Getting Song Lyrics Hopelessly Wrong

We’ve all done it. Singing at the top of our lungs, belting out some line we thought we knew but then suddenly realizing all of our companions have turned to stare – or, sometimes, just flat out laugh – because we’ve completely butchered the line.

My own personal hopeless gaffe came up the other night. It is, and has always been, Blinded by the Light (Manfield Mann’s Earth Band). Since 1977, I think I’ve been singing “blinded by the light … ripped up like inducient, like a runner in the night …” It never mattered to me that “inducient” isn’t even a word. I didn’t care. In 1977, I thought maybe “inducient” was a word and — being  only 11 — I just hadn’t learned it yet. But the other night, my 16yo told me that the real words are “blinded by the light … revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night …”


Well, gee, that does make more sense.

(But I think I need to coin the word “inducient.”)

Jon Carroll at the San Francisco Chronicle calls these gaffes “Mondegreens” (after writer Sylvia Wright’s misperception of “…and Lady Mondegreen” in the Scottish ballad Bonny Earl of Murray instead of “…and laid him on the green”). Carroll has been documenting Mondegreens for some time. (He explains that here.)

Superman’s “Mondegreen” has been Carry On (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young). Chris has been singing – until a mere two months ago, mind you – “…the forks on the table are able/to sing the song …” He sang it this way until he got his cool new iPhone app, Tune Wiki, and found out that the words were actually: “…the fortress of fables are able/to sing the song …”

When our DS and DD teens heard this (after my Blinded by the Light fiasco), they collapsed into laughter until they fessed up their own:

Rene’s has been Beautiful Mess (Jason Mraz). She’s been singing “…And through timeless words and priceless pictures/ we’ll fly like birds, not like lizards” for quite some time. (It made sense to her, she argued. Since lizards do NOT fly, well …) But finally it bugged her enough that she looked it up online and found out that the words were actually: “…And through timeless words and priceless pictures/ we’ll fly like birds, not of this earth …” Ooops.

Ricky’s was Hospital Beds (Cold War Kids). He kept hearing “…Me and my fish ‘n chips/ a tiny ant opera/me and my fish ‘n chips/ a tiny ant opera …” for some time. But even he knew that one didn’t make sense. So he listened more carefully and finally figured out that it was “…Vietnam fishing trips/ Italian opera/ Vietnam fishing trips/ Italian opera …” (I’ve included the link on all the songs so you can hear yourself — and this one REALLY DOES sound like “tiny ant opera”!!! Good one, Ricky!)

But Ricky shook his head about another one:  “I still don’t know what Aretha Franklin is saying in ‘Respect,’ though.”

Our family might be playing with our Tune Wiki for some time. …

What are your worse “Mondegreens”? Do you have Tune Wiki to help you out?

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6 thoughts on “Getting Song Lyrics Hopelessly Wrong

  1. You had to go and tell them about my “forks”!?!?!? I’m just glad I didn’t tell you my juiciest ones. I kind of like getting the words wrong, because when you find out the proper lyrics it gives an entirley new meaning to the song sometimes. Besides “forks” makes sense when you hear “table” in the song…
    Anyway, I defy anyone to listen to “classic” Elton John from the 70s and see if you can tell ANYTHING he is saying. I’ve been getting those lyrics wrong for over 30 years with no hope in sight; “Rocket Man, running out of tunes up there uh huh…” Still don’t know what the heck he’s talking about…

  2. The kid behind me in fourth grade always sang “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liver trees”–that’s always been one of my favorites!

  3. Some of my favorite songs in my YouTube playist are misheard lyric songs. There are songs that I have never understood but I guess plenty of other people have understood them also and they make some funny videos with the misheard lyrics instead. Nirvana seems particularly popular.

    Aerosmith’s song Dream On I always mangled. Why were the single women always crying for the tear? Or whatever. They have a whole web site called You know, the Jimi Hendrix song.

    Of course, now you will have to have a Worst Song ever post. Don McLean’s American Pie anyone?

  4. These were all great ones! Steven Tyler and “Dream On” is pretty funny — yes, I think everyone did mangle that one! (Thanks for that one, Lisa Romeo and Kat!)

    And Superman, you just keep ’em coming! I like your racy ones, too! (But you can just tell me those in person — they always make me giggle.)

    And Virginia, I love your tale of “sweet land of liver trees”! I’m thinking those patriotic songs have quite a few misundersood lines …

    Kat, I’ll have to check those out on YouTube! Sounds funny. I can see why Nirvana would be popular. But, like Superman mentioned, Elton John could have his own collection. (“Leroy???”)

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