Saturday Open Thread: Best Lines You've Ever Heard

Mary Chapin Carpenter

Back when Trisha Yearwood's Real Live Woman album came out, my friends and I had trouble getting past the first track. We kept playing “Where Are You Now” over and over again. I recall one of them saying that the first time they heard the line, “I'm good one of a kind, but I would rather be two”, she had to skip back and play that line again, it was so good


That's a great line, but I heard another one yesterday that was even better. The closing track of Mary Chapin Carpenter's Stones in the Road is “This is Love”, and it's as close to an epic as she's ever written. This is the line that floored me all over again, as if I was hearing it for the first time instead of the thousandth:

“If you ever wish for things that are only in the past, just remember that the wrong things aren't supposed to last.”

So much truth in so few words.

What's the best line you've ever heard in a song?

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31 Comments on Saturday Open Thread: Best Lines You've Ever Heard

  1. Peter PalisadesNo Gravatar // July 26, 2008 at 12:17 am //

    Merle Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home”:

    “The warden led a prisoner down the hallway to his doom”

  2. “I’m perfectly fine and I don’t miss you; the sky is green, and the grass is blue.”

    It’s easy to take Dolly Parton for granted until you think about just how perfect lines like that are. “The Grass Is Blue” is like Country Songwriting 101, as far as I’m concerned.

    Also a big fan of this one from Rodney Crowell’s “Earthbound”:

    “Every golden moment I have found, I’ve done my best to run right into the ground.”

  3. “what part of no don’t you understand?” – lorrie morgan

    …..beware of simple questions!

  4. This probably isn’t my favorite line ever, but off the top of my head, I think “your mouth’s writing checks that you can’t cash” from Trisha Yearwood’s “Nothin’ About You is Good For Me” is pretty clever.

  5. Steve F.No Gravatar // July 26, 2008 at 6:21 am //

    Songwriters: Leslie Satcher, Tommy Conners
    Singer: Patty Loveless,
    Song: Sorrowful Angels from Patty’s album Mountain Soul:

    “She wore him like a lock and chain, Only in dreams, she spoke his name, By day it slept upon her tongue, The taste of unrequited love”

    And on a lighter note:

    Songwriters Patty Loveless, Emory Gordy Jr.
    Singer Patty Loveless
    Song Big Chance, from Patty’s album Dreaming My Dreams

    “Brought him home to meet my Ma, She raised Cain and dropped her jaw, Girl you’re crazy as a bat, You ain’t gonna marry that”

    Sorry, I couldn’t settle on just one, lol

    -Steve from Boston

  6. Not even one of my favorite songs, but the line from Reba’s “Forever Love” is my favorite.

    Minutes and hours and years may go by.
    But my heart knows nothing of time.

  7. I dont know what I’d pick for most poignant or touching line or whatever, but the funniest line in country in the last 20 years still has to be from 1992

    Mark Chesnutt’s “bubbs Shot the Jukebox”:

    “Bubba hollered out ‘reckless hell, I hit just where I was aimin'”

    I’ll come up with more serious picks the next day or two

  8. Philly JeffNo Gravatar // July 26, 2008 at 7:42 am //

    Toby’s got the lyric of the decade: “I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.”

    Second favorite line from this decade: “Right now, she’s probably up singing some
    white trash version of Shania karaoke.” The Other Woman crystallized in 13 words.

  9. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar // July 26, 2008 at 7:43 am //

    “I’m old enough to want to (and fool enough to try) ”

    The title line from a Tom T Hall song issued in the early 70s

  10. “And I need you more than want you–and I want you for all time…”
    –Wichita Lineman
    –Jimmy Webb

  11. Stephen H.No Gravatar // July 26, 2008 at 8:40 am //

    Sawyer Brown, “All These Years”:
    “She said, ‘You’re not the man you used to be’
    And he said, ‘Neither is this guy'”

  12. Stephen, I don’t know what my favorite line is yet, but I’ve always loved the lyrics to that Sawyer Brown song, though it always seemed odd to me that they’d be having this seemingly calm conversation in the midst of that situation.:)

  13. “If you ever wish for things that are only in the past, just remember that the wrong things aren’t supposed to last.”

    THAT is one of my all-time fave lyrics.

    LOVE the choices mentioned so far!

    Sugarland’s “Want To” at the very end:
    “I don’t want to if you don’t want to…. but I want to”.

