When will the national tragedy of misheard song lyrics ever end?

A few days ago I attempted to impart some words of wisdom to someone about a situation — who and what are not important — and, after [re]discovering that I had no such words of my own (and likely never will; I tell myself that that’s the beginning of wisdom), I turned to the ultimate source of sage advice*: the song lyrics of Delbert McClinton

McClinton is the author of some of the wittiest and most intelligent lyrics this side of Cole Porter. For example, People Just Love To Talk is a song about the disappearance of a man and the way the rumor mill transcends reality. Several iterations of the fate of the man are laid out, including this one:

On the night in question, the couple came in
Had drinks in the bar by the door.
By the time they were leavin’
It was clear that she was seethin’
And nobody seen him no more.

Blues-centric grammar aside, when’s the last time you heard the term seething applied in a popular song setting?

Anyway, I had a specific song in mind from which I would pull some wise advice — and probably claim it as original, as one does — a little ditty entitled Cherry Street, about a man who made some poor choices during a night out on the town. I’ve listened to the song enough times through the years to be pretty sure of the words, but because I’m a professional amateur, I decided to double-check my source, so I googled the lyrics. I’ll show you the results of that search in a moment, but here’s the actual music for context (don’t worry; it’s just a 20 second clip):

Those words seem pretty intelligible, right? But here’s Google’s translation:

Expect the unexpected, the fun is so thrill
And you can bet that it always will.
Sometimes the truth can be so unkind;
When you’re looking for trouble, trouble’s always easy to find.

The fun is so thrill? What does that even mean? How do you get that from to furnish the thrill?

That’s not the only disfiguring of the dissertation. How about surfer punch instead of sucker punch? Or Or oh, I think I hear myself [Incomprehensible] instead of Uh oh, I think I hear my cellphone ring?

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t always gotten song lyrics right myself. I confess that for an embarrassingly long time, I mistook the phrase hotter than a match head in the Lovin’ Spoonful’s classic Summer In The City for hollerin’ in the bath shed. But I’m not alone. Google “misheard song lyrics” and you’ll get almost 200,000 hits. Still, we should expect more from a company with a trillion dollar market cap, shouldn’t we? How can we trust anything anymore? OK, that’s a rhetorical question.

Of course, Google can afford a crack legal team to advise it in all business matters, and it does occur to me that the screwed up lyrics are actually a conscious strategy, given that it’s been accused of stealing lyrics from another company whose primary business is providing a platform for users to find the words to songs. Perhaps Google’s defense will be that its mangling of the words is proof that it’s not stealing from a company that actually knows what it’s doing.

Well, anyway, my quest to provide wise advice proved fruitless, because the lyrics I thought would work didn’t apply to the situation in question anyway. But to borrow some additional words from Delbert, can’t nobody say I didn’t try.

*Yeah, I know. The ultimate source of wisdom is obviously the Bible. But the book of Proverbs has So. Many. Words.

Categorized as Music