Friday, May 23, 2008

Who hasn't done nothing?

I was driving around, running some errands, when "You Haven't Done Nothing" came on the radio. Soon I was singing along best I could, even though the only words I knew were the refrain and the parts where Stevie Wonder goes "Dooooooo de wop."

I've always loved this song. The lyrics (which I've since googled) are so biting and accusatory:
But we are sick and tired of hearing your song
Telling how you are gonna change right from wrong
'Cause if you really want to hear our views
You haven't done nothing
I'd always imagined that his accusation was leveled at people like me: well-intentioned liberals who pay lip service to defeating social injustice, then flip open the TV Guide to see if there's anything good on. Hearing it this time around, though, I began to wonder if Mr. Stevie had another target in mind:
We are amazed but not amused
By all the things you say that you'll do
Though much concerned but not involved
With decisions that are made by you
Yeah, seems likely that he's talking about the powers that be rather than our lethargic citizenry. Probably it was guilt over my own tendency toward inaction that made me misinterpret the lyrics when I first started paying attention to them. Possibly it was my current frustration over the state of health care in this country that got me to listen more closely.

In any case, it's funny how much of our own baggage we bring to the songs we hear.


DeppityBob said...

When was the song written? I'm too lazy to look it up. I'd find it hard to believe that Stevie Wonder would take aim at his fellow liberals, though I remember the fiery sarcasm that was "Ebony and Ivory"...

cinderkeys said...

"You Haven't Done Nothing" came out in 1974. I believe it was Paul McCartney who wrote "Ebony and Ivory," and I'm going to assume you're kidding about the fiery sarcasm. It's about as bad as "You Haven't Done Nothing" is good. *shudder*