    Nanci Griffith’s “Late Night Grand Hotel”:
    “I feel like Garbo in this late night grand hotel
    Cause living alone is all I’ve ever done well”.

    The Roches (albeit not “country”) “Big Nuthin'”:
    “it was a big nuthin’
    I guess I just never knew how big nuthin’ could be”.

    I could be here all day listing stuff from some of my fave songwriters: Chapin, Kim Richey, Emily Sailers, Nancy Griffith, The Roches.

  14. all from the same song..

    “the neighbors hear but they turn out the lights”
    “when morning comes it’ll be too late”
    “a broken heart that the world forgot”

    Of course it’s Martina’s “Concrete Angel” She does a fine job of telling the story and highlighting the “non-involvement” attitude that too many of us have.

  15. B. JonathanNo Gravatar // July 26, 2008 at 10:16 am //

    I’ve always loved the bridge to “On A Bus to St. Cloud” by Trisha Yearwood, penned by Gretchen Peters:

    You chase me like a shadow
    And you haunt me like a ghost
    And I hate you some, and I love you some
    But I miss you most

    And I have trouble picking out one line, but Matraca Berg and Ronnie Samoset wrote a lyrical masterpiece with Patty Loveless’ “On Your Way Home”. It’s a country radio tragedy that this song (back in February ’04) peaked at #29.

    I heard you slippin’ down the hall:
    Tell me, did your shadow trip an’ fall,
    Over you, babe, movin’ that slowly?
    Did you think you could waste my time,
    Come a-messin’ round with my mind?
    Did you think you could? You don’t know me.
    Where’d you get that alibi?
    Did it fall out of a midnight sky,
    Or did you find it on the side of the road?
    Tell me: Did you have to make a deal,
    Or wrestle for control, of the wheel, from your conscience?
    I’d like to know,
    Where do you go,
    On your way home?

    You know, someday, I’d like to fly,
    Like a bat outta Nashville. Why don’t you help me?
    An’ tell me the truth.
    ‘Cause the truth is gonna set you free.
    If you keep on lyin’ to me, I might stay right here,
    Just to spite you.

    Where’d you get that alibi?
    Did it fall out of a midnight sky,
    Or did you find it on the side of the road?
    Tell me: Did you have to make a deal,
    Or wrestle for control, of the wheel, from your conscience?
    I’d like to know.
    Where do you go?
    Where do you go?
    Where do you go,
    On your way home?
    On your way home?
    On your way home?

    Where’d you get that alibi?
    Did it fall out of a midnight sky,
    Or did you find it lyin’ on the side of the road?
    Was it ever a long, long drive?
    Did you ever stop once to cry, or was I worth it?
    I think I know.
    Where do you go?
    Where do you go?
    Where do you go,
    On your way home?
    On your way home?

  16. while resisting the urge to nominate Buddy Jewel’s concluding line to “Help Pour Out the Rain” (ladedade deeee”)

    I personally love the twist in the country classic by George Jones “He Stopped Loving her Today” “all dressed up to go away, first time I’d seen him smile in years…He stopped loving her today”

  17. One Flew South’s new record is a treasure trove of great lyrics (Marcus Hummon co-wrote many of them and produced the record) but here are two of my favorite songs at the moment:

    “You are confused, I am amused, she’s a liar, he’s a salesman”
    “I call it life, I call it for what it is, willing to fall on your face to laugh at what you did, to fight through pain, to get a taste of love, you can call it what you like, I call it life…”

    (“Life”) Written by Chris Roberts and Billy Mann

    She’s A Gift
    (Eddie Bush/J.D. Souther)

    In the world of broken stories and artificial glories
    it’s hard to see the treasure in this place
    you wake somewhat bewildered trying to remember
    to keep the deepest worries off your face
    ’cause somebody relies on you
    to push the rock back up the hill
    and you’d give your life before you’d let her down

    She’s a gift, to everyone she meets
    makes it easy to believe
    that goodness is alive in this world
    she’s a gift, to help me keep my path
    to share a smile and hide a laugh
    to say the best three words I’ve ever heard
    She’s a gift

    There are are herds that need attending
    the job is never ending
    someone needs to be up to the task
    all along the common way
    are the faces of the new day
    who would speak up
    if someone would only ask

    so like sunlight on the water
    she moves like Heaven’s daughter
    turns darkness into water
    like a warm and welcome thunder

    She’s a gift, to everyone she meets
    makes it easy to believe
    that goodness is alive in this world
    she’s a gift, to help me keep my path
    to share a smile and hide a laugh
    to say the best three words I’ve ever heard
    She’s a gift


    I see magic has been made in here
    children growing with no fear
    pieces growing all around us
    I know how

    She’s a gift, to everyone she meets
    makes it easy to believe
    that goodness is alive in this world
    she’s a gift, to help me keep my path
    to share a smile and hide a laugh
    to say the best three words I’ve ever heard
    She’s a gift

    Sorry for the whole lyric I had to share it.

