Music Monday takes poetic license with LAY DOWN SALLY

It’s National Poetry Month, so I’d like to talk about “poetic license” in songs.

A writer who takes poetic license deviates from the correct use of language to express himself/herself. Poets do this to achieve the effects of rhyme, meter, or some other desired outcome.

Did Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan, two iconic songwriters take poetic license when they misused the words LIE vs LAY in their songs? I’m not sure. These words are often confused with one another.

Clapton’s “Lay Down Sally” is grammatically incorrect. You lay down an object, but in the song, he’s talking to Sally and what he really wants is for her to lie down.

It’s the same with Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay.” The correct title should be “Lie Lady Lie,” though Dylan’s version rolls off the tongue much more easily.

Bad grammar aside, these songs are forever etched in my brain as they were written. I’d feel pretty foolish to sing them any other way.

Please share any songs you know where the writer has taken poetic license with the title or lyrics.

In the meantime, enjoy “Lay Down Sally,” and I hope you have a great week.


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Filed under Musical Mondays

8 responses to “Music Monday takes poetic license with LAY DOWN SALLY

  1. Grammar doesn’t count in dialogue… especially if you’re from the South. Love this song


  2. If Dylan had sung, ‘lie, lady, lie’ would he not be encouaging her to be untrue?

    Maybe Clapton was ‘laying’ Sally down cause she had passed out?


    • Mr. JJ!
      I know, ‘Lie Lady Lie’ doesn’t sound too good. I can see Clapton ‘laying Sally’ down, but since the song is addressed to her, I assume he’s talking directly to her and asking her to lie down.

      Bah, I’m not being a pedant with these 2 classic guys. There are so many songs that are grammatically incorrect but are BAD songs. I’ll have to find some for next week. Great to see you, sir xo


      • If I recall correctly, Clapton sings,

        “Lay down, Sally, and rest you in my arms.
        Don’t you think you want someone to talk to?
        Lay down, Sally, no need to leave so soon.
        I’ve been trying all night long just to talk to you.”

        So, having tried to talk to her all night, to no avail apparently cause she won’t shut the f%^& up, he’s done what any red blooded male would do, he decks her! So, now the she’s unconscious, he lays Sally down, asking her if she wants to talk anymore. I guess she does not in her current state, so he tells her she might as well stick around now so he can finally get a word in edgewise As any guy will attest, the best time to talk to woman is when she’s asleep so that there is no way she can misunderstand what the guy has said.

        Moving on . . ..

        Since you seem to be stuck in the paradigm of the verbs lay and lie, I will leave it up to you to discuss the grammatical propriety of Bad Company’s use of whichever in their 1975 song, ‘Sweet Lil’ Sister”

        “Sweet little sister
        You know you can’t resist her
        She got it made in the shade

        Lord yeah, sweet little sister
        Your Momma never missed her
        ‘Till she got laid, laid, laid, alright”


        • Joe, you’re crazy. That would make Eric Clapton’s song so unromantic. I suppose I like to believe he’s trying to woo Sally 😉 , Your interpretation does make for a funny and plausible alternative use of the verb.

          As for Bad Company’s song … wow. Blunt and to the point. I don’t think there is any other way to interpret how they are using ‘laid’ , and it’s not from the lay or lie verb families!



  3. With music, it’s allowed to mess around with things.

    As to lie versus lay, I prefer using different words as opposed to endlessly trying to decide, “now which one belongs here again?”


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