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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 186
Sat. Aug 3, 2013

“Why Not Smile”
R.E.M
.
1999

“♫ You’ve
been sad
for a
while
♫”

I was awakened by the sounds of this uplifting sounding song ironically enough from R.E.M.’s most infamous album, from 1999, Up. I actually believed that Stipe had crafted one of the simplest moving acoustic anthems in the R.E.M. canon but apparently there’s a dispute between guitarist Peter Buck and lyricist Stipe on the meaning of “Why Not Smile.”

In Craig Rosen’s R.E.M.: Inside Out: The Stories Behind Every Song, Michael Stipe explained the disagreement he and guitarist have had about “Why Not Smile” when he said, “Peter and I have argued about this, because he think it’s a really sweet, loving song about pulling someone put of a really dark place. To me, it was someone who was taking a very easy route and not recognizing depression and not realizing that someone might have a chemical imbalance that makes them impossible to reach on that level. To just say, ‘Why Not Smile,’ to people who might be slightly depressed, but that’s not quite enough. You kind of gave to tackle a little more than, ‘Come on, pull yourself up by the bootstraps and let’s get on with our day.’ That doesn’t work with people who are chronically depressed or who have genetic or chemical imbalances whether it’s a bipolar disorder, chronic depression or whatever. I felt like it was a very naïve brushing off of a very serious condition. Peter thinks the opposite. He thinks it’s a very sweet and beautiful song. There’s two ways to look at it.

So who do you think is right? Do you believe Michael’s interpretation or Peter Buck’s version of “Why Not Smile?”

I really want to know what you think. Let’s hear it?

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