Goodbye Stranger

Album: Breakfast In America (1979)
Charted: 57 15
  • songfacts ®
  • Artistfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • This song is about the freedom of one-night-stands: "Just the thought of those sweet ladies sends a shiver through my veins." The subject matter and pop sound of the song was a huge departure from Supertramp's previous work; their previous three albums, Crime Of The Century, Crisis? What Crisis? and Even In The Quietest Moments, were pretty heavy. With this track and others on the Breakfast In America album, they showed a lighter side of the band and found more commercial success.
  • There is a good chance some of the lyrics refer to marijuana. This is indicated by the lines, "Goodbye Mary, Goodbye Jane," as marijuana is often called "Mary Jane." In this context, the singer is giving up pot.
  • Rick Davies sang lead on this track; Roger Hodgson sang backup and played guitar. Davies and Hodgson did all the songwriting for Supertramp, but almost always wrote separately. This one was written by Davies.
  • This was used in the movie Magnolia. It was also adapted for the TV show The Office when the character Michael Scott sang it to his nemesis as "Goodbye Toby." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
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Comments: 41

  • Zach from Columbus, OhioI can't believe some people think this song is about the singer saying good by to his "Mary and Jane" 'addiction'.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn July 1st 1979, "Goodbye Stranger" by Supertramp entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #78; and on September 2nd, 1979 it peaked at #15 (for 2 weeks) and spent 14 weeks on the Top 100...
    Was track 3 of side one on the group sixth studio album, 'Breakfast in America', and on May 13th, 1979 the album reached #1 (for 4 weeks) on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart (it also peaked at #1 in Australia, Austria, Canada, Holland, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, and West Germany)...
    Three other songs from the album also made the Top 100; "The Logical Song" (#6), "Take The Long Way Home" (#10), and "Breakfast In America" (#62)...
    The group had ten records make the Top 100, with three of them peaking at #15; "Give A Little Bit" (1977), this one, and "Dreamer" (1980).
  • Chilcox from Atchison, KsI love how the opinions vary so much. Its amazing how music and lyrics can effect people in differently based on interpretations, colored by the point of view of the individual. It is completely subjective. However, you are all wrong on this one. Goodbye Stranger is about alien abduction. The lyricist is lamenting the loss of his sweet alien love bundles and all the inhibition-free copulizing they laid on him during his stay with them. Shine on, brother, shine like brand new!
  • Tony from San Diego, CaIt's very clearly NOT about weed. It's about a guy who has to have his freedom and leaving a chick behind who doesn't share his sense of values, long or short term at that . Simple and end of discussion.
  • Mike from Cape Coral, FlLots of rockstars wrote songs like this in the 70's. "Freebird" is another example. Out on the road touring and banging different groupies every night. Defense of the lifestyle motivated by guilt. Not poetry.
  • Sttos from Shirley, MaWhy do people feel that all songs have to have such a deep meaning? The album Breakfast In America is about Supertramp's view of culture in the US and the song Goodbye Stranger is simply a song in line with this idea. The song is about a guy parting ways with a couple of hookers with whom he presumably spent the night and the girls are saying goodbye and wishing him well. Most men who visit hookers must have something missing in their life so the girls say they hope he finds his “paradise”, which shouldn’t be taken literally. Something that is paradise to one person can mean nothing to another. It can simply be whatever makes you happy. I've read where people thing that the girls’ names of Mary and Jane refer to pot, and while the name MaryJane is a euphemism for pot, that is not what is meant here. Since the song is about hookers, Mary and Jane are the false names girls who enter this profession might choose since the names are so plain and simple. And before anyone says that hookers are usually named Crystal or Felicity or Ambrosia, try coming up with a rhyme for those names and let me know how you do. It’s a simple fun song, just enjoy it and let’s not go looking for anything more.

