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Dumb by Nirvana

Album: In UteroReleased: 1993
  • Melody Maker, in their August 21, 1993 interview with Kurt Cobain, explained: The lyric for "Dumb" seems peculiarly direct, a song about life's simple, silly little pleasures. Like "I think I'm dumb/Or maybe just happy." Is it intended to reflect that new-found optimism you've mentioned, or should we be reading it ironically? Cobain: "That's just about people who're easily amused, people who not only aren't capable of progressing their intelligence but are totally happy watching 10 hours of television and really enjoy it. I've met a lot of dumb people. They have a --itty job, they may be totally lonely, they don't have a girlfriend, they don't have much of a social life, and yet, for some reason, they're happy."
  • In Nirvana: The Biography by Everett True, the author states, "When I first met Kurt, he told me that he acted according to how people treated him. So if they thought of him as a dumb-ass punk rocker, he was more than willing to act like a dumb-ass punk rocker."
  • The lyrics, "Skin the sun, fall asleep, wish away, the soul is cheap, lesson learned, wish me luck, soothe the burn, wake me up" equate to how it feels so good to fall asleep in the sun, never mind the consequences of sunburn as in the consequences of a passionate relationship or drug use. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Rai - Brooklyn, NY
  • Along with some other In Utero songs, many fans heard bootleg versions of this long before the album came out. At the Reading Festival in August 1992, this became clear when the audience started singing along. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jonathon - Clermont, FL
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Comments: 42

Sorry, hit the send button before I could finish.
Ernie I read your comment multiple times, because out of all these comments yours was probably the most ridiculous bunch of rubbish I have ever heard. You basically stated Epicurean and Stoic Argument on Drugs & Pleasure. The fact that you started your nonsense rant with "I'm tired of people relating every song too drugs" when you yourself was unknownly relating the very song to a philosophers theory on illicit drug use. Cobain's genius transcends beyond the avid fan, because it is the avid fan like most people that commented in on this page that Kurt Cobain loathed and hated. In fact most of his music is basically pointing out just how pathetic people who are reading and commenting truly are. Cobain is a genius in a way that most of you could never understand, so keep searching of those enlightenment meanings. I'll just keep enjoying his music like I always have since the debut of "Bleach", but don't worry I'll still check on sights like this for a good laugh. Keep up being clueless fans you all!
Matt Van Ackeren - Omaha, Ne
I'm tired of pompous a--holes that find some kind of elborate meaning in every word ever spoken by Cobain. You could argue that his music is transcending, and is why these pompous philosophy hacks (that are believed to be philosophical geniuses after taking one Intro class) like Ernie from Northfield Center, OH haven't a clue what he had actually said.Matt Van Ackeren - Omaha, Ne
this song is most definitely about drugs, it could be about any sort of drug. though usually when i hear it i tend to think that it's about amphetamines. when you're speeding you feel terribly dumb and happy because in a way speed is sort of like an anti-depressant.
"We'll float around and hang out on clouds and then we'll come down and have a hangover."
amphetamine hangovers are terrible.
"Lesson learned
Wish me luck
Soothe the burn
Wake me up"

when you take speed you almost regret that you've taken it because the comedown/hangover makes you feel like complete s--t. the best way to get rid of this feeling is to attempt to sleep it off.
so maybe he's sort of saying he's an idiot and that he's going to sleep to soothe the pain.

regardless it's a great song.
Emma - Usa, Oh
This song is a celebration of being different. I'm not like them but I can pretend. This song deals with drugs: the son is gone but I have a light.Aaron - Los Angeles, Ca
the only person remotely close to explaining these lyrics is Ernie, Northfield Center, OH. all other explanations just prove how shrouded in ignorance we humans still are. im not trying to be rude to everyone else but its the way i feel. is it just me? or does anyone else think this way?Boppins - Kc, Mo
As with most good songs, the lyrics are vague and open for interpretation. This one may be referencing to drugs (marijuana, inhalants, etc.) but you can also spin it in a number of different ways...

I think this song is about a person trying to fit in. While attempting to do so, becomes self conscious and sees all their flaws. Thus the self degrading statement "I think I'm dumb."

