Same Old Man
Karen Dalton Lyrics


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It's the same old lady, hanging out the wash
Standing in the rain, in her mackintosh
Same old lady standing in the rain
Even the thought of New York was going insane

Hey little leaf, lying on the ground
Now you're turning slightly brown
Why don't you get up on the tree
Turn the color green the way you ought to be

My mind is failing and my body grows weak
My lips won't form the words I speak
I'm floating away on a barrel of pain
New York City won't see me again

The same old man, sitting by the mill
The mill will turn of its own free will




I'm certainly glad to be home
New York City continues all alone

Overall Meaning

Karen Dalton’s “Same Old Man” is a poignant piece about the mundanity of life and its existential implications. The song speaks about the monotony of human existence through the use of vivid imagery in the first two verses. The first verse talks about an old lady who does the same old thing, hanging out the washing in the rain while wearing her mackintosh. This image, however mundane, is important because it portrays a life that follows a set pattern without any room for growth or change. The second verse features a “little leaf" that has lost its green color and now lies on the ground, symbolizing the lost vitality and energy of human beings. The line "even the thought of New York was going insane" suggests that the New York City life is not a better alternative to a mundane existence, highlighting the bleakness of the human experience.


The third verse deals with the inevitable deterioration of the human body and mind. The singer feels like they are “floating away on a barrel of pain,” which is a metaphorical depiction of their journey towards death. The line "New York City won’t see me again" highlights the singer's acceptance of their mortality and the realization that the big city cannot save them from it. In the final verse, the same old man sits by the mill, which will continue to turn even after his death. He is content with being home and away from the hustle and bustle of New York City, which will continue its existence regardless of his presence or absence. This highlights the insignificance of human lives in a larger scheme of things.


Line by Line Meaning

It's the same old lady, hanging out the wash
The woman is doing her routine of hanging clothes to dry.


Standing in the rain, in her mackintosh
She is clothed with her raincoat to shelter her from the rain.


Same old lady standing in the rain
The woman has probably done it before because she is used to it.


Even the thought of New York was going insane
The idea of the bustling, fast-paced city is driving her to madness.


Hey little leaf, lying on the ground
The artist addresses a tree's fallen leaf, which can represent fleeting youthfulness or vitality.


Now you're turning slightly brown
As the leaf decomposes, it loses its color and vibrancy.


Why don't you get up on the tree
The singer suggests that the leaf should somehow thrive on the tree again, but this may not be possible.


Turn the color green the way you ought to be
The leaf's original color is a sign of its youth, suggesting that the artist is longing for what was once bright and fresh.


My mind is failing and my body grows weak
The person feels like they are losing their grasp of reality and their strength.


My lips won't form the words I speak
The person can't express themselves vocally because they are physically or emotionally limited.


I'm floating away on a barrel of pain
The person is being carried away by some emotional turmoil or life circumstance.


New York City won't see me again
The person is leaving the city where they used to feel trapped and are on their way to something else.


The same old man, sitting by the mill
Someone is watching an older man, likely someone the singer knows, carrying on with his usual routine.


The mill will turn of its own free will
The man is there only to make sure everything runs smoothly, but the mill's gears move on their own power.


I'm certainly glad to be home
The singer appreciates that they are finally able to retreat to their place of comfort and familiarity.


New York City continues all alone
The city remains tumultuous and busy, but the artist has chosen a different path for themselves away from it all.




Writer(s): JOANNA NEWSOM, TRADITIONAL

Contributed by Ethan D. Suggest a correction in the comments below.
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Most interesting comments from YouTube:

@timwebber8630

It's the same old lady, hangin' out the wash
Standin' in the rain, in her mackintosh
Same old lady standin' in the rain
And I thought New York was goin' insane

Hey little leaf, layin' on the ground
Now you're turnin' slightly brown
Why don't you get up on the tree
Turn the color green the way you oughta be

My mind is fadin', my body grows weak
Lips won't form the words I speak
I'm floatin' away on a barrel of pain
New York City won't see me again

Same old man, sittin' at the mill
Mill-wheel turnin' of its own free will
I'm certainly glad to be at home
New York City continues all alone



@philipchung1029

As I went out on one morning for pleasure
Found a young cowboy riding along
His hat was throwed back and his spurs was a-jingling
As he approached he was singing this song


Whoopi ti yi yo, git along little dogies
Your misfortune ain't none of my own
Whoopi ti yi yo, git along little dogies
You know Wyoming will be your new home


Early in the springtime we round up the dogies
[Poke] 'em and brand 'em and bob off their tails
Get off the horses and hitch up the chuckwagon
Then threw the dogies out on the trial


Whoopi ti yi yo, git along little dogies

Your misfortune ain't none of my own
Whoopi ti yi yo, git along little dogies
You know Wyoming will be your new home



All comments from YouTube:

@rschnoop

Karen Dalton was a pretty amazing artist and I'm glad that more of her music has been unearthed and is out there for us. I wish that she was around to enjoy the popularity that she, inevitably finds when people hear her records...

@andrewmad08

She has a mysteriously epic voice great song.

@davidparnell1893

OMG...the imagery of the video and the lyrics of the song and the soulful voice of Karen Dalton almost bring back to life old memories of the rural South. You see the old struggles of life then and now. So many of us have forgotten our roots and this video has captured the visceral nature of a tortured past era. Do ghosts still travel dirt roads and tread on the squeaky rough planks of those old houses? This is an incredibly sentient video, a profound example of videographic art capable of resurrections of past lives and the soulful emotions of aging lives.

@iCEL55

What a hauntingly beautiful voice! Tragic life... tears...

@lynchiesoup

this song makes my heart beat faster and shakes me to my shoes. beautiful, powerful, pure.

@PHJimY

Thirty some odd years ago I found Karen's In My Own Time in a bargain bin at Zellers with a hole punched through the corner. The liner notes said she played banjo and had a Fred Neil quote about her "singing the shit out of the blues", so I decided to give it a shot. I immediately became a fan, but could not convince anyone else to listen past the first cut. I never heard any more about her till about 5 years ago I was in the Only restaurant in Peterborough, Ontario and heard her voice.

@travvistodd6016

Those people are jackasses. This record is gold.

@Weightman94

so powerful. the horns in the back have such an ominous feel, like a coiled serpent just watching over a mouse whilst it unsuspectingly chews some hay

@Weightman94

but this is a stoned serpent who has realised the non-dual nature of reality, thus has no desire to eat the mouse

@Jaalto

Immediately added this song to my Favorites! Thanks for bring this song alive with the slideshow. First rate.

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