50 Ways To Leave Your Lover

Album: Still Crazy After All These Years (1975)
Charted: 23 1

Songfacts®:

  • In a 1975 interview published in Rock Lives: Profiles and Interviews, Simon told the story of this song: "I woke up one morning in my apartment on Central Park and the opening words just popped into my mind: 'The problem is all inside your head, she said to me...' That was the first thing I thought of. So I just started building on that line. It was the last song I wrote for the album, and I wrote it with a Rhythm Ace, one of those electronic drum machines so maybe that's how it got that sing-song 'make a new plan Stan, don't need to be coy Roy' quality. It's basically a nonsense song."
  • According to Simon's younger brother Eddie (from the same interview), Paul made this song up while teaching his son how to rhyme. Even though he didn't take the lyrics too seriously, it's an interesting song, particularly for those who feel trapped in bad relationships. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Mike - Santa Barbara, CA
  • Paul Simon may have sung that there were 50 ways to leave your lover, but he listed only five, which are:

    1) Slip out the back, Jack
    2) Make a new plan, Stan
    3) You don't need to be coy, Roy, just set yourself free
    4) Hop on the bus, Gus
    5) Drop off the key, Lee, and get yourself free

    We still await the other 45! He left plenty of room for a sequel, but never followed up.
  • Patti Austin, Valerie Simpson and Phoebe Snow sang backup on this track. The instrumentation is:

    Acoustic Guitar: Paul Simon
    Electric Guitar: John Tropea, Joe Beck
    Organ: Ken Asher
    Bass: Tony Levin
    Drums: Steve Gadd

    Carl Palmer cites Gadd's drumming on this track as some of the best he's heard.
  • The German soul group Tok Tok Tok covered this on their first album in 1999, which they titled 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover. Their version featured mouth-drums by the band's instrumentalist Morten Klein. It worked so well that the group used Klein's mouth-drums on many of their future recordings.
  • When Paul Simon was a guest on The Muppet Show in 1980, he didn't play this song but Floyd and Janice of the Electric Mayhem (the Muppet house band) did.

Comments: 26

  • George from Vancouver, CanadaThank you, Camille from Toronto; I just listened to Miley singing it in one of her backyard sessions -- I like it better than Paul's. . .
  • George from Vancouver, CanadaThis was written when the heavy societal(Catholic) taboo against divorce was going away. So he's saying if you feel like crap, you don't need to stay -- just slip out the back, Jack. . .
  • Calicomist from WvI think the woman is a lover and the singer isn't brave enough to leave his wife or another lover. The rhyming part is simple because everyone should know how to leave a lover. But when someone is in emotional turmoil, as he obviously is which is shown when she says "I wish there was something I could do to make you smile again" they understand simple instructions better than long, drawn out, complex answers. So we have, "Slip out the back, Jack, Make a new plan, Stan, You don't need to be coy, Roy, just set yourself free; Hop on the bus, Gus, Drop of the key, Lee, and get yourself free.' It's repeated over and over until he gets t. Later, the woman gets exasperated when he says "But would please explain.." I can see her rolling her eyes - 'I've said a million times, all I'm done talking, either you want to leave, or you don't.' When she says "why don't we both just sleep on this tonight, and I believe that in the morning you'll begin to see the light," she was saying, either leave your wife, or I'm gone.' The fact that the song starts with a drum says how difficult it is for him to leave, that it has to be a strategic battle and push to make himself, but in the end he realizes he has fight for himself, for his sanity or he's going to be destroyed. I always thought he was in an abusive or toxic relationship. I see this as a self-esteem or recovery song. Like talking the talk until you can do the walk.
  • Pierre Le Floss from Tigard Oregon Who is the woman he is talking too in the song?
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 22, 1976, Paul Simon's "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" peaked at #1 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart, and the record it bumped out of the top spot was "Breakaway" by his old buddy, Art Garfunkel.
  • Meanmrmundy from KansasI have always interpreted the final "way to leave your lover" was how the woman was leaving him.
    Why don't we both just sleep on it tonight
    And I believe that in the morning you'll begin to see the light
    I think it occurs to him that she won't be there in the morning
    Then she kissed me and I realized, she probably was right...
    He gets the kiss goodnight (good-bye). He'll wake up in the morning and she'll be long gone.
  • Alex from Flushing, NyCompletely by coincidence, Stan and Jack are the first names of the celebrated duo Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the prolific creators of such iconic comic book characters as the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men. This is no evidence that Simon was aware of Lee and Kirby, but that hasn't stopped fans from looking for evidence that Roy, Lee and Gus refer to Roy Thomas (Lee's successor on several comics), Stan Lee a second time, and Marvel letterer Gus Roussos.
  • Warbot from A Place Of War And CogsI always thought the woman he spoke to was the lover he wished to leave, as if she was very sympathetic to his plight yet wanted one more night to maybe change his mind, even though she gave him the "Okay" to leave, even mapping out a plan, maybe I am reading to much into it.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhFebruary 15, 2015: During the 40th Anniversary broadcast for Saturday Night Live, Miley Cyrus performed this song. Really, I never liked it much until hearing her version which was surprisingly very classy.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 14th 1975, "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" by Paul Simon entered Billboard’s Hot Top 100 chart at position #74; and seven weeks later on February 1st, 1976 it peaked at #1 {for 3 weeks} and spent 17 weeks on the Top 100...
    It also reached #1* {for 2 weeks} on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart...
    * The record it replaced at #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart was "Break Away" by Art Garfunkel.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 6th, 1975 Paul Simon's fourth studio album, 'Still Crazy After All These Years', peaked at #1 (for 1 week) on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart...
    Three tracks from the album entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; "50 Ways to Leave Your lover" (#1 for 3 weeks), "Still Crazy After All These Years" (#40), and in a duet with Art Garfunkel, "My Little Town" (#9)...
    And at the 18th Annual Grammy Awards (held Feb. 28th, 1976) it won the award for 'Album of the Year'...
    Both Mr. Simon and Mr. Garfunkel recently celebrated their 72nd birthday; Mr. Simon on October 13th and Mr. Garfunkel on November 5th.
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxI always liked the rhythm of this song, but got sick of the lyrics. Sounded like PS grabbed a rhyming dictionary to help write this.