  • Camille from Toronto, OhTo me, its an average song. I never thought Supertramp's music was all that great. Only thing is, sometimes a tune of their will stick in my head and keep playing on a continuous loop.
  • Jeffrey from Rosemead, CaIt is a great song isn't it!
  • Jeffrey from Rosemead, CaIt is poetry in motion and keeps rocking the boat decades after it was written. It surely says something special to each and every one of us still capable of hearing anothers music and mindfullness :)
  • Jeffrey from Rosemead, CaStep away from the vehicle ( in this case - THIS SONG ) and see that it is poetry and a song well sung. Only its creator knows what he meant of it. What WE read about it is what each listerner or reader percecives it means. Then this page allows us to share how close each of us is to the creator and what was meant. It also displays others concerns and interests about it. It is ART and should be shared openly :) Just keep dancing to the music and be a part of it all!
  • Stephen from Dallas, TxThanks to those who don't think this song is about pot. It has NOTHING to do with pot. The Mary and Jane references are about Sister Mary and Sister Jane, Nuns. These guys had a lot of songs about their depart from Catholicism, probably from growing up with it shoved down their throats (or one of them, probably Roger Hodgson). Its a rebellion against them. Sweet Devotion, Its not for me - That is their way of saying goodbye to the Catholic rituals. And, the Nuns would say - the devil is your savior. Well, he doesn't pay any heed. And, Roger Hodgson is the falsetto chorus singer, not Rick Davies. Rick does lead vocals, but not the chorus.
  • Bertrand from Fort Wayne, InTo add to my earlier comment, artists like to use metaphors where one thing can be more than just itself. Like water flowing is the same as time, the sea can be any number of things, and one thing can be many things. I think in my opinion it is meant to be a combination of mary jane(and yes it is actually referred to as that), casual sex, alienation, living on the road, and some form of spiritualism with the road being life and moving on invovles leaving things behind. Just my take but artists love to write in generalities and have one thing stand in for another. If you dont believe me just try to figure out how many of the beattles songs that were apparently about chicks were actually about drugs. Probably at least half, just off the top of my head Lucy in the sky being about acid I believe, Got to get you into my life about weed, yellow submarine(okay nobody thought it was about chicks) being about some kind of pill. Strawberry fields, what was that one about? I think some songs are meant to work on several layers. Take rocket man by Elton John, I think it definitely several layers of meaning. Not trying to insist on my own interpretation but it has always been a song about going without mary jane for periods of time to me as well as leaving behind people I care about.
  • Bertrand from Fort Wayne, InIt clearly does refer to marijuana at least partly, if not just mj. Some do and some they dont, Mary Jane, the devil is my savior(the devil weed as some call it), feel no pain tomorow(after goodbye mary and jane) and anyone who smokes weed knows there is no withdrawal from it. Hell, strange is a term that is used for weed. Taken all together it is pretty irrefutable that weed was at least one of the things they were referring to, as well as some casual sex which goes good with weed and living on the road.
  • Badass from Decatur, GaEven though Art went way the heck to I-don't-know-where with his interpretation, I actually think he was on the right path, so to speak. I've always assumed the song was about a guy who was leaving a cult, or Christian commune, or something along those lines.
  • Gary from Massapequa, NyOkay. So many of you believe this song is about a one night stand. Many others believe this song is about quitting drugs. Is it possible that this song is about both? Perhaps the writer intended to use drug addiction as a metaphor for his sexual escapades. Do you really think that the names Mary and Jane are purely coincidental? It is also possible that the reverse is true. Maybe the writer was trying to describe his drug addiction as a sexual relationship. I love songs that make you think about their meaning. In any case, this song rocks!
  • Art from Northmi, MiMany of you are speaking from your own demented view; marijuana, drugs, illicit relations etc.

    This person who wrote the song seems to have come in contact with two women who shared with him the Bible's hope of living in paradise on earth. He could not pursue learning more of it, since he 'has to keep moving on'.
    He is tied to his lifestyle of, basically, unaccountability.
    But actually, we are all accountable to God for how we use our lives.

    The women were using theirs to share the good news of God's Kingdom with all they met.

    This man knew what they shared with him was ' the undisputed truth' since they showed him from the Bible (Ps 37: 11, 29, 34).
    He saw that God's Kingdom will destroy Satan's system and governments (Daniel 2;44), and bring wonderful condtions (Ps 72:16, Ps 46:9,10, Isa 35:1, Isa 11:8,9; to all who will take the time (John 17:3)to prioritize and learn the path of loyal worship from God's Word through the true Christian congregation today (Isa 43:10; Ps 83:18) & (Matthew 24:45).

