Beatles: Baby You're A Rich Man Meaning
Song Released: 1967
Baby You're A Rich Man Lyrics
One of the beautiful people?
Now that you know who you are
What do you want to be?
And have you traveled very far?
Far as the eye can see
How does it feel to be
One of the beautiful people?
How often have you been...
anonymous May 18th 2019 report
John bought a few thousand tabs of acid, White Lightning and Blue Cheer, from Owsley Stanley lll, who also supplied and quasi-managed the Grateful Dead. John did not keep it at home or at the Cavendish Avenue house where Paul lived and the Beatles would hang out. He kept it sealed in a bag hidden in the bushes in Regent's Park, near the zoo. The entire song is about taking acid - being one of the beautiful people and being rich in the sense of spiritually free. It had nothing to do with skimming cash to dodge the taxman. John eventually removed it from that hiding place and...well, that's another story.
Okay, I waded through all of the anti-Semetic rhetoric that told me if you invert the single, play it backwards, slow it down then speed it up, you can definitely hear John Lennon sing, "You're a fat rich fag Jew."
It's funny, but John Lennon never struck me as anti-Semetic and I do know for a fact that Mr. Epstein was a quiet man who was also gay when it wasn't too gay to be gay. The "boys from Liverpool" loved this man and were devastated, shocked, more than sad and terribly upset when he was found dead. But evidently, I missed all the Jew, Fag, fat and mean-spirited shit they had to SING about Brian Epstein who, along with Sir George Martin, made them The Beatles. For all of you that heard John clearly refer to Mr.Epstein and you are 100% certain that he did, how many of you are of the Jewish faith? Why would Lennon ever sing those terribly awful Hitleresque anti-Semetic lyrics that you can only understand if you play the single standing on your head, inverted, and listen really carefully to what you want to hear? The poor poor Jews of this world have been tortured since before Moses and now John Lennon has joined the ranks of the uneducated, unfeeling, stereotypical anti-Semites. Oh God! Where's Jesus when we need him? Wasn't Jesus a Jew? Who died a Jew? Who was never a "Christian?" except when St. Paul started all that hatred in the world over religion - one more time! Let's find one more thing to pin on a non-Jew and non-Christian at that and make him anti-Semetic too. What do you gain from all this?
I know this is impossible, but if John had precognition, one might also interpret it to be about a certain friend/partner of Paul's who owned a zoo and had some sort of business dealing with the Beatles, in particular their songs.
Not that (hee hee) I'm talking about (oww) anyone in (chamone) particular (hooooooo).
Ah yes, the path of the Bodhisattva! To understand my interpretation of this happy, uplifting tune one must first grasp the Buddhist notion of the Bodhisattva.
A Bodhisattva is one who has experienced the true nature of the universe: Emptiness. The world is essentially empty, lacking essence. Existence precedes essence.
The Buddhist notion of the experience of emptiness is an experience of “the void” that yanks him/her from the ego-self into a universal understanding/intuition that there is no inherent meaning or purpose behind life and that significance is found in the ‘here and now’. True purpose or rather, significance is found in the participation with the beauty of the natural ‘becoming’ of the universe.
Within the experience all ambiguity is erased. Status, money, trivial pleasures, and attachment are viewed as fleeting and mere road-blocks to enlightenment. The Bodhisattva then becomes concerned only with the uselessness of suffering and takes a vow to address life as such: useless suffering or in Buddhist terms, Dukha.
On this path he finds TRUE happiness, not mere delight, not the transient joys of the temporal realm; the Bodhisattva has felt the presence of the eternality of the universe that surrounds us all here and now, through the natural beauty of the world.
Upon this grand recognition, and making the aforementioned vow to contribute to the obliteration of ‘dukha’ or ‘suffering’, the Bodhisattva enters back into the world and develops a ‘skill’ to live life with one-pointed focus on his/her task at hand. The Bodhisattva is not however, concerned with the ‘fruits of his/her actions’. In other words he/she does not hanker after results of his/her “mission”; the Bodhisattva engages in ‘action’ - in and of itself - that is to say, he/she performs the acquired skill “for the sake of itself” and addresses the confrontation of the uselessness of suffering as his/her “purpose.”
To reiterate, this all begins with an experience of ‘Emptiness’; the Bodhisattva has stepped out of “said reality” and has experienced the eternal, the really Real. This is what the Buddhists refer to as ‘Nothingness’, the ‘eternal void’.
And now for the interpretation of the lyrics:
How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?
How does it feel...to be an enlightened one? How does it feel to be on the Bodhisattva path?
Now that you know who you ARE.
