beautiful, gut wrenching, outpouring of emotion. You know it when you've been there and you only want to say the name of the one you love to call them back to you.

    "it's a picture perfect evening and i'm staring down the sun
    fully loaded deaf and dumb and done
    waiting for sedation to disconnect my head
    or any situation where i'm better off then dead"

    ---Can't even fill you in on this one unless you've been there and felt it. Just heartbroken loneliness with no hopes and nothing to look forward to but drugs to get the person off your mind.
    LoserNo1on September 28, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentJust a thought. What if he was cutting other people out of the picture (possibly step-dad?) to leave "you and me". Then "burning it backwards" i.e. burning the part he cut away.
    stacklestahlon November 11, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAs pointed out previously, the song, on one level, is about a lost or unachievable love quest. More importantly, "Sweet Adeline" became a celebratory anthem for the repeal of Prohibition in 1934, sung together by crowds in cities throughout the nation on that very tipsy and historic night in our history when the 21st Amendment was passed. The generation who lived through that extraordinary era (including my parents) continued to sing that song in unison whenever they partied and reached an appropriate state of inebriation. By the way, don't miss the PBS documentary on "Prohibition." The above piece of information was revealed in that effort along with an absolutely stunning amount of insights on one of the most unusual and relevant periods in American History. The parallels to today's events are uncanny.
    TEMon October 12, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentA guy I met travelling pointed out to me the correlations between this song and the movie "Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind". Although I may have been drunk or something at the time, the correlations are a little too frequent and uncanny to be coincidence. Think about it.
    tr1pmanon December 04, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHOLY CRAP. why has no one posted yet? this song is seriously genius. the chorus is musically unlike anything else. ever. holy bajeezee.
    xthexpiratexon June 24, 2003   Link

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