    But he is ship w/out an anchor, and must be moving on.

    Most people are like that today; they never take the time to let God's Word instruct them, or they buy in to warped and inaccurate views of truth, just like Pilate.

    The truth is that Jehovah's Witnesses are the only ones out there preaching the good news of God's Kingdom, the message that Jesus Christ himself preached and commanded his followers to preach (Matthew 24:14, Matt 28:19,20; Luke 4:43; Daniel 2:44; Rev 12:9-12 and 21:3,4).
    Soon the time of favor for responding will be over.
    But Jehovah's will shall be done.
    The paradise earth, God's original purpose, will come and God's name will be glorified; the same name that Jesus Christ devoted his life to glorifying (John 17:26; John 17:1-5).
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxThe radio version usually omitted those two keyboard solo passages, but the song just doesn't work without them. Makes it more somber and reflective.
  • Jules from Tacoma, WaPeople please!!!!! This song is about a sociopath!!
    He does'nt care about anyone or anything but himself. He does what he wants at any cost, no matter who he hurts. His behavior is bad and he KNOWS it-"you can laugh at my behavior, that will never bother me".He has no shame and just keeps barreling through peoples lives, chreating chaos and then splits. Google sociopath!
  • Liquid Len from Ottawa, Ns"Has anyone ever thought that maybe it's about giving up a life of sin? So giving up both weed and one night stands?" What if you're Rastafarian? Then one is a sin, and one is not. I guess they would cancel each other out.
  • Liquid Len from Ottawa, NsThis is about a song called "Stranger", the band was really sick of playing it, and finally decided to drop it from their setlists. Alternately, it's about one night stands and the singer's personal philosophy of freedom. The "Mary Jane" is just a reference to marijuana but the song is not about pot, it's about not having to play that dreadful "Stranger" song any more.
  • Becca from Windsor, OnHas anyone ever thought that maybe it's about giving up a life of sin? So giving up both weed and one night stands?
  • Michael from Tucson, AzThe Guru-- It's about one night stands. "Some they will and some they won't, some it's just as well" refers to whether or not a girl will have a one night stand with him. And some, it's just as well they don't, if you catch my drift.
  • Cedric from Sinking Spring, PaAccording to Wikipedia, Roger Hodgson does the background vocals during chorus, but before, it said that Rick did all the vocals. I wonder which is more accurate.
  • The Guru from Central Coast, Australiaeveryone is wrong the song is about a man breaking up with his wife and giving her a farewell Goodbye strange its been nice
    Hope you find your paradise
    Tried to see your point of view
    Hope your dreams will all come true........
    And I will go on shining
    Shining like brand new
    Ill never look behind me
    My troubles will be few........
    Now I believe in what you say
    Is the undisputed truth
    But I have to have things my own way
    To keep me in my youth.......
    just read the song and u will see the clear meaning. the marijuana story is just stupid, u can refer any song back to drugs mind u alot of songs are about drugs. one night stand theory is plausible but not the true meaning... the truth the guru
  • Deb from Melbourne, AustraliaIt seems obvious that it's about one-night stands, but I love the idea of it being about pot or people pushing their religeous views. Studying songs is like studying literature, you don't need to know exactly what the writer is saying, it's art for interpretation. What doesn't anyone get that???
  • Matt from Pasco, WaIt has to be about smoking pot, when he says some they do and some they dont and some you just can't tell. Is you can Tell if most people do or do not smoke while some you just can't tell! and some will and some wont and some its just as well!
  • John from Arlington, VaThere are way too many references to living the "on the road, one night stand lifestyle" for it to mean or be about pot.

    "It was an early morning yesterday
    I was up before the dawn
    And I really have enjoyed my stay
    But I must be moving on"

    Tell me how this is about pot? This clearly a guy waking up in a foreign bed and leaving before she wants coffee or a bagel.

    "Like a king without a castle
    Like a queen without a throne
    I'm an early morning lover
    And I must be moving on... yeah"

    This is about pot? How? This is purely a statement about being a vagabond.

