10 Famous Misinterpreted Songs

Song lyrics sometimes speak above the heads of their readers and listeners. Interestingly, many people enjoy listening to great music, but few people are good at interpreting the actual meanings of songs composed by artists and songwriters. Consequently, some music fans incorrectly decode the meanings of songs. This is not surprising at all if we consider the fact that some song lyrics are very complex in nature. It could even be more challenging to read meanings into “simple lyrics” songs. Lets’ take a look at some of the most famous wrongly interpreted songs.

Bob Dylan – Mr. Tambourine Man

Misinterpretation: The song talks about drugs. It is thought by many people that the lyrics of the song are directed towards Bob Dylan’s drug lords (with the title, Mr. Tambourine Man representing the drug dealer’s name). A popular narcotic drug (LSD) was assumed to be the subject of Dylan’s song due to the nature of the song’s weird and speculative lyrics. Funny enough, all these interpretations are far from the meaning of the song. Take a look at the actual meaning of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” below.   

Real meaning: Bob Dylan was shocked to hear people relate his inspirational song to drugs. The musician later explained that he was inspired by Bruce Langhorne who had a flair in playing guitar and tambourine (a percussion musical instrument; not a name of a drug dealer). Langhorne was a renowned American folk musician. Simply put, Langhorne inspired the lyrics of “Mr. Tambourine Man”.

It’s noteworthy that Langhorne died on April 14, 2017 after suffering from a severe stroke the year before.

Bryan Adams – Summer of 69

Misinterpretation: The misconception about this song is very hilarious. The fans got it totally wrong when they thought that “Summer of 69” talks about the year (1969) when Bryan Adams started playing guitar.

Real meaning:The truth behind the lyrics of “summer of 69” will send you into shivers. It is completely different from what most people imagined. Anyway, we think there are smart people there who would still get the interpretation correct. Let’s take a quick at an excerpt of the lyrics.

“It was the summer of ’69, oh, yeah
Me and my baby in ’69, oh”

There you go! Bryan Adams clarified that “summer of 69” refers to his favorite intimate position. That’s all we are going to say about it since this platform is a family oriented one.

Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody

Misinterpretation: Fans often misconstrued that “Bohemian Rhapsody” talks about how the singer (Freddie Mercury) suffered from HIV/AIDS. We still can’t figure out why people thought this way. But one thing we know is that the interpretation is wrong.

Real/Likely Meaning: For starters, the song was released long before the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. Even though members of Queen haven’t been too explicit with their interpretation of the lyrics, Mercury once allegedly said that the song talks “about relationships”.

The Police – Every Breath You Take

Misinterpretation: This song was seen as a sweet romantic song due to its lovely lyrics. Take a look at some lines from the first verse:

“Every step you take
I’ll be watching you”

Well, don’t be deceived by the sweet caring words. They do not accurately reflect the actual message of the song.

Real Meaning:The song is not about sweet love. The lyrics rather talk about bitter love incurred by Sting when his marriage to Northern Irish actress Frances Tomelty crumbled in such a horrible manner. Sting and Frances got married in 1976. They divorced in 1984.

Dave Matthews Band – Crash into Me

Misinterpretation: “Crash into Me” by Dave Matthews Band was described as being a passionate love song. Part of the reason for this misconception was due to the song’s soft lyrics. Check out some lines from lyrics below:

“Lost for you I’m so lost for you
You come crash into me”

However, the song means much more than that!

Real Meaning:Even though Matthew didn’t dispute that the song is romantic in nature, he prefers people to see the song from a perspective of someone peeping at a woman from a window. This is not exactly equal to love. According to Matthews, the lyrics were written from the lens of a peeping Tom. Scary, isn’t it?!

Eagles – Hotel California

Misinterpretation: “Hotel California” was misunderstood to be a praise about worshiping the devil. Some also misinterpreted the song to be about drugs. However, it is neither about praising the devil or glamorizing drugs.

Real Meaning: Contrary to the above wrongful interpretations, Don Henley and his fellow band members explained that the song talks about their high life experiences in Los Angeles (U.S.A).

Bruce Springsteen – Born in the U.S.A.

Misinterpretation: Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” is a song about American patriotism. Owing to this interpretation, many American politicians have used the song to promote patriotism. However, this is not correct. The song ain’t about patriotism.

Real meaning: In fact, the song is very critical of the United States of America. It appears to be an antithesis (an exact opposite). Bruce Springsteen must be a legend for using witty lyrics to outsmart politicians. The song rather laments about the negative repercussions the Vietnam War brought on America.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – American Girl

Misinterpretation: Unfortunately, this song was thought to be closely related to a suicide act committed by a University of Florida student who jumped from the balcony of her dormitory. See some misleading lines from the lyrics below

“She couldn’t help thinkin’
That there was a little more to life somewhere else”

Tom Petty debunked the above misconceptions.

Real Meaning:Petty made listeners aware that the song was inspired by the sounds of a highway close to his apartment in California.

Phil Collins – In the Air Tonight

Misinterpretation: People suggested that the song condemns someone who witnessed someone drowning and refused saving him. He just watched while the person drowned without doing anything to help.

Real Meaning: Interestingly, Phil Collins explained that the song emanated from a divorce trauma he went through.

James Taylor – Fire and Rain

Misinterpretation: The amount of mournful lyrics contained in the song mislead people to think that the song only reminisces James Taylor’s girlfriend (Suzanne) who died in a plane crash. Look at the line from song below:

“Sweet dreams and flying machines on the ground”

Real meaning:James Taylor himself interpreted that the song shines light on three facets of his life: the loss of his friend, his music frustrations (one of Taylor’s music band flopped) and brief moments he had in an institution. The above line actually refers to his band’s inability to excel.

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