Misheard lyrics from hit songs: Mondegreens from the 60s, 70s and 80s

Mondegreens - Misheard classic song lyrics

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Check out some classic hit songs that all have a common theme: a lot of us have misheard the lyrics, so we’re singing them wrong — sometimes hilariously so.

Whether on karaoke night or in the car, we loudly yell along to our favorite tunes with the words we think they said, but we’re are actually vocalizing nonsense…. and sometimes make a good song better, or a bad song worse.

Back in 1979, journalist William Safire wrote about several curious cases of misunderstood lyrics, and why they were called mondegreens.

“This is a word coined in a 1954 Harper’s Magazine article, ‘The Death of Lady Mondegreen’ by Sylvia Wright, which reported on the doings of ‘Gladly, the cross-eyed bear’ (the way many children hear ‘Gladly the Cross I’d Bear’) and other sound-alikes.

“Miss Wright recalled a Scottish ballad, The Bonny Earl of Moray, from Thomas Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, which sounded to her like this: Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands, Oh, where hae ye been? They hae slain the Earl Amurray. And Lady Mondegreen.”

The actual words:

Ye Highlands and ye Lawlands,
Oh where have you been?
They have slain the Earl o’Moray
And layd him on the green.

“She envisioned the bonny Earl holding the beautiful Lady Mondegreen’s hand, both bleeding profusely, but faithful unto death.

“‘By now,’ Miss Wright wrote, ‘several of you more alert readers are jumping up and down in your impatience to interrupt and point out that, according to the poem, after they killed the Earl of Murray, they laid him on the green. I know about this, but I won’t give in to it. Leaving him to die all alone without even anyone to hold his hand — I won’t have it.'”

Bob Dylan: “Blowin’ In The Wind”

MISHEARD LYRICS: “The ants are my friends, they’re blowin’ in the wind”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind”

YouTube video

The Beatles: “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”

MISHEARD LYRICS: “The girl with colitis goes by”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes”

MORE: Dad takes dare and attends a Beatles concert – plus a teen fan describes the chaos in the ’60s

YouTube video

Creedence Clearwater Revival: “Bad Moon Rising”

MISHEARD LYRICS: “Don’t go around tonight / Well, it’s bound to take all night / There’s a bathroom on the right”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “Don’t go around tonight / Well, it’s bound to take your life / There’s a bad moon on the rise”

YouTube video

MORE: Creedence Clearwater Revival was the richest, most successful pop-rock group in the world in 1971

Elton John: “Tiny Dancer”

MISHEARD LYRICS: “Hold me closer, Tony Danza”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “Hold me closer, tiny dancer”

YouTube video

Johnny Nash: “I Can See Clearly Now”

MISHEARD LYRICS: “I can see clearly now Lorraine is gone”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “I can see clearly now the rain has gone”

WRONG LYRICS: “I can see all popsicles in my way”
RIGHT LYRICS: “I can see all the obstacles in my way”

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The Steve Miller Band: “Jet Airliner”

MISHEARD LYRICS: “Big Old Jed had a light on”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “Big old jet airliner”

Neil Diamond: “Forever in Blue Jeans”

MISHEARD LYRICS: “Reverend Blue Jeans”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “Forever in blue jeans”

YouTube video

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band: “Blinded By the Light”

MISHEARD LYRICS: “Wrapped up like a douche, you know the rumor in the night”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night”

Eddie Money: “Two Tickets To Paradise”

MISHEARD LYRICS: “I’ve got two chickens with parrot eyes” OR “I’ve got two chickens to paralyze”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “I’ve got two tickets to paradise”

YouTube video

Bon Jovi: “Livin’ On A Prayer”

MISHEARD LYRICS: “It doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not”

YouTube video

Jimi Hendrix: “Purple Haze”

MISHEARD LYRICS: “‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky”

ALSO SEE: How famed rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix died – and lived (1970)

Bee Gees: Stayin’ Alive

MISHEARD LYRICS: “Sayin’ a lie, sayin’ a lie”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “Stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive”

YouTube video

Bee Gees: More Than A Woman

MISHEARD LYRICS: “Bald-headed woman… bald-headed woman to me”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “More than a woman… more than a woman to me”

DON’T MISS: John Travolta lit up the dance floor with his disco moves in ‘Saturday Night Fever’ (1977)

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Rolling Stones: Beast Of Burden

MISHEARD LYRICS: “I’ll never leave your pizza burning”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “I’ll never be your beast of burden”

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Toto: Africa

MISHEARD LYRICS: “There’s nothing that a hundred men on Mars could ever do”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do”

WRONG LYRICS: “I guess it rains down in Africa”
RIGHT LYRICS: “I bless the rains down in Africa”

YouTube video

Jose Feliciano: “Feliz Navidad”

MISHEARD LYRICS: “Police have a dog”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “Feliz Navidad”

YouTube video

Elvis Presley: Hound Dog

MISHEARD LYRICS: “You ain’t never pornographic, and you ain’t no friend of mine”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “You ain’t never caught a rabbit, and you ain’t no friend of mine”

YouTube video

Smokey Robinson: “I Second That Emotion”

MISHEARD LYRICS: “I second that in lotion”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “I second that emotion”

YouTube video

Three Dog Night: Joy to the World

MISHEARD LYRICS: “Joy to the visions that the people see”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea”

Abba: Dancing Queen

MISHEARD LYRICS: “See that girl, watch her scream, kicking the dancing queen”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “See that girl, watch that scene, diggin’ the dancing queen”

YouTube video

Starship: We Built This City

MISHEARD LYRICS: “My pony plays the mamba”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “Marconi plays the mamba”

YouTube video

Pink Floyd: “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II”

MISHEARD LYRICS: “We don’t need no sex vacation”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “We don’t need no education”

YouTube video

Crystal Gayle: Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue

MISHEARD LYRICS: “Donuts make my brown eyes blue”
ACTUAL LYRICS: “Don’t it make my brown eyes blue”

YouTube video

ALSO SEE: How Bill Haley & His Comets rocked around the clock when rock ‘n’ roll was brand new

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Comments on this story

One Response

  1. If you’re a 70s kid, you remember the Fonzie craze and how “Happy Days” was all the rage. Every kid knew the “Happy Days” theme by heart — yet we misheard the lyric that went “The weekend comes / the cycle hums” as “The weekend hums / the psycho hums.” As with most all Mondegreens, the misheard lyric was much better than the correct one.

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