  18. It was like a lighted match had been tossed into my soul
    it was like a damn had broken in my heart
    after taking every detour, getting lost and losing track
    so that even if I wanted, I could not find my way back
    after driving out the memory of the way things might have been
    after I’ve forgotten all about us, the song remembers when

    -Trisha Yearwood (The Song Remembers When)

    This is my favorite Trisha song and one of my all-time fav’s.
    It’s written by Hugh Prestwood who is, without a doubt, one of the best writers I’ve ever heard.

  19. Stephen H.No Gravatar // July 26, 2008 at 10:49 am //

    Another Sawyer Brown song, “Cafe on the Corner”:
    “And the meek shall inherit the earth
    But the bank will repossess it.”

  20. Matt, I love Trisha’s “The Song Remember Whens”. There are so many good lines from songs, Martina’s “Independence Day” had lines that were amazing throughout the whole song.

    I also love Trisha’s “Wrong Side Of Memphis” and “Sing You Back To Me” great lines in there. I think Reba’s “If I Had Only Known” is a great one:

    If I had only known
    It was the last walk in the rain
    Id keep you out for hours in the storm
    I would hold your hand
    Like a life line to my heart
    Underneath the thunder wed be warm
    If I had only known
    It was our last walk in the rain

    If I had only known
    Id never hear your voice again
    Id memorize each thing you ever said
    And on those lonely nights
    I could think of them once more
    Keep your words alive inside my head
    If I had only known
    Id never hear your voice again

    You were the treasure in my hand
    You were the one who always stood beside me
    So unaware I foolishly believed
    That you would always be there
    But then there came a day
    And I turned my head and you slipped away

    If I had only known
    It was my last night by your side
    Id pray a miracle would stop the dawn
    And when youd smile at me
    I would look into your eyes
    And make sure you know my love
    For you goes on and on
    If I had only known
    If I had only known
    The love I wouldve shown
    If I had only known

    Oh and how can I forget Garth’s “The Dance”, there are so many more, but I think I’d spam if I were to post more. Mary Chaplin Carpenter has tons and tons as well. ;D

  21. Yikes…I could post lines all day, so please don’t yell and grip if this is too long. Let me hit some of my favorite Garth songs:

    Learning to Live Again
    “Little cafe, table for four
    But there’s just conversation for three
    I like the way she let me get the door
    I wonder what she thinks of me ”

    The Dance
    “Holding you I held everything
    For a moment wasn’t I a king
    But if I’d only known how the king would fall
    Hey who’s to say you know I might have changed it all ”

    The rest of that song, as we all know, is superb. I have to mention The River, though I can’t pick just one line that I love. Unanswered Prayers…people know these songs by heart for a reason.

    When You Come Back to me Again
    “There’s a ship out, on the ocean
    At the mercy of the sea
    It’s been tossed about, lost and broken
    Wandering aimlessly
    And God somehow you know that ship is me

    ‘Cause there’s a lighthouse, in the harbor
    Shining faithfully
    Pouring its light out, across the water
    For this sinking soul to see
    That someone out there still believes in me”

    Haven’t we all felt like that at some point? I would recommend Fit For a King from Sevens if you’ve never heard it, as the lines tell a great story. And When There’s No One Around is one of my all time favorite songs–every line is just pure gold.

    “Well, I don’t mean to be complainin’ Lord
    You’ve always seen mme through
    And I know you got your reasons
    For each and every thing you do
    But tonight outside my window
    There’s a lonesome, mournful sound
    And I just can’t keep from thinkin’
    ‘Bout the ones the wolves pull down

    Oh Lord, keep me from bein’
    The one the wolves pull down”

    Another brilliant song, and finally, for those Garth fans that have seen him live, how can you not love:

    “I didn’t mean to cause a big scene
    Just wait ’til I finish this glass
    Then sweet little lady
    I’ll head back to the bar
    And you can kiss my ass”

  22. B. JonathanNo Gravatar // July 26, 2008 at 12:32 pm //

    Great choice, Matt B. “The Song Remembers When” is a somewhat underrated classic, but I do remember Johnny Cash giving it special mention in his autobiography.

