Sunday, September 03, 2023

The CONTRADICTION of Margaritaville and other songs

Jimmy Buffett passed away on Sept 1, 2023. His Wikipedia entry (see here) says his death was peaceful and he was surrounded by friends, family, and his dog, so it was likely expected and of natural causes. I later saw a report that he had a serious skin cancer. He was 76. 

He is not related to Warren Buffett--- they actually took a DNA test to find out, see here. They are friends. Buffett isn't that common a name, see here, so it was plausible they were related, but, alas, they are not.

His signature song is Margaritaville (My spellcheck thinks that I misspelled Margaritaville   but I checked it and it looks fine. OR it's one of those things where I keep misreading it.) It wasn't just his signature song---he made a career of it outside of music, see here.

Jimmy Buffett fans are called parrot heads.

There are songs where the lyrics are misheard. Margaritaville is not one of them. Instead, its lyrics are misunderstood. This raised the question:

There are  other songs whose LYRICS and WHAT PEOPLE THINK ABOUT THEM are in CONTRADICTION. What caused the contradiction? Could I make this into a HW assignment the next time I teach logic? Not if my students are looking for their lost shaker of salt.

This link here has 25 songs with misunderstood lyrics. Margaritaville comes in at the 24th. I think it should rank higher (lower index, higher ranking) but I can't complain since I am not an expert and they put in the work (unlike my ranking of satires of Bob Dylan, here, where I am an expert and I put in the work).

I list a few of the songs, plus two more,  and WHY the contradiction. I also listened to them with the following question: ONCE you know what the song is supposed to be about and you listen to it, do you say OF COURSE THAT'S WHAT ITS ABOUT or REALLY? I STILL DON"T SEE IT. This is similar to reading a math proof knowing where it is going so perhaps you say OF COURSE. Of course, you might also say REALLY? I STILL DON"T SEE IT.

 The name of the song in the list below is also a pointer to a video of it.

Imagine by John Lennon. People think it's about peace and love. The writer John Lennon (not be be confused with Vladimr Lenin) says it's a Communist manifesto.  I just listened to it and OF COURSE it's  a Communist Manifesto- but its sung with such an optimistic loving tone that one could miss that. This is John Lennon's best known post-beatles song. 

Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler. People think it's a power ballad- about love and such. Its actually a vampire love song. REALLY? I STILL DON"T SEE IT. A love song is a love song. It could be about humans, vampires, or, in the case of The Klein Four, Math, but unless they put something Vampire-ish  into it, you can't tell its about Vampires. Two notes: (1) Its Bonnie Tyler's biggest hit, and
(2) it was released in 1983 but also had a large number of sales in 2017. Why? Either guess or see here.

Blackbird by the Beatles. People think its just about a blackbird with a broken wing. Its about civil rights for blacks (or all countries- so I can't use the term African American) REALLY? I STILL DON"T SEE IT. I believe the Beatles intended that meaning.  They also would not play to audiences that had rules about Whites only, or were segregated. So YEAH for them, but I still don't see it. Or hear it. Why the contradiction? Perhaps if I heard it in 1968 I would have understood what it was about. Perhaps they really weren't that clear about it. Perhaps they had to avoid it being censored.

Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen. This is a well-known misunderstood song, so better to say People USED TO think it was a Pride-in-America song but it was really about the plight of lower class Americans, especially Vietnam War Veterans, after the war. OF COURSE ITS ABOUT THAT. Why was there the contradiction? (1) the chorus is loud and understandable and belts out BORN IN THE USA! as if that's a good thing, (2) the other lyrics are somewhat mumbled (I had to listen to it on a you tube video with closed caption to understand the song), (3) People hear what they want to hear. 

Notes: I was GOING to look up what The Boss's top hit ever was, expecting it to be Born to Run, but that's only his 18th biggest hit. Born in the USA is 8th, and Secret Garden is 1st. Even so, I think of Born to Run as his best known song. Why? (1) It was sung as the opening number of the 2010 Emmy awards (not by him, but done really well- Jimmy Fallon does a GREAT Bruce Springsteen), see here (2) there are several parodies of it, see born to Run (COVID), Born to Run (Bridgegate), Meant To Be (a best man's song), Jedi are Done. Having went to the effort to find parodies of Born to Run I then found parodies of Born in the USA: Bored in the USA (COVID)Touched by the TSAConned in the USABorune'D in the USA (cryptocurr) And there are more. Upshot: trying to find out what someone's best-known song is can be a quagmire, but at least I  got to find some cool parodies.