I also believe there are some clear references to smoking and getting high. His heart is broke, meaning he's down but is about to get high and share the experience with another person. Misery loves company, and together they'll float around, hang on the clouds, then come down (sober up) and have a hangover (Be Miserable Again).

Skin the Sun, Fall Asleep, Wish Away, Soul is Cheap, Lesson Learned, Wish Me Luck, Soothe the Burn, Wake Me Up.

I'm thinking they stayed up late partying and passed out. After that "Wish Away" meaning Waste their lives, "Soul is Cheap" or Life is Worthless. While seeing their behavior they become aware of the self destructive and careless lifestyle they're leading. "Lesson Learned" in other words ok I get it, I need to change. "Wish Me Luck" meaning he's going to try to get sober but obviously isn't too optimistic. "Soothe the Burn" - Recover from the damage he's caused to himself and start nurturing himself. "Wake Me Up" - Saying he's ready to go and is now fully aware.

Then it repeats the beginning, which may be symbolic of himself repeating the cycle, as he never did get clean. As the last 12 lines repeat I Think I'm Dumb, I believe it's pretty clear that the person Kurt is talking about (most likely himself) can't escape their own self destructive thoughts and therefore are stuck in the cycle of highs and lows.

Whether I'm right or wrong doesn't matter, because subjectivity rules all folks!
Mickey - Charles City, Ia
i like to think its about getting high to get over something. like a break up. and when he says well float around and hang out on clouds, thats a metaphor for being high. floting around and 'hang out on clouds' clouds are HIGH up. 'then well come down and have a hang' means your problem is still there.Jorge - San Jose, Belgium
Sara, thank you. For those of you who think this song is about drugs.... your wrong. Its sad how often kurts words are poorly translated. For most of the people posting comments here, your the reason kurt wrote in bloomAlex - Salt Lake, Ut
I know that people hate when everybody catagorizes Cobain's songs as drug songs. But after years of hearing it, I have come to the conclusion that yes, this IS a drug song.

"Help me inhale, and I'll mend with you. We'll float around, and hang out on clouds, then we'll come down, and have a hangover" says it all.

When people smoke weed you sometimes need help inhaling, especially if you don't do it often. There's a sense of comradery when you smoke weed. You sorta' just feel "high", it's hard to describe. Eventually you come down a bit and you're sorta' tired from it all.

"Skin the sun, fall asleep, wish away, the soul is cheap, lesson learned, wish me luck, soothe the burn, wake me up".

