I Know What I Know – Unveiling the Layers of Identity and Perception


You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Paul Simon's I Know What I Know at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. The Misunderstood Exchange – Interpreting Social Encounters
  5. The Wind of Non-conformity – An Emblem of Rebellion
  6. A Sly Nod to Social Echelons – The Currency of Identity
  7. Carpe Diem With a Twist – Embracing the Ephemeral
  8. The Echoes of Memorable Lines – Lingering Thoughts

Lyrics

She looked me over
And I guess she thought I was all right
All right in a sort of a limited way for an off-night
She said, “don’t I know you from the cinematographer’s party?”
I said, “who am I to blow against the wind?”

I know what I know
I’ll sing what I said
We come and we go
That’s a thing that I keep
In the back of my head
I know what I know
I’ll sing what I said
We come and we go
That’s a thing that I keep
In the back of my head

She said, “there’s something about you
That really reminds me of money”
She is the kind of a girl
Who could say things that weren’t that funny
I said, “what does that mean?
I really remind you of money?”
She said, “who am I to blow against the wind?”

I know what I know
I’ll sing what I said
We come and we go
That’s a thing that I keep
In the back of my head
I know what I know
I’ll sing what I said
We come and we go
That’s a thing that I keep
In the back of my head

She moved so easily
All I could think of was sunlight
I said, “aren’t you the women
Who was recently given a Fulbright?”
She said, “don’t I know you
From the cinematographer’s party?”
I said, “who am I to blow against the wind?”

I know what I know
I’ll sing what I said
We come and we go
That’s a thing that I keep
In the back of my head
I know what I know
I’ll sing what I said
We come and we go
That’s a thing that I keep
In the back of my head

I know what I know
I know what I know
I know what I know
I know what I know

Full Lyrics

The weaving of wistful melodies and sharp, colorful lyrics is a craft that Paul Simon has perfected over the decennials of his illustrious music career. ‘I Know What I Know’, a track off the critically acclaimed album ‘Graceland’, stands out as a testament to Simon’s ability to combine storytelling with a rhythmic cadence that captures the essence of human experiences.

The song’s deceptive simplicity invites listeners to look beneath the surface of its catchy tune and delve into its lyrical depth. It’s a vibrant mix of cultural commentary and personal introspection that contemplates the various ways we define ourselves and how we are perceived by others. Let’s dissect the layers of this multifaceted composition.

The Misunderstood Exchange – Interpreting Social Encounters

The song opens with a casual encounter between two people, ostensibly at a social event, where surface-level judgments are passed. ‘She looked me over, and I guess she thought I was all right,’ Simon begins, setting a scene where first impressions frame the interaction. Throughout the song, there is a continuous play on the theme of perception — how we perceive one another and the assumptions we quickly make based on appearance or context.

With the exchange of witticism and puzzling compliments, such as being ‘reminded of money,’ Simon probes into the shallow nature of social niceties and the oddity of how people connect on a superficial level. These interactions, although seemingly trivial, carry weight in the dance of social standing and personal identity.

The Wind of Non-conformity – An Emblem of Rebellion

At regular intervals, the phrase ‘who am I to blow against the wind?’ is crooned, becoming a refrain that resonates with themes of resignation and conformity. It’s a rhetorical question that raises a white flag to the inevitable forces, be they social expectations or the currents of fate that we tend to acquiesce to.

However, there’s a subtle rebelliousness in the acceptance, an understanding that while one may not fight these forces, they certainly do not have to be defined by them. Simon’s choice of wind as a metaphor for larger forces at play suggests a natural, omnipresent power that shapes our decisions and actions.

A Sly Nod to Social Echelons – The Currency of Identity

Money is a recurring symbol in the song, hinting at more than just wealth — it represents value, status, and the commodification of personal interactions. When the female character mentions that Simon’s character ‘reminds me of money,’ it echoes the sentiment that people often quantify worth in economic terms, rather than human qualities.

This line offers a critical perspective on societal values and how people are often reduced to what they represent materially. The conversation’s awkwardness speaks to the discomfort these reductionist labels can cause, challenging the listener to think about the way we measure a person’s value.

Carpe Diem With a Twist – Embracing the Ephemeral

Central to the song’s mantra, ‘We come and we go,’ captures a stoic acceptance of life’s transitory nature. The philosophy that Simon seems to impart is one of mindfulness – to be aware of life’s fleeting moments and to cherish the ebb and flow without holding on too tightly.

This element of the lyrics resonates with an encouragement to live in the present, to ‘sing what I said,’ embracing one’s words and actions in the moment, then letting them pass – quite literally, to keep them ‘in the back of the head,’ as a distant, fading memory.

The Echoes of Memorable Lines – Lingering Thoughts

The song’s most memorable lines lodge themselves into the listener’s psyche, becoming almost anthemic. ‘I know what I know,’ repeated with calm assertiveness, stands as a declaration of self-assured existence, indicating that at the cornerstone of our identities is the unshakeable truth of our personal knowledge and experience.

It is this repetition that drills down the song’s essence— the value of self-awareness and conviction in a world of ever-swirling social winds. Paul Simon, with his trademark narrative finesse, leaves us pondering our place within the grander societal mosaic and the truths we accept about ourselves and others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like...