  23. Chris D.No Gravatar // July 26, 2008 at 1:49 pm //

    The entire last verse of “Somebody’s Hero: by Jamie O’neal:

    She’s somebody’s hero
    A hero to her mother in a rockin’ chair
    She runs a brush through her silver hair
    The envy of the nursing home
    She drops by every afternoon
    Feeds her mama with a spoon
    And that smile lets her know
    Her mother’s smile lets her know
    She’s somebody’s hero

    It gives me shivers in a good way, it just makes me feel good from the inside.

  24. “well the wind had its way with her hair
    and the blues have a way with her smile
    and she has a way of her own
    like prisoners have a way with a file”

    –Guy Clark “she aint going nowhere’

    “she wore red dresses…and now she lay dead’

    Dwight Yoakam

  25. Erik NorthNo Gravatar // July 26, 2008 at 7:50 pm //

    The opening line of Elvis’ final #1 hit “Suspicious Minds”:

    “We’re caught in a trap
    I can’t walk out
    Because I love you too much, baby.”

    A perfectly distilled song above love, paranoia, and an inability to trust one another as only the King could deliver it (IMHO).

  26. “When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.”

    Paul Simon

  27. I can’t narrow it down so I’m just going to bring up a couple of “life” or “time”-related lyrics – love would get completely out of hand.

    “All of my life I wanted to roam, to go to the ends of the earth. But the earth only ends where you started to roam – you and I know what a circle is worth.”
    Come a Long Way – Kate and Anna McGarrigle

    “You must think my life’s a circus, watchin’ me laughin’ and slappin’ my thighs. How’d you like to die in a house of mirrors with nobody around to close your eyes.”
    Often is a Word I Seldom Use – John Prine

    Clint Black has a million of ’em…

    “I’ve spent my lifetime wishing the waitress would come around.” – Nothing’s News

    “I wonder how I came to be the know-it-all I am, and how the world ever got used to me.” – also Nothing’s News

    “I’ve stopped looking for questions, I have only suggestions. Black and white can only turn to grey.” – Live and Learn

    Just every bit of the song No Time To Kill, but my favorite is the verse: “If we had an hour glass to watch each one go by, Or a bell to mark each one to pass, we’d see just how they fly. Would we escalate the value to be worth its weight in gold, Or would we never know the fortunes that we had ’til we grow old. And do we just keep killin’ time until there’s no time to kill.”

    Definitely want to include this verse from Good ol’ Boys Like Me: “When I was in school I ran with a kid down the street, And I watched him burn himself up on bourbon and speed. But I was smarter than most and I could choose, Learned to talk like the man on the six o’clock news. When I was eighteen Lord I hit the road, but it really doesn’t matter how far I go.”

    Also basically every lyric I’ve ever heard from Guy Clark – thank you Idlewyldsouth for including one that I really love.

    I better stop now before I think of twenty more that I want to include.

  28. The first verse of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “That’s Real”:

    I’m not made of stone, I’m not made of glass
    I’ve been alone, every one has
    I’ve learned to forgive what I’m not
    I just try to live with what I’ve got
    Maybe I’ve got what you need

  29. “The Dance” – Garth Brooks –

    “Choose to chance the rapids, dare to dance the tide”

    “The Back of Your Hand – Dwight Yoakam

    Take a guess at where i stand
    pick a number one to two
    take a look at the back of your hand
    just like you know it
    you know me too

  30. I really like Lori McKenna’s lyrics. One of my favorites from “Stealing Kisses”:
    “And you could burn down this town,
    If they made matches from fear”

  31. Toby Keith’s entire “I Wanna Talk About Me” song had such clever and catchy lyrics. Mariah Carey’s songs all have great lyrics too. She was songwriter long before it became the trend to do.

    Not sure of my all-time favorite, but the first line that came to my mind is SHeDAISY’s “Took the hourglass, left the sand, now you got plenty of time on your hands.”

    Krystin (sp?) Osborn is a really clever songwriter. Most of their songs have clever lyrics. I like witty lyrics and those that have imagery (hence Mariah Carey).

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