I’m guilty of listening to a song for months, years… even decades before I actually take the time to listen to the lyrics to see what the song is really about. It wasn’t until I got into Ben Folds that I learned half the song is in the lyrics. But it never stopped me from belting out the lyrics I knew of all my favorite songs on road trips. Back in 2008, while moving back to LA from Atlanta, I found a CD in my car that I had zero idea where it came from. Actors, cameramen, editors, etc all used my car from time to time so I figured it was taken from the studio one day and I was given a mix tape in return. Either way, Lionel Richie’s “Sail On” was on it. I remember the song from my youth. A lovely song about boating!

Oh how I wish I was on the sea. 

I sang it for a few hundred miles as the mix tape songs all took their turn. But something caught my ear. 

But I’m givin’ you back your name, yeah, yeah “

Say what? The boat? What am I missing. So I listened… really, really listened. Here’s what I found out. 

So the song starts off a little cryptic… but then again, most songs do. 

Sail on down the line, ’bout a 
Half a mile or so, and I 
Don’t really wanna know, a 
Where you’re going 

So now we know he’s singing about someone. Probably a girl… right?

Maybe once or twice, you see 
But time after time, I tried 
To hold onto what we got, but 
Now you’re going 

I have to believe now it’s truly about a girl. So cool, another Lionel Richie love song. 

And I don’t mind 
‘Bout the things you’re gonna say Lord 
I gave all my money and my time 

Wait… was that a little bitter?

I know it’s a shame 
But I’m givin’ you back your name, yeah, yeah 

Okay, there’s that line. Is Mom and Dad getting a divorce?

Yes, I’ll be on my way 
I won’t be back to stay 
I guess I’ll move along 
I’m looking for a good time 

So wait, now she’s not leaving? He’s leaving? And he’s looking to get laid, like right away? No separation waiting period? 

Sail on down the line, ain’t it 
Funny how the time can go, all my 
Friends say the told me so, but it 
Doesn’t matter 

Oh great, even his friends knew she was shit.

It was plain to see, that a 
Small town boy like me, just a 
Wasn’t your cup of tea, I was 
Wishful thinkin’ 

What the heart wants in turn makes the eyes blind. 

I gave you my heart 
And I tried to make you happy 
But you gave me nothin’ in return 
You know it ain’t so hard to say 
Would you please just go away, yeah, yeah 

Oh snap Lionel, that’s just cold. 

I’ve thrown away the blues 
I’m tired of bein’ used 
I wanna everyone to know 
I’m looking for a good time 
Good time 

So now he wants everyone he knows… to know…. that he’s single and ready to mingle? Who wants to hump Mr. Richie? Line forms here!

Woah, sail on, honey 
Good times never felt so good 
Sail on, honey 
Good times never felt so good 
Sail on, sugar 
Good times never felt so good 

So unbeknownst to me for all these years, it’s about a guy trying to beat a girl to the punch in a break up, bitter, and out to get laid.

Sail on Mr. Richie…. sail on.