The Smiths’ “Half a Person” Lyrics Meaning

To some extent the lyrics of “Half a Person” don’t make chronological sense, as they jump from the vocalist, who is “16, clumsy and shy” as well as seemingly impoverished in the chorus, to him being so well-to-do in the verse that follows that the apple of his eye proclaims that she liked him better when he was “hopelessly poor”. 

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for The Smiths's Half a Person at

Morrissey has revealed that this piece is autobiographical in nature. So presumably the time that transpired between the chorus and second verse spans a few years. As such, the latter speaks to the present, i.e. the vocalist now being a music star.

So what we are basically met with here is a tale of unrequited love. The singer has a thing for the addressee, but obviously the feeling isn’t mutual, considering for instance that he’s been chasing her for “six full years”. And by the looks of things, her refusing Morrissey’s advances extends into his days as a popular musician.

For instance, it does seem a bit peculiar that Morrissey – as popular and may we also say handsome as he is – doesn’t have much of a romantic history, even when he was young and The Smiths were at their peak. 

According to the singer, that would be in large part because the people he fancied didn’t feel the same about him. And so it is with the song, i.e. the singer coming off as if he is smitten, but the object of his affection, even upon his success, appearing disinterested. 

So concerning the title, which is never actually mentioned in the lyrics, it would obviously allude to the vocalist viewing himself from what he deems to be the addressee’s perspective, concluding that he is “half a person”, i.e. not up to par.

“Call me morbid, call me pale
I’ve spent too long on your trail
Far too long chasing your tail”

When was “Half a Person” released?

“Half a Person” was made public in January of 1987. It was released as a standalone single, and later featured as the twelfth track on the group’s compilation album “The World Won’t Listen”.

These are some other notable Smiths’ songs that can be found on “The World Won’t Listen”


It was written and produced by The Smiths’ co-founders and regular songwriting duo Johnny Marr and Morrissey. English producer Stephen Street also contributed to the production of this song.

Covers of “Half a Person”

Since its release, “Half a Person” has been covered by a number of different artists. In 2011 American singers Greg Laswell and Janice Whaley both released their versions of the song.

Half a Person

NOTE: “Half a Person” was also featured on the band’s 1987 compilation album, “Louder Than Bombs”. In all, this compilation album contains 24 hit songs from the Smiths.

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