Quotes Uncovered: Most Memorable Song Lyrics

Two years ago, I asked for suggestions for the most memorable song lyrics of recent years, to help with the next edition of The Yale Book of Quotations. Let me repeat my “bleg” from that time, and ask again for suggestions:

Enough with 21st-century movie lines. Let me now move on to 21st-century popular song lyrics. … I would welcome suggestions of memorable quotations from 21st-century popular songs, from hip hop and from other genres. It should be kept in mind that songs that are great musically may have mediocre lyrics (such as, from an older time period, “Stairway to Heaven”), and I am interested in the lyrics here rather than the music, however good that may be.

Leave A Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.



View All Comments »
  1. Eric says:

    I don’t know if this is what you are after, but the first thing that came to mind is the theme to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire. Everyone my age knows the entire song.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  2. Chap says:

    Keep it simple:

    “What’s cooler than being cool? Ice Cold!”

    Hey Ya by Andre 3000/ Outkast

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  3. wannabe genius says:

    Mediocre lyrics can still be among the most memorable…there are plenty of lines from Stairway that i would put in that category.

    Anyway i’m going to suggest “Shake it like a polaroid picture” from “Hey Ya!” by OutKast

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  4. Nosybear says:

    Hallelujah. No other song I can think of expresses the bitter side of love so well. Pure poetry!

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  5. Gary Martin says:

    Not sure if you wanted just the lyrics from the song I thought were most memorable or the entire lyric, so I’ve mixed em up.

    Pretty Boy Floyd

    Well, as through this world I’ve rambled
    I’ve seen lots of funny men;
    Some will rob you with a six-gun,
    And some with a fountain pen.

    But as through this world you ramble,
    As through this world you roam,
    You won’t never see an outlaw
    Drive a family from their home.

    This Land is Your Land

    As I was walkin’-I saw a sign there
    And that sign said – no tress passin’
    But on the other side…. it didn’t say nothin!
    Now that side was made for you and me!

    1913 Massacre

    Take a trip with me in 1913,
    To Calumet, Michigan, in the copper coun-try.
    I’ll take you to a place called Italian Hall,
    Where the miners are having their big Christmas ball.

    I will take you in a door and up a high stairs,
    Singing and dancing is heard everywhere,
    I will let you shake hands with the people you see,
    And watch the kids dance around the big Christmas tree.

    You ask about work and you ask about pay,
    They’ll tell you they make less than a dollar a day,
    Working the copper claims, risking their lives,
    So it’s fun to spend Christmas with children and wives.

    There’s talking and laughing and songs in the air,
    And the spirit of Christmas is there everywhere,
    Before you know it you’re friends with us all,
    And you’re dancing around and around in the hall.

    Well a little girl sits down by the Christmas tree lights,
    To play the piano so you gotta keep quiet,
    To hear all this fun you would not realize,
    That the copper boss’ thug men are milling outside.

    The copper boss’ thugs stuck their heads in the door,
    One of them yelled and he screamed, “there’s a fire,”
    A lady she hollered, “there’s no such a thing.
    Keep on with your party, there’s no such thing.”

    A few people rushed and it was only a few,
    “It’s just the thugs and the scabs fooling you,”
    A man grabbed his daughter and carried her down,
    But the thugs held the door and he could not get out.

    And then others followed, a hundred or more,
    But most everybody remained on the floor,
    The gun thugs they laughed at their murderous joke,
    While the children were smothered on the stairs by the door.

    Such a terrible sight I never did see,
    We carried our children back up to their tree,
    The scabs outside still laughed at their spree,
    And the children that died there were seventy-three.

    The piano played a slow funeral tune,
    And the town was lit up by a cold Christmas moon,
    The parents they cried and the miners they moaned,
    “See what your greed for money has done.”

    Plane Wreck At Los Gatos (A.K.A. “Deportee”)

    The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos canyon
    A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills
    Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
    The radio says they are just deportees

    I Ain’t Got No Home In This World Anymore
    (Woody Guthrie)

    Now as I look round, it’s mighty plain to see
    The world is such a great and a funny place to be;
    The gamblin’ man is rich and the workin’ man is poor
    And I ain’t got no home in this world anymore.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  6. Benjamin says:

    “I love you like a fat kid love cake.”

    “21 Questions” by 50 Cent

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  7. Douglas Green says:

    I had the privilege of seeing Steve Allen live reciting the lyrics to “I Can’t Get No SatisfactIon.” I know, therefore, the problem with song lyrics. The best I can do after considerable effort is a song by the Mavericks. Everything else I tried sounded like Bowling For Soup. Thanks for the question and if you want to see the result of my efforts to cull a Twitter Feed and save people lots of time who are looking for cool stuff check out DrDougGreen.Com. Keep up the good work. Doug Green

    I want to know by the Mavericks. http://bit.ly/dDlxWC

    Bowling for Soup The Grils all the bad boys want. http://bit.ly/a6cob5

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  8. mbh says:

    It’s the end of the world as we know it… and I feel fine.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0