Skin the sun is just sorta' what is says. Things don't make as much sense. You get tired when you smoke, or at least I do, and you just wish everything away. Sometimes you get philosophical moments, "the soul is cheap". Afterwards you say to yourself you've learned your lesson and you won't smoke again. "Wish me luck" is just a little sarcastic bit like "wish me luck that I won't do this again". You usually burn your fingers when you smoke weed, so it's "Soothe the burn". If you fall asleep, because weed makes you sleepy, somebody eventually wakes you up.
Ben - Iowa City, Ia
Kurt Cobain himself said that most of his songs had no real meaning at all. They were random words put together to make random songs about random randomness. Afterall, a word is only a sound.Sara - Union City, Tn
when he says ''im not like them'' he means when other people categorize him.he's saying nirvana isnt like other bandsWalter - Orlando,
I think Kurt means that people who are seen to be happy truely are the dumb onesCj - H-town, Ct
Where he says "mend it with you" I once CLEARLY heard him say "my name is Will."Bianca Jane Insane - Brisbane, Australia
I think the gist of the song was never intended to be more complex [a Tuesday Afternoon song?] than Python's "Always Look on the Bright side of Life". But as it happened hundreds of Brit sailors sang it as their ship went down in Faulklands WarBrian - Cairns, Australia
I've never even heard this song, but a friend of mine told me it described him, and he sent me the lyrics. I didn't really get it until I came to this site, and read what the song is about. He's recently been having problems with his ex, who is also my friend. He said the way she acts now towards him is killing him and I guess the song could be interpreted that way.Alayna - Somewhere, Nj
hes getting high but his not dumb but he knows its not right, then he says lets have some glue-meaning sniff and get high in the clouds, come on hes high.Jo - Strong City, Algeria
According t kurt's journals, he states somewhere that this song is in reference to pot, mostly when he was still living in Aberdeen. How the days would be so long, and he wasn't truly happy, but artificially made being happy come to light with smoking pot, and clearly being smarter than the people who smoked with. "Im not like them, but i can pretend, the sun is gone but i have a light, the day is done but i'm having fun.." "My heart is broke, but i have some glue."Vikki - Staten Island, Ny
And Echo He Pretended to be like them to fit in and for them to accept him and not ridicule him or point fingers and act like he was wrong. Im sure we have all done this a time or twoRob - Bedford, In
I've never heard a song where your voice cracks and it actually sounds GOOD. In fact, it sounds AWESOME!Echo - Normalville, Ma
If you're different than them, why should you pretend to be like them?
Different is good
Echo - Normalville, Ma
I'm tired of every song being labeled a "drug" or "relationship" song. This is entirely superficial and unconstructive. If those topics are used they are usualy utilized as symbols. You can't attach to one line and write off a song as another drug song. If we did this than why analyze lyrics in the first place? People must understand the cryptic nature of Nirvana songs, and how themes are communicated covertly. This is art, and this is an artistic and thoughtful song, album, and band.
To explicate the writing its important to remember the context of the song and the major ideas that have been expressed previously in other Nirvana, particularly in In Utero songs. The juxtaposition of light and darkness is a recurring theme, typicaly symbolized by the sun and blindness. The sun is a metaphysical object of harmony and illumination. As people grow older they become more adrift from this oneness of nirvana. They identify with themselves as opposed to others and in conflict with the spiritual viewpoint of the world. "I'm not like them" states those who Cobain believes have justified this condition. They call him dumb because he clings to this childlike pure love. It is mere nonsense for "intelligent" people. However, he is not naive. He knows that there is a block preventing him from returning to this affirmation of a better world. "The day is done and "I have a light" show that there can be temporary escape from this entombment. By escaping one feels happy but dumb for their futile efforts. In utter despair, after one's hopes and intentions have been shattered they can only attempt to unite their dissatisfaction through escape. This is why the allusion to drugs is used. It is used to add to the whole of the song, not the other way around!
The next stanza illustrates a journey away from imprisonment. "Skin the sun" likely means to strip away the shallow content that the sun can bring as an object. Its suggesting to look at what the sun is as metaphor and at its essence. Dreaming is a frequently used symbol that can be interpreted to mean the return to the simple -the dumb- harmony of self-detachment. In our dreams the spiritual is more profound and more striking. "The soul is cheap" and "lesson learned" can either mean that the soul is something that is free or more likely to reflect the viewpoint of the people who call him dumb for his beliefs. He has learned his lesson from these people and knows that he can only ocassionly get a respite from the madness surrounding him. It is time for him to wake up and ironically "sooth the burn" for his aberrent ways. All along it is actually time for his detractors to wake up and sooth their own burns caused by their pompous misconceptions. Indeed, he is not one of them but he most pretend to be, to stay sane. The personal does illuminate the universal, and Cobain is speaking for us, for those who feel the spiritual estrangement in our society. But despite his efforts he will always be "dumb" while still being happy. That's why he wants others to join him, to change their world, and to restore the harmony. The pain of a dark world is intense; when it is seen in the light of what could be it is worse. The hangover that he speaks of shows that the more he dreams the more he hurts. But the brief feeling of happiness is still preferable to permanent attachment to an evil world.
I believe that this interpretation holds up well with other samples of the band's songs and thoughts. It is important not to discredit how great a poet Cobain is. We must not do a disservice to him by marginalizing his message.
Ernie - Northfield Center, Oh
I'm not like them, but i can pretend-says it allAndrew - Indianapolis, In
A drug-themed song, this relies on the theory that "Ignorance is bliss." Kurt Cobain compares repairing a broken heart with inhaling "glue." (thanks, Matt - Millbrae, CA)
The most noticeable drug reference is, "My heart is broke, but i have some glue. Help me inhale, and mend it with you," meaning getting over a heartbreak with the high from glue and maybe finding a drug buddy with it. (thanks, Wayne - Rocklin, CA)

