It's Only a Paper Moon
Les Baxter Lyrics


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Say, it's only a paper moon
Sailing over a cardboard sea
But it wouldn't be make-believe
If you believed in me

Yes, it's only a canvas sky
Hanging over a muslin tree
But it wouldn't be make-believe
If you believed in me

Without your love
It's a honky tonk parade
Without your love
It's a melody played in a penny arcade

It's a Barnum and Bailey world
Just as phony as it can be
But it wouldn't be make-believe
If you believed in me

Say, it's only a paper moon
Sailing over a cardboard sea
But it wouldn't be make-believe
If you believed in me

Yes, it's only a canvas sky
Hanging over a muslin tree
But it wouldn't be make-believe
If you believed in me

Without your love
It's a honky-tonk parade
Without your love
It's a melody played in a penny arcade

It's a Barnum and Bailey world
Just as phony as it can be
But it wouldn't be make-believe
If you believed in me

It's phony it's plain to see




How happy I would be
If you believed in me

Overall Meaning

The lyrics to Les Baxter's song "It's Only a Paper Moon" convey a sense of longing and hope, emphasizing the power of belief and love in making a seemingly artificial world feel real and meaningful. The verses depict various elements of the world as being made of paper, canvas, and muslin, suggesting a surreal and fantastical setting. However, the singer implies that these elements would become genuine if the person they are addressing believed in them.


The recurring phrase "It's only a paper moon" serves as a metaphor for the transient and illusory nature of life and relationships. The singer acknowledges that the world they inhabit may be artificial, comparing it to a "Barnum and Bailey world" that is phony. Yet, they emphasize that if the person they are singing to believes in them, this fake world would become real and meaningful.


The chorus reinforces the idea that without the person's love, the world feels incomplete and lacking authenticity. The absence of love is metaphorically depicted as a "honky-tonk parade" and a "melody played in a penny arcade," suggesting a shallow and empty existence. In contrast, with the person's belief and love, the world would be transformed into something genuine, surpassing its superficial appearance.


Overall, "It's Only a Paper Moon" portrays the profound impact that belief, love, and connection with another person can have in transcending the artificiality of life and finding true meaning and happiness.


Line by Line Meaning

Say, it's only a paper moon
Imagine, this world we live in is merely an illusion


Sailing over a cardboard sea
Navigating through a fabricated reality


But it wouldn't be make-believe
However, it wouldn't be false


If you believed in me
If only you had faith in me


Yes, it's only a canvas sky
Indeed, the sky we see is just a painted backdrop


Hanging over a muslin tree
Suspended above a tree made of thin fabric


Without your love
Devoid of your affection


It's a honky tonk parade
This existence becomes a meaningless spectacle


Without your love
Lacking your love


It's a melody played in a penny arcade
It transforms into a monotonous tune played in a cheap amusement park


It's a Barnum and Bailey world
Our reality resembles a circus


Just as phony as it can be
Fully contrived and deceitful


But it wouldn't be make-believe
Yet, it wouldn't be false


If you believed in me
If only you had faith in me


Without your love
Devoid of your affection


It's a honky-tonk parade
This existence becomes a meaningless spectacle


Without your love
Lacking your love


It's a melody played in a penny arcade
It transforms into a monotonous tune played in a cheap amusement park


It's a Barnum and Bailey world
Our reality resembles a circus


Just as phony as it can be
Fully contrived and deceitful


But it wouldn't be make-believe
Yet, it wouldn't be false


If you believed in me
If only you had faith in me


It's phony it's plain to see
It's obvious that it's all a facade


How happy I would be
The immense joy I would experience


If you believed in me
If only you had faith in me




Lyrics © BMG Rights Management, S.A. MUSIC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Downtown Music Publishing, Warner Chappell Music, Inc.
Written by: Billy Rose, E. Y. Harburg, Harold Arlen

Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind
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