Monday, May 23, 2011

You're Kind

I think this song might be unique in Simon's catalog in that the speaker is not a human, but an animal. The word choices seem-- to me-- to come from the mind of a dog or cat.

My theory is that someone told Simon (or maybe it happened to Simon himself) of an animal, adopted from a shelter, which escaped back on to the street. It would be an interesting topic for a song, the idea that even an animal might choose freedom over comfort... if comfort also meant constraint.

While this assertion may seem fanciful, a close reading of the lines, I feel, supports this hypothesis:

"You rescued me"-- This phrase is used frequently with regard to animals in shelters, which are often called, once they are adopted, "rescues." A person would more likely be "saved"; think of all the movies in which someone is saved from drowning or a fire. They say "Thank you for saving me!" or "(Gasp, hack, cough) You saved my life!"

"When I was blind"-- "when" means "I once was, but no longer am." And many small animals are born with their eyes shut, only to open them soon after.

"You put me on your pillow"-- Only an animal, and a small or baby one at that, would fit on a "pillow," or be invited to sleep on one. A person would not, and even a human baby is not set on a pillow, but in a crib or on a blanket.

"When I was on the wall"-- This is the phrase that clues me in to this reading of the song to begin with. I have been in animal shelters and that is how the animals are often kept, in cages that are stacked against a wall like bookshelves. A person is "against the wall," or "has his back to the wall." The only one "on" a wall was Humpty Dumpty; people are "on" a fence, maybe.

"You introduced me to your neighborhood"-- A person would be introduced to one's friends and family, not people who happened to live nearby. A dog, meanwhile, would be taken for a walk, during which it would likely be noticed and petted by shopkeepers and neighbors.

"Like the other humans do"-- Not "like other people do," as a person would say.

"...and you keep the window closed"-- A person would not leave over such an issue; they would politely ask for the window to be kept open. If the answer were 'no,' such a minor quibble would not amount, for most people, to be a "deal-breaker" and warrant leaving.

New pet owners, knowing that a lot of trouble had been gone through to get the dog off the street, and knowing that there were very good reasons for having done so, would naturally try to prevent their escape by keeping windows and door closed.

But an animal might, ironically, want the window open so that there was always the potential of freedom. The idea that freedom is not an option might induce a sense of being trapped and spark the urge to escape. If the window were open, the animal would feel that it was staying of its own accord; now that it cannot leave, it paradoxically must.

I understand that I may be alone in this interpretation of the song. It is possible that I have identified the underlying animal metaphor, and that the song is in fact about a person escaping a relationship that at first felt like a relief and now feels like a restraint; the lyrics certainly work on that level, too.

But I prefer to see the song as the thoughts of a dog or cat that was taken off the street by a shelter, then adopted, only to escape to the more familiar, free-ranging lifestyle it had grown accustomed to. It's certainly a new twist on the theme of songs like "Ramblin' Man" and "Free Bird," of the restless, dreamy drifter who just can't be tied down.

Next Song: Silent Eyes


  1. I love this! Being no native speaker such "details" elude me completely.Very nice to read this.

  2. Anon-- Thank you! I am glad you found this helpful, wherever you are from.

  3. This is exactly how I see the song. Good job

  4. Unknown-- Thank you. It's nice to know that either I'm not crazy or at least one other person is the same kind of crazy...

  5. I thought this must be a rescue animal for the same reason as you! It's the human reference that's always puzzled me. Glad I'm not the only one.Also,between them,S and G wrote some of the most amazing songs, especially on "Bookends", one of my very favourite albums of all time!

  6. Marilyn-- Thanks for validating my out-of-the-box theory. Also, I agree with you on Bookends as well.