the drugs had nothing to do with this song
it is basicaly like his heart was broke and he is asking for glue to fix it not get high of it and the part about mending with you si he is healing his broken heart with her
Molly - Milwaukee, Wi
this is my favorite song i could listen 2 this all dayChris - Dracut, Ma
This song is great. Just the tone and lyrics make me smile everytime i listen to it....Hailee - Love&peace, Me
I agree with the whole "Ignorance is bliss" thing and how that can be a bad thing, but I was also thinking that maybe it's kinda about how people can have simple solutions for their problems and look on the bright side of things, when everyone else makes everything harder than it has to be. For example "The sun is gone, But I have a light", Even though the sun is gone, I don't have to be in darkness, I have a light. It's not the best solution, but it's simple and it works. Or "My heart is broke, But I have some glue" Even though my heart is broken, it doesn't have to be that way. I have some glue that will hold it together, at least for awhile. It doesn't completely fix everything, but it helps.
Instead of making everything so complicated, you can just look on the bright side of things and do your best to make them better
Bre - Gillette, Wy
sometimes dumb or ignorant people have the advantage because they are relaxed and open. "well float around,hang out on clouds,then well come down, and have a hangover..." just has this careless feeling to it... he knows the conciquences but the bliss of drugs or ignorance or anthing are worth it!No_id_please - Hippy Town, Co
If I'm not mistaken, I think I read awhile ago that this is simply about Kurt envies dumb people and how they can remain happy and upbeat no matter how horrible their life is.Codester - Altoona, Pa
The first stanza describes my life pretty much.Ashley - Moncton, Canada
this is one of the most lyricaly & musicaly guinus songs by kurt and of all time. the lyrics paint an amazing picture and the melody blends with music and creates the perfect song.Kim - Seattle, Wa
the first line..."Im not like them that can pretend..." To me this mean you/he cant hide what you/he are/is from everyone. Then the line "well float around,hang out on clouds,then well come down,have a hangover..." to me describes a relationship. Its all good in the begining but slowly things fall apart and you have to recover.
just my opinion.
Liz - The Town That Never Sleeps, Nv
Kurt Cobain himself has said that this song is about all the pot-smoking he did as a teenager.Kyle - Providence, Ri
Personally, I think this song is conecting the strange oxymoron between being drunk and being in love, and how "beautiful" love can be. I also think that the song sounds sad to hide the theme of love in the song. idk, thats just me.Grunge=dead - Nowhereville, Ca
Its all about being in love people! "I think Im dumb, or maybe just happy" is genius, I think. It makes sense. When in love, you act like a total idiot sometimes, or just "dumb". But you're happy...its a great comparison to drugsAshley - Columbus, Oh
I think this song is about getting high, having fun, but then regreting it.
But who knows what Kurt is talking about.
His lyrics are beautiful, and I think Kurt is the only one who knows what the lyrics mean.
Crystal - Stockton, Ca
Such an incredible song, like really awesome. Nirvana rocks!Elliot - St. Louis, Mo
I think its about getting high on marijuana.

the sun is gone
but I have a light:

Its night but he has a light: a lighter

the day is done
but I'm having fun:

He is having fun cause he is high

My heart is broke
but I have some glue:

He Feels sad and the glue is a metaphor for what he is getting high on
Rigo - El Centro, Ca
Saying: "I think I'm dumb, or maybe just happy." It's brilliant in its simplicity and shuts anyone up.Tanya - Rotterdam, Netherlands
totally agree with u nick and graemeSuraj - Mumbai, India
this song seems pretty literal it seems like maybe it talks about spending the night out with a (girl)friend and sniffing glue. I dont knwo for sure just speculatingJeff - Edmonton, Al
I think this is by far the most beautiful and relaxing Nirvana songs. I get chills whenever I hear the interlude (skin the sun, fall asleep....) To me it's the best part of any Nirvana song.Nick - Plainfiel, Il
I love this song, it's so relaxed and blissful. Love the live version too. I love the drum work especially.Graeme - Hampshire, England
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