23 June 2011

"What a fool believes" (The Doobie Brothers)

This was the Grammy-award-winning "Song of the Year" in 1980, and "one of the few non-disco No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 during 1979. The song lyrics tell a story of a man who is reunited with a former lover and attempts to rekindle the relationship with her, only to realize she never really loved him and shows no interest in continuing an affair with him."

I've listened to this song uncountable times in the past 30 years, and it wasn't until I decided to blog it today that I realized I have been mishearing the lyrics.  I thought the words were "The wise man has the power to reason away..."  It's just the opposite.

Not quite a "mondegreen" - but almost.  (See also "Obama's Elf").


  1. I thought the same thing!! Wow, I must have heard that song eleventy zillion times, had the cassette, had the CD...never realized those were the lyrics.

    Dang -- never realized the song was that wise, either.

  2. Watching that video and reading the lyrics (for the first time) made me feel so sad.

  3. I mostly heard these lyrics as nonsense. Still do, even with subtitles.

    Are you going to trust the translation in a video that starts with a credit to the "Doodie brothers"?

    Give me the Beach Boys (and free my soul)...

  4. Your point is well taken, bjn. I did a Google search for the lyrics and found dozens of sites, all of which transcribe it as "no wise man." But they could all be misquoting some aboriginal mistake...

  5. Ok, so kind of creepy. This is what I was listening to when I saw this blog post. I had to do a double take.


  6. Agreed on the above. I didn't like this song til one of my favorite artists, Self, aka Matt Mahaffey, covered it on his album Gizmodgery, which is composed entirely on toys rather than real instruments. Here's a link to it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CwetL2x1FA

  7. Peter Hendry The Monitor ManJune 23, 2011 at 5:18 PM

    My life used to be acoustics and helping musicians really hear what they were doing on stage.
    Problem is..The band know the lyrics, the studio recording crew know the lyrics,the front of house guy knows the lyrics,the management know the lyrics so most of them, collectively, bury the lyrics in the sound.
    That's why it is so hard to work out the lyrics.

  8. From the Doobie Bros. official site:


    It is indeed "no wise man..."

    I wonder if there is any chance CCR will post theirs, cause I'm lucky if I understand 1 word in three of John Fogerty's.

  9. Thank you, Weaving One, and it makes more sense the way they have the phrase mated to the phrase before it, rather than to the phrase after it, (as so many other transcriptions do) -

    "But what a fool believes he sees
    No wise man has the power to reason away..."

  10. Michael MacDonald destroyed the Doobie Brothers. They used to turn out kickass rock and roll, and he turned them into a MOR, wimpy backing band for his saccharine, schmaltzy pop tunes. Bah!

  11. I don't think they were former lovers at all. I think that this was some poor, faceless kid who adored from afar. I see him as one of dozens of nice boy acquaintances that the pretty girl in school saw daily as they passed in halls crowded with other faces. He loved from afar and the few times that she was nice to him or sat next to him in a class made him exaggerate a relationship in his mind because it wasn't really there in reality. I think they see each other after years apart and she is still polite, but doesn't even know his name and he then has to deal with the reality that the relationship never existed. They bump into each other at a restaurant, she's busy and apologizes about not being able to stop and chat and walks away. Simple story. Sad story. We all have one.


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