Simon & Garfunkel “Mrs. Robinson” Lyrics Meaning

The verses of this classic by Simon & Garfunkel sparsely detail the lifestyle of the titular Mrs. Robinson, and the hooks for the most part show how the artists feel about her.

First Verse

In the first verse she is described as someone that Simon and Garfunkel would “like to know a little bit about”. They also express the sentiment that they would “like to help (her) learn to help (herself)”. This line suggests that she is battling with certain challenges that the narrators feel they can help her with. She is also labeled as someone who is surrounded by “sympathetic eyes”.

Second and Third Verses

The second verse is based on “affair(s)” that Mrs. Robinson and her husband seem to be having. Most importantly, according to the artists, Mrs. Robinson is compelled to “hide it from the kids”. And the third verse alludes to the fact that Mrs. Robinson is involved in politics.

Hooks

In the hooks of the song, the artists state to Mrs. Robinson that “Jesus loves” her a lot. Furthermore they ask for God’s blessings in her life. Thus the logical conclusion is that they view her as an upright, righteous person. Additionally in the final hook, they make what seems to be an offbeat reference to baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, stating that he has “left and gone away”. However, this is once again a roundabout acknowledgement of Mrs. Robinson. Or the sentiment they are actually putting forth is that Mrs. Robinson is a hero along the lines of Joe DiMaggio, and that now the world is lacking in such individuals.

Big Reveal

And now for the big reveal – the song “Mrs. Robinson” was actually written in reference to Eleanor Roosevelt, who served as First Lady of the United States for a record 12 years (1933-1945). She was First Lady throughout major events such as the Great Depression and World War II – and was highly-regarded for her contributions to the Presidency. In fact the song was originally entitled “Mrs. Roosevelt”, with Simon & Garfunkel changing the name to “Mrs. Robinson” in order to make it applicable to the movie it was featured in, The Graduate (1967). As such, the character featured in the song and the one portrayed in the movie have little, if anything, in common. 

So in summation, this song is actually based on the very-high regard Paul Simon in particular had for Eleanor Roosevelt.

Contrary to popular belief, this song is not about a fictional movie character but rather First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

"Mrs. Robinson" lyrics

“Mrs. Robinson” was not written for The Graduate

Contrary to what many think, this song was not written specifically for The Graduate. Rather Paul Simon had already been working on the track, submitted it reluctantly to be considered for the film after two other of his and Garfunkel’s song had been rejected and actually filled in incomplete parts with the repetitious ‘dee’s’ heard particularly at the beginning. The track’s name was easily changed from “Mrs. Roosevelt” to “Mrs. Robinson”, the main character in The Graduate, since they are both three-syllable words. That is why the individual who they are singing about bears little resemblance to the “seductive” character in the movie. However, some viewers still recognize this track as an epilogue to the actual film.

Either way, it is clear that being featured in the film contributed to the success of this song. In fact if it had not been chosen for that film, Simon & Garfunkel never would have recorded it.

More Interesting Facts about “Mrs. Robinson”

  • Despite its inseparable connection to The Graduate and even voted as one of the greatest America movie songs of the 20th century, “Mrs. Robinson” wasn’t even considered for an Oscar. Why? Because Simon & Garfunkel neglected to submit it for nomination. That said, it should be noted that the film itself went on to win four Oscars at the 1968 Academy Awards.
  • “Mrs. Robinson” wasn’t the only Simon & Garfunkel song that appeared in The Graduate. “Scarborough Fair / Canticle” was also featured on the film’s soundtrack.
  • Hearing that baseball great Joe DiMaggio was not pleased with the way his name was used in the song, Simon actually approached him when they happened to cross paths a few years later. Simon explained that he was actually referring to him as a hero. According to him, DiMaggio not only accepted the explanation but also expressed his gratitude.
  • In addition to the iconic film, The Graduate, this track has also been featured in a number of movies. One such notable film is 1994’s Forrest Gump.

Did “Mrs. Robinson” win a Grammy?

The song won two major awards at the 1965 Grammy Awards. One of these major awards was the award for Record of the Year.

How did this Simon and Garfunkel classic perform on the charts?

It did very well. For example, it topped the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. Furthermore, it went to number one on the Canada Top Singles chart.

Additional countries it charted in include Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom, where it reached number-4 on the Singles chart.

When did “Mrs. Robinson” come out?

It was released as a single on 5 April 1968 and featured on the soundtrack of The Graduate.  

Who wrote “Mrs. Robinson”?

Musical genius, Paul Simon, is the sole writer behind this track. He and Art Garfunkel produced the song alongside American record producer, Roy Halee.

Who has covered this classic?

