Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Reading beyond the title - "American Woman"

Have you ever run across a song with a particular title and liked the song for its title - and then found out that the song itself has nothing to do with the title?

Take The Guess Who's song "American Woman." Perhaps a guy from a foreign country might hear the song title, see a beautiful woman from the United States, and think to himself, "I'll impress her by singing this song to her!"

But then he starts to learn the lyrics to the song and realizes that it is not a love song to an American woman. After all, the song begins:

American woman, stay away from me
American woman, mama let me be

Let's face it, this is NOT "California Girls."

And as you continue to read the lyrics to the song, you realize that it's not about a woman at all.

I don't need your war machines
I don't need your ghetto scenes
Coloured lights can hypnotize
Sparkle someone else's eyes

And yes, I know that the transcriber at songmeanings.net wrote "Colored," not "Coloured." But I suspect that the spelling with a "u" is correct, since the song was written by Canadians. After all, it was conceived in a curling rink.

And when you read those lyrics from the perspective of a 1960s Canadian writing about the United States, the song makes sense - a sense that can't be discerned from its seemingly innocuous title.

Incidentally, this song entered my head one day after finding this post in a blog called "War Machine." Perhaps it was the George Harrison in Haight Ashbury stuff that I had been reading previously, but seeing the title of the blog took me on a musical, um, trip.
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