    'Grab the door hinge, Orange.'
  • Jack from Mesa, AzI think the military-style drumming is symbolic of the coldness of the situation. I mean the guy is cheating and the two are minimizing the impending breakup into little rhymes
  • Jfv from Philadelphia, PaI recently came up with the remaining 45 "ways to leave your lover" if anyone is interested. The parody version of the song should be available on YouTube sometime next month.
  • Gabriele from Edmonton, AbActually he told us 6 ways:

    Slip out the back, Jack
    Make a new plan, Stan
    You don't need to be coy, Roy, just set yourself free
    Hop on the bus, Gus
    Drop of the key, Lee, and get yourself free.

    and finally

    Why don't we just sleep on it tonight;
    And in the morning I believe you'll see light

    which (by the way) implies sleep together and she'll see your having an affair blah blah blah
  • Jake Grissom from Los Angeles, CaThis song is specifically about someone meeting a 'new' lover, and they are suggesting ways to help in the situation. They are suggesting '50 Ways To Leave Your Lover'
  • Malena from Monterrey, Mexicolove this song and it seems as time has FLY
  • Brad from Barry, TxJohn Valby, alias "Dr. Dirty," wrote and performed the very memorable parody "50 Ways to F@#$ Your Lover."
  • George from Pittsburgh, PaYou're kinda screwed if your name is Orange, Purple, or Silver.
  • Heather from Los Angeles, CaA pretty jaded song from the guy who brought us "Kathy's Song" and "To Emily (Wherever I may find her)" Simon's songs just weren't as good after Garfunkel left.
  • Musicmama from New York, Ny"Fifty Ways to Lose Your Liver": Just sip out the sack, Jack/Go cop me a gram, Stan...
  • Chuck from Houston, TxSteve Gadd did the drums (marching style) during this song. It was wise for Paul to pick Steve for this job because the fact that the marching beat (Which Gadd learned to prefect during his three years in the Marine Corp.) adds a personality and tone to the song that not only was the driving force that made it a hit, but was also a big influnce among young and upcomming drummers during the time peiord. One of them being Carter Bulford, who would grow up to play with the "Dave Mathews Band" and credited this song as being the primary influnce behind the marching style he used in the bands biggest hit song to date "Crash" which was recorded over 20 years after the release of "50 Ways to Leave your Lover" He even plays both marching versions on his video "Under the Table and Drumming"
  • David from Mesa, AzA comedy show on BBC Radio, "The 99p Challenge", had comedians discussing other ways to leave your lover apart from the three or four mentioned in the song. Among them:

    "Hire a contract killer, Mrs. Miller"
    "Push her off a cliff, Cliff"
    "Show your rash, Sash"
    "Change your name to Paul, Simon"
    "Sleep with someone, Else"
    "Tell her your real name, Agamemnon"
  • Jay from Brooklyn, NyThis is perhaps the only song to contain the word "misconstrued."
  • Ralph from Newton, MaUse effective rhetoric Frederick
  • Robin from Birmingham, AlPhoebe Snow ("Poetry Man")is one of the women doing backup vocals on this song.
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