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New Billy Joel Q&A – What Does Your Song ‘Famous Last Words’ Mean?

The last song on River Of Dreams is discussed in this 14th Q&A from our Nuremberg series: “What does your song ‘Famous Last Words’ mean? And are these really your last words…forever?” This complex question has been top of mind for every Billy Joel fan for many years now. Billy describes using the writing process as his subject and music as his ever-present muse. The song also references the classic line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” from the 1939 film “Gone With The Wind” starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. Gable, as the character Rhett Butler, says these last words to Scarlett O’Hara. The line is poignant on many levels, because it demonstrates that Rhett has finally given up on Scarlett after a long struggle to secure her love. In a way, Billy is Rhett, closing the book on “pop” music at this point in his career, and choosing a new musical direction, which emerges with the release of the album “Fantasies & Delusions” in 2001.

“Famous Last Words” is sad and joyous at the same time, like the end of summer and the beginning of fall, as it anticipates better things to come. Billy finishes this Q&A answer with a performance of “Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)” also from “River Of Dreams,” as we “save these questions for another day,” and leave you with these “famous last words.”

Famous Last Words

Sitting here in Avalon, looking at the pouring rain
Summer time has come and gone, and everybody’s home again
Closing down for the season, I found the last of the souvenirs
I can still taste the wedding cake and it’s sweet after all these years

These are the last words I have to say
That’s why this took so long to write
There will be other words some other day
But that’s the story of my life

There’s comfort in my coffee cup and apples in the early fall
They’re pulling all the moorings up and gathering at the Legion Hall
They swept away all the streamers after the Labor Day parade
Nothing left for a dreamer now, only one final serenade

And these are the last words I have to say
Before another age goes by
With all those other songs I’ll have to play
But that’s the story of my life

And it’s so clear standing here where I am
Ain’t that what justice is for?
Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn anymore

Stack the chairs on the table tops
Hang the sheets on the chandeliers
It slows down but it never stops
Ain’t it sweet after all these years

And these are the last words I have to say
It’s always hard to say goodbye
But now it’s time to put this book away
Ain’t that the story of my life 

Check out additional videos from our “Questions & Answers” lecture series!