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The Big Fat Train To Georgia

January 15, 2016

So by now, most of you know that I have been a songwriter and lyricist for a half a century. I was once hailed as the “rhyme doctor” and I self proclaim to have a damn good musical database inside my head. I can cough up melodies and lyrics from thousands of songs on demand and I can even recite the Ancient Mariner from memory.

Then tell me why that for years I thought the lyrics were “the big fat train to Georgia” instead of “the midnight train to Georgia?” Age? No, actually I made the mistake when I was in my twenties. Ignorance? Doubtful, for as I’ve said this stuff is in my blood.

I have had other run-ins with the gray matter. Maybe I have a brain tumor. No, probably not that either. So what the hell gives? I, above so many other people, ought to know all the titles, artists and lines from virtually every song written. It is who I am. But apparently I have misheard lyrics for years. Only fairly recently did I learn that misheard song lyrics are also called mondegreens. This term is often described as creations by a person listening to a song; the listener, being unable to clearly hear a lyric, substitutes words that sound similar, and make some kind of sense. Having this new-found definition in hand still does not make me warm and fuzzy. I’m supposed to be better than that!

Recently, I searched for a song on YouTube. I repeatedly typed in the line, “Chili Willy, you know he doesn’t really.” Nothing. I re-examined the song from my youth in my mind. Maybe it was “chilly Lilly?” It turned out to be, “Silly Lilly, you know she doesn’t really love you the way I do.” It is from a Mary Wells song of 1966 called “The One Who Really Loves You.” Interestingly, it was penned by Smokey Robinson. I remember all the other Mary Wells’ songs and their entire lyrics so why was I so misdirected?

Why can I remember that “You’re Gonna Miss Me” was recorded in 1966 by an obscure group called The Thirteenth Floor Elevators and yet I have such inaccuracies with titles and lines from songs that I remember dearly? Again, why?

After years of careful and not so careful thought, I have come to the conclusion that the answer (mondegreens aside) just might be rhythm and possibly a brain prejudice for the way I might have written the song. After all, I am a songwriter. Let me explain. Why not “the big fat train to Georgia?” “Big fat” and “midnight” have the same natural rhythm and are both perfect iambic meter. They both convey the same meaning in the song and both have the same lyrical punch. Chili Willy likewise is the way I might have written the song with reverse voicing (male to female).Then there is the Jive Five song “My True Story” (1961). The original lyrics of the first verse are:

“There is a story yeah
That I must tell
Of two lovers
That I bewail”

Bewail? Really? I would have definitely written that line “and how they fell.” That’s what I have always heard anyway. Again, I call it brain prejudice.

I recently searched for a book titled “The Big Fat Train To Georgia And Other Misunderstood Lyrics.” I am sure I saw this title in circulation some years earlier. I could not locate the book. I did find one called, “Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy: And Other Misheard Lyrics.”. Did I also misconstrue this title? What’s going on?

Too many brain cells or too much grappa? In the end, this is a likely question with the likely answer being the latter. However out there somewhere I am still convinced there is indeed a big fat train to Georgia. Nevertheless, here’s the tune of my confusion:

Have any of you misheard a lyric or two? Please Let me know which ones. I’d like to believe that I am not alone.

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Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at Amazon.com

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3 Comments
  1. Music lyrics and Italian produce the same effect in my brain. CONFUSION!

    Like

  2. I think I hear “il grande treno grasso” outside my door…. no, just the snow storm.

    Like

  3. Donald Dalsis permalink

    Mention my name in Elmira , it’s the GREATEST little town in the world !

    Like

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