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.


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.


Keep it simple:

"What's cooler than being cool? Ice Cold!"

Hey Ya by Andre 3000/ Outkast

wannabe genius

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


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

Gary Martin

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.



"I love you like a fat kid love cake."

"21 Questions" by 50 Cent

Douglas Green

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


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


Ah, never mind, that was 20th century.


"I love you like a fat kid loves cake"
Song: 21 Questions
Artist: 50 Cent


What's your name?
Who's your Daddy?
Is he rich like me?


"I can't drive 55"


I hate myself for this, but the first thing that came to my mind was "Hey, Macarena!"


I agree completely, "...and it goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift. the baffled king composing hallelujah."

Kevin C.

#4: Although it's been covered many times recently, Hallelujah is a Leonard Cohen song from the 80's, not "21st century" as the question asks. Ditto for the Fresh Prince.

The question asked for "Memorable" lyrics, which I guess doesn't necessarily mean great ones. One memorably awful lyric:

"My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard"

Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

"Domo Arrigato Mr. Roboto"

.....That is the limit of American facility with the Japanese Language. But they all drive Toyotas, Hondas, Nissans and Mazdas to their favorite sushi bar.


For this century, no question:

Rah, rah, ra-ah-ah
Roma, ro-ma-ma
Gaga, oh-la-la
Want your bad romance.


Bye bye Miss American Pie
-- Don McLean


Arcade Fire, Neighborhoods #1(Tunnels), the song that opens and sets the tone for Funeral:

"Then we tried to name our babies,
but we forgot all the names that,
the names we used to know.
But sometimes, we remember our bedrooms,
and our parent's bedrooms,
and the bedrooms of our friends.
Then we think of our parents,
well what the hell ever happened to them?!"

The opening line of Portions for Foxes by Rilo Kiley: "There's blood in my mouth 'cause I've been biting my tongue all week. "

Death Cab for Cutie, The New Year:
"I wish the world was flat like the old days,
Then I could travel just by folding a map."

Midlake, Roscoe: "Whenever I was a child I wondered what if my name had changed into something more productive, like Roscoe."


I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
You'd know what a drag it is
To see you