The Logical Song By Supertramp: The Importance Of Being Who We Really Are
The Logical Song, by the English rock band Supertramp, is a lyrical narrative about the pressure that begins in childhood to conform to society’s standards, which results in a loss of individuality and independent thought. Like most Supertramp songs, the media content of these lyrics encourages the audience to look inside themselves, in a quest to discover who they are. Even though I was born in the late 1990’s, I unknowingly grew up listening to this music from two decades earlier, as my mother was 40 when I was born. Being a self-professed “hippy”, she raised my siblings and me on a farm in North Nanaimo, encouraging us to be nonconforming, free-spirited autonomous thinkers, with music from the late 70’s era providing the background music for my childhood and my moral development.
The Logical Song, both written and performed by Supertramp’s Roger Hodgson, was composed from an autobiographical context, with the song’s media text reflecting back on his experience of being sent away to boarding school as a young child. One of the key verses, “please tell me who I am”, Hodgson repeats many times throughout the song. This one line of text implies that he questions his own identity, as he realizes that he no longer recognizes himself. The first verse starts with Hodgson describing in an autobiographical fashion, what it is like to be a child: “When I was young, it seemed like life was so wonderful, a miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical. ” These lyrics emphasize the spiritual innocence of youth as an almost inspirational, magical experience, and help the audience realize how all humans all born with incredible potential and creativity, having the innocent stance that life is a wonderful adventure about to unfold. Hodgson then elaborates what life was like in childhood, singing, “And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily, joyfully, playfully watching me. ” It seems Hodgson used the imagery of birds to symbolize how light and beautiful his childhood was, when his sole task was to enjoy the naive, simple pleasures of a carefree existence, experiencing spiritual freedom in a “garden of Eden” type of environment. This visual symbolism is then suddenly juxtaposed with, “But they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible, logical, responsible, practical. ” This particular verse describes this magic ending when he was sent off to boarding school and was forced to grow up and start seeing the world in a different light. It is during this transitional period of life that we forget about the simplicity of childhood and instead, we complicate our life by becoming ‘slaves’ to the system, starting with our introduction (and indoctrination) into the education system. Social conditioning begins upon entry into school and group standardization/ mentality becomes the norm, resulting in unconditional and unquestioned acceptance of societal expectations and values. Under the auspice of “learning”, children are not taught how to think, but rather told to accept that ‘That’s just the way the world works’ without an explanation why.
In the second verse, Hodgson tells us that you must conform, and if you don’t, you are considered to be a “radical, liberal, fanatical, criminal”, using a hyperbole to emphasize that social order must be maintained and any deviation from this path will result in being labeled as an outcast. The use of imagery through similar strings of descriptive adjectives is used throughout the song, to portray the loss of individuality. To fit into mainstream society, we are told that we need to be “acceptable, respectable, presentable” and ultimately “a vegetable”. You need to “sign up your name” to commit to being a full-fledged member of this ritualized and rigid society. Society’s pressure is so great that you need to conform, even if it means that you turn into a mindless puppet. The warning is clear: you do not conform, you will be ridiculed and since its human nature to want to fit in and be accepted, most will most likely succumb to this social pressure to conform. Hodgson uses personification with the media text, “When all the world’s asleep, the questions run too deep for such a simple man. ” This analogy of referring to the world being asleep refers to the fact that everyone is oblivious to what is going on (to the point of a spiritual death of society) where no one is questioning this expectation for mass conformity. This verse also stresses how large this problem is in society, with no one person being able fix it. He sees himself as “a simple man” and the personal answers have become too confusing, when faced with the ‘machine’ of society; it’s clear though, from the pleading format of the question, that there still exists some naive and innocent qualities in the heart of this man. This plea (to learn who he is), is repeated several times during the song, stressing it even more. It is during this chorus, that we can see the person finally realizing that only he is responsible for his own life when he asks “won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned. ” His question implies a quest to discover ‘What can we learn from history? How can we grow? How can we move forward to a better tomorrow?’, seeking answers far beyond personal issues and into delving in societal learnings. In seeking who he is, Hodgson is imploring us to discover who we are and to take ownership of how we live our lives.
In conclusion, The Logical Song lyrics are about how the innocence and wonder of childhood can quickly give way to worry and cynicism as children are taught to be responsible adults. It makes the point that logic can restrict creativity and passion. From the time we are very young, we are programmed to be sensible and logical in everything from our career choices and the homes we buy to what we name our children. The blatant societal goal is to ‘fit in’ and not ‘stand out’. In this regard, Hodgson is encouraging us to wake up and make a conscious choice to regain happiness and freedom of the heart, and to be who we really are. I believe that the media message relayed by The Logical Song is just as relevant today, as it was when it was first released almost 40 years ago. This media presentation in the form of a song is truly a timeless, classic and is sure to play a part in the development of personal value systems for future generations.
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