    "Now I believe in what you say
    Is the undisputed truth
    But I have to have things my own way
    To keep me in my youth"

    This is classic. This a guy who can admit that he is a womanizer and accepts the just criticism by the woman he womanizes.

    I can go on and on...
  • Steve from Binghamton, NyThe lifestyle this song is as dead and gone as the Roman Empire... it was fun while it lasted.
  • Mackenzie from Van Anda, BcI heard it was about one of the band members studying with Jehovah's Witnesses. "Hope you find your paradise," "tried to see your point of view," and the Mary and Jane in the song possibly refer to two Jehovah's Witness women studying with them. =)
  • S.d. from Denver, CoPeople so often criticize rock and roll lyrics as frivolous. Even diehard rock fans are always proclaiming that it's the music that's really important.

    Isn't it great that there are so many songs like this that inspire thought and analysis, spark debate and, most importantly, leave us wondering and carrying on the discussion?
  • Chris from Chicago, IlI dont feel this song is about marijuana at all.Just one-night stands.Mary Jane are just common and generic names....you know,like Jane Doe?
    Cool song,though not cool to leave the ladies hanging,lol
  • Elizabeth from Syracuse, NyBest darn Supertramp song period!!!! It should have been a #1 hit. The vocals by Rick Davies (he sings all the vocals - lead, background, and high pitched falsetto), Wurlitzer electric piano, John Helliwell's whistling, Dougie Thomson's bass, and Roger Hodgson's awesome guitar solo at the end just absolutely drive the song. This song has been remixed as a dance song in nightclubs in recent years by BBC DJ Pete Tong.
    Drummer Bob Siebenberg is originally from Glendale, California; he moved to London in 1970 and went under a couple of different names (he used them as immigration dodges because he was in the UK illegally) - Bob Cee when he was with the pub band Bees Make Honey in the early 1970s and Bob C. Benberg during the rest of the 1970s when he was with Supertramp.
  • Sean from New Haven, CtThe song is not about quiting drugs. The song is not about marijuana. The song is about one-night stands. Whether intentional or coincidental, the use of the names "Mary" and "Jane" are references to women.
  • Matt from New Castle, NhThis song is deceptive. Despite the catchy tune, and falsetto voices, it's extremely personal. I can see how it would be puzzling to a listener, unless they too were at the end of their addiction rope.
  • Jl from French GuyanaPeople are strange when you're a stranger; but he doesn't seem to think people are ugly when he's alone.
    (06/11/2007)
  • David from Deerfield Beach, FlPosted 10/23/2007. One of my all-time favorite songs ever! "Breakfast In America" is a landmark album. Though can be melancholy, I love Supertramp's music. One of my favorite bands. Love Roger Hodgson's voice - very uplifting. "Famous Last Words" was also a favorite album of mine back in 1982. "Even In The Quietest Moments" had some good stuff on it, and "Crime Of the Century" also had some fine stuff on it.
  • P from Whitby, CanadaIt is about marijuana. In my opinion, it's about a guy who's leaving the life of drugs and the song is from the user's perspective. Goodby Mary, Goodby Jane. Also the "stranger" part mostl likely is reference to user not intimate with the drug. It's a product. He implies the freedom experienced when taking the drug and having being in lala-land but is getting off of it. Note the "veins" reference too when calling marijuana the sweet ladies.
  • Bob from Oakland, Ca"Mary Jane" is only a name for marijuana in anti-drug literature. No one in the real world has ever said, "Hey, man, let's smoke some Mary Jane." (unless they were being ironic)
  • Will from Jackson, WyThis song is about marijuana. He is singing about quitting smoking marijuana in the beginning. When the higher pitched singing comes in, that is hes marijuana singing back to him then halfway through (starting at "goodbye mary, goodbye jane") it is him singing back to the marijuana. Then later he sings about other people smoking marijuana.
  • Rogério from Curitiba, BrazilThis song is about a one-night-stand, for shure... goodbye stranger, in the morning?
  • Frank from Westminster, ScCould this song have to do with the singer politely rejecting someone trying to discuss their religious "point of view" with him? That's what I always took it to be about.
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