Not Waving, But Drowning

Album: Not Waving, But Drowning (2019)
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Songfacts®:

  • The title of this song comes from British poet Stevie Smith's 1957 poem Not Waving But Drowning. The poem is about a man who drowns because bystanders mistake his distressed thrashing in the water for waving.

    Loyle Carner explained to The Observer that after re-reading the work while writing his second album, he found a strong personal resonance.

    "I see myself in it," Carner said. "Because I've had some small success, moderate, tiny success on the grand scale of success, but enough that people think I'm going, 'Look at me in my new house with my beautiful girlfriend'. And, sometimes, especially when the album process was beginning, I was drowning! And everyone thought I was hanging out."
  • Carner chose to title his second album after this track. He explained to HMV that his grandfather left him his poetry book when he died, which included a poem written in response to Stevie Smith's "Not Waving, But Drowning." As the title of Carner's first album was named after a song that the MC's stepdad recorded before his death in 2014, it made sense for him to title his second one in tribute to his grandad. "He was another wordsmith that I looked up to," the rapper said.

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