It has also been covered by a number of prominent artists since its release in the late 1960s. Some of these big names include Frank Sinatra and Bon Jovi. In 1992, the Lemonheads, released their version of this song. That version charted in both the United Kingdom and United States.

15 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, but I won’t believe that this was written with Eleanor Roosevelt unless Paul Simon says so.

  2. Anonymous says:

    He did say so, in fact, Art Garfunkel even said that the song’s original title was Mrs. Roosevelt.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m reading the book, Eleanor, by David Michaelis in which the historic facts regarding the song, Mrs. Robinson, are revealed to me for the first time. No wonder the lyrics never made any sense for Mrs. Robinson, – but do, for the much-admired Eleanor Roosevelt.

    • Michelle D. says:

      Just finished the book, “Eleanor” last night. The lyrics are fitting to the person. She passed three months before I was born. Love her, and the song.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I’m surprised that this “meaning” doesn’t even mention how alcoholism plays a big role in this song.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I have interpreted this so differently over the years. To me it is actually about 2 different generations of one family with v1 being about the mother, and v2 about Mr and Mrs suburbia..

    The first, to me at any rate, is an older woman, being shown round a nursing home, being reassured that the staff are friendly and welcoming.

    The second is a middle class suburban family who, to put it obliquely, like a smoke. That’s where the reference to the “Robinson’s affair” – something private and discreet comes in. “put it in the cupboard with your cupcakes, and “most of all you have to hide it from the kids” depicts a behind the picket fence activity that could be frowned on in some strata of society- this is 1969 after all.
    The third verse is again that family, strait laced, a little rebellious, and not surprisingly, a little sceptical about politicians
    The Joe Dimaggio reference is a pining for a time when heroes were easily defined. Pre Vietnam, and predicting Nixon to some degree.

    It’s a terrific song, even though I have been hopelessly deluded all these years.

    I prefer my version.

    • SMF says:

      Thank you so much for your contribution (:

    • Brett says:

      I agree with the “like a smoke” view which I’ve always thought was the case because, in addition to what you mentioned, the very next line is coo coo cachoo an obvious reference to The Beatles song I am the Walrus which ends with a chorus of people chanting ompa ompa ompa but is soon joined in by another chorus of people saying smoke pot, smoke pot, everybody smoke pot

  6. Sceptical says:

    I loved this song for years, but recently have found it disturbing. It sounds as if someone powerful and unpleasant is controlling Mrs Robinson (we’d like to know a little bit about you for our files). It also sounds as if she is being given some kind of either listening device or drugs (put it in your pantry with the cupcakes). The line about keeping it from the kids could refer to shame, or possibly the risk that children talk without understanding the consequences.

  7. Xipe Totec says:

    This is a song about a middle-class, suburban woman’s struggle with her demons, perhaps alcoholism or mental health. The first verse covers her arrival at a residential clinic where she is welcomed by the song’s narrator. The second discusses the various devices she and her family have utilised in order to try to manage and hide her problem, while the last confronts the impossibility of maintaining a facade of middle-class normality in the face of an issue that has reached crisis point.

    The choruses offer reassurance to the character, interestingly opening with a traditional toast, and followed by Christian platitudes. 12-step recovery programmes rely heavily on faith and the belief in support from a higher power. The final chorus variation with its reference to Joe DiMaggio has been explained by Paul Simon as referencing the loss of true heroes in modern America, and the final line, quoted from Mrs Robinson by the narrator, is her confirmation that no, there are no heroes any more.

  8. Kp says:

    Well this sucks because I thought these lyrics were written ironically, talking about this sweet Jesus loving woman who in reality was a sinner continually trying to hide her secrets. Oh well.

  9. DG says:

    What a sound interpretation of some really good lyrics!

  10. Benjamin Clayton says:

    Picture this… mid-1960s, a woman (Mrs. Robinson?) a new patient at one of those old scary Catholic run state/government mental institutions where they would fix schizophrenia, hysteria, etc with lobotomy, electroshock therapy, pills, and of course, Prayer. She’s sitting across the desk from the intake counselor probably still wondering why her family just dumped her here, as the man trying to reassure her of her new safe surroundings. Later she finds herself in the “meds line” to get her pills that are supposed to “help”her, but she instead hides them where nobody will find them. Then later she finds herself sitting on a sofa in the therapist office, he listens as she rambles on in her delirium about a happier time and right before she gets totally lost in her own head, he brings her back to realization by reminding her that those days are over. Thats how I interpret it anyhow

  11. Anonymous says:

    Love this input. My interpretation is a mix of most of these. Except the religious/state institution. But Eleanor Roosevelt never crossed my mind!

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