Who Let the Dogs Out by the Bah  Men. People thought this song was about ... Hmmm, I don't know what people thought. Perhaps it was about someone who let the dogs out. Its actually about how BAD it is when men cat-call women. OF COURSE ITS ABOUT THAT once you see the lyrics.  Why the contradiction? Its really hard to understand anything except the chorus. Their biggest hit.

The Macarena by Los Del Rio. People tend to not listen to music that they dance to. So people really did not think it had a meaning. Also some of it is in Spanish. I can't write what it's about here since I may violate community standards as we did with a prior post (see here). See here for what the lyrics mean OR the list I pointed to above. If you listen to it or read the lyrics OF COURSE IT MEANS THAT! HOW DID I MISS IT? TOO BUSY DANCING! Why the contradiction- as I said above, its really a dance song. Their biggest hit. 

Note: Dance Songs usually don't have that many words. Knuth (see here for the original article and  here for the Wikipedia page about it which has later results) noted that the complexity of  That's the way uh-uh I like it is O(1).

Margaritaville by Jimmy Buffett (I'd be curious to see a version by Warren Buffett). This is a well-known misunderstood song, so better to say that people USED TO think it celebrated a relaxed lifestyle but its actually a sad son about a drunk. OF COURSE THE SONG IS ABOUT BEING DRUNK AND DEPRESSED. So why the contradiction? The tune is so happy-go-lucky, and Jimmy Buffett (and others) talk POSITIVELY about The Margaritaville lifestyle. Whats really odd is that the real meaning of the song IS WELL KNOWN, yet is ignored.

Note: A more realistic take on this topic, to the same tune, is  here.  A Marijuana version of the song is here. A crystal meth version  of the song is here. There are FOUR parodies that are NOT about being drunk, high, or on Crystal-meth, but about... COVID: hereherehere, and here

99 Red Balloons or  99 Luft ballons (the original German Version) To quote the original link: Whether in its original German language or in English, the happy-pop New Wave jam is easily the most danceable  song about a nuclear holocaust caused by balloons. When I listened to it and read the lyrics OF COURSE ITS ABOUT A NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST CAUSED BY BALLOONS. Why the contradiction?  The more popular version is in German, the English version is a bit mumbled (but not much), but most importantly, if there is going to be a nuclear holocaust caused by balloons  I will get up and dance!

Note:  I knew of one parody 99 Dead Baboons, but through the wonders of search and you tube I found more: the social media song, 99 90s shows, 99 unused balloons, 99 Steins of Beer 

For two more, though they are not on the list, see  'The Pina Colada' Song is Really Messed up and Why the Beastie Boys Hate `Fight for your right to Party'

TO SUM UP: songs that get misunderstood may (1) have some  hard to understand lyrics, (2) be dance songs, (3) have the melody and instruments be at odds with the lyrics, (4) have lyrics that people want to hear and others that they don't, (5) be partly or wholly in a foreign language.  I am sure there are other reasons.  

Jimmy Buffett: You will be missed!


  1. I missed No woman, no cry from the list.

  2. I'd nominate "The Winner Takes It All" by ABBA. It's not a winners song; it's about a break up of a relation. I've been to a wedding where they played that song for the opening dance of the new couple. (The marriage didn't last)

  3. I would ask, "Does BONNIE TYLER know it was about vampires in love?"

    1. Good question- but yes, the Wikipedia entry on the song has a quote about her writing it for that purpose.

    2. Jim Steinman wrote it, not Bonnie Tyler.

    3. (Bill, and also the `Good Question' was Bill, did not intend to be Anon). VERY GOOD POINT- If the WRITER and the SINGER are different then not clear if the singer knew. Well- I am sure she does now since she's reads this blog.

  4. Entertaining post. I'll also add "Louie Louie" It is very hard to figure out the lyrics.

  5. Great post! Minor nit: Buffett passed away on Sept 1st, not 2nd.

  6. (Bill) Thanks! Fixed!