“American Tune” is a song written and first performed by Paul Simon. The song first appeared on There Goes Rhymin’ Simon (1973), Simon’s second solo album following the breakup of Simon and Garfunkel. It was also released as a single, Columbia 45900, which reached No. 35 on the Billboard singles chart in the United States.
The lyrics offer a perspective on the American experience; there are references to struggle, weariness, hard work, confusion, and homesickness. The bridge conveys a dream of death and of the Statue of Liberty “sailing away to sea”. The song ends with an assertion that “you can’t be forever blessed” before the lyrics return to the idea of work, tiredness, and resignation.
The tune is based on a melody line from a chorale from Johann Sebastian Bach’s St Matthew Passion, itself a reworking of an earlier secular song, “Mein G’müt ist mir verwirret,” composed by Hans Leo Hassler. The melody used for “American Tune” can be heard quite distinctly in part 1, number 21 and number 23 and in part 2, number 54. The melody to “American Tune” is practically identical to that of “Mein G’müt ist mir verwirret” and “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” although Simon expanded on the tune. Credit to the origins of the melody is given on his album cover.
Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken, and many times confused
Yes and I’ve often felt forsaken, and certainly misused
Ah but I’m alright, I’m alright, I’m just weary thru my bones
Still you don’t expect to be bright and bon-vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home
And I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered or driven to its knees
But it’s alright, it’s alright, for we live so well, so long
Still, when I think of the road we’re traveling on
I wonder what’s gone wrong, I can’t help it I wonder what’s gone wrong
And I dreamed I was dying, I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me, smiled reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flying, and high up above my eyes could clearly see
The statue of liberty, sailing away to sea, and I dreamed I was flying
But we come on a ship they called Mayflower
We come on a ship that sailed the moon
We come in the ages’ most uncertain hours and sing an American tune
And it’s alright, oh it’s alright, it’s alright, you can be forever blessed
Still tomorrow’s gonna be another working day and I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying, to get some rest