Ambiguity is erased. YOU, are not the CEO or the grocery bagger; the real YOU is not determined by the societal circumstances you find yourself in, neither are you the culmination of your past history –
“You are something the whole universe is doing just as a wave is something the whole ocean is doing at the place we call the ‘here and the now’” (Alan Watts).
This is the Bodhisattvic experience of ‘Emptiness’. Knowing who you are consists in the experience and understanding of what Albert Camus would call, “the gentle indifference of the universe” (The Stranger). One has entered the void- or in religious terms: Experienced God and is completely aware and in a higher state of consciousness.
With this this wonderful, enlightening recognition, the lyrics ask:
Now that you know who you are, what do you want to be?
In other words, what skill will you develop to complete your Bodhisattvic vow? What activity do you partake in “for the sake of it self” that gives inherent and natural gratification. What will you do to soothe the dis-ease of the world?
The lyrics continue: And have you traveled very far? well...I would say, experiencing the void, or ‘seeing’ nothingness, one has traveled, as the lyrics suggest: As far as the eye can see!
This experience is not one that is reserved exclusively for the elite. It is not some esoteric knowledge reserved only for mystics, philosophers, or the religious type. Through meditation and practice of mindful action in our conduct in life we can experience the void ourselves: We can go ‘there’ often. The Buddhist advocate “non-thought” and repeated practice of the dissolving of the ambiguity of the world and society that is so forcefully pressed on us since birth.
So when the lyrics ask: How often have you been there? –the answer is: Often enough to know.
And, what do we see when we are there? Nothing that doesn’t show. This statement shows that what the Bodhisattva has ‘seen’ when he/she was ‘there’. It is not something that is not apparent to all people. It doesn’t belong to Christians alone, not exclusively to the Jews, not only to the Hindus – no – no – no. Everyone has the capability to go ‘there’ in meditation.
It is, as the lyrics maintain: nothing that doesn’t show.
We are all “rich men”. We have only to clear our minds of illusion and set ourselves free from the grips of conventional principals that have been pressed upon us our entire lives to experience ‘Emptiness’.
Baby you're a rich man
Baby you're a rich man
Baby you're a rich man too
You keep all your money in a big brown bag inside a zoo
What is this “big brown bag” the Beatles are referring to? The Buddhists, some form of Buddhism at any rate, view the body as a distraction on the path to enlightenment, full of physical yearnings for pleasure and external desires. The Body is this “big brown bag” and of course society, the world around us can clearly be viewed as a Zoo!
How does it feel to be
One of the beautiful people?
Tuned to a natural E
Happy to be that way
Now that you've found another key
What are you going to play?
The abovementioned “activity in and of itself” is comparable to the orchestration of music, it is the similar to dance. There is no existing or said “purpose” for the dance; music is not played for a particular achievement in notes – no – it is performed as an “activity in and of itself”, and with practice of this activity comes fulfillment and significance, one’s true “meaning” in life. Fully aware of the true nature of the universe, one is, as stated in the song: tuned to a natural E. That is to say, one has found one’s true nature and is happy to be that way. It is another key to life… What are you going to play, with your big brown bag tuned to its natural key?
This is an "interpretation", not literal meaning of the song. However, I could argue that the Beatles, particularly John Lennon & George Harrison, were studying Eastern philosophy and even popularized the Maharishi in the Western world during the turbulent 60's. In their unbridled creativity, the Beatles may have applied multiple levels of meaning to their songs. Their interest in Eastern philosophy gives teeth to my interpretation, but does not however jive with the other interpretations and such unenlightened comments of Peter Brown such as "rich fag jew"
Regardless, great tune, holds deep significance for me and hopefully anyone inclined to entertain my interpretation.
anonymous Oct 14th 2009 report
He's actually singing "Baby you're a rich fag jew." This was aimed at their manager Brian Epstein who was indeed a rich fag jew. Great song.
Apologies in advance to those who take this badly, but I KNOW that when this song first came out, I could hear one of the vocal tracks singing: 'rich fat Jew'. It was in unison with the 'regular ' lyrics, and they blended together into an almost indecipherable sound, but not all THAT indecipherable. I had not heard any rumors,the song had just come out, and that's what I heard . I'm Jewish, but I'm not offended, I just took as some very talented guys proving that they were clever enogh to get away with just about anything...and they did it well. Once again, the multi-level Beatles sound great even without discovering their deeper aspects.
anonymous Oct 5th 2008 report
Around 1967, the British media began using the term "beautiful people" to describe middle class heroes. After the Beatles were referred to as such, Lennon wrote the verses making fun of it all. McCartney wrote the chorus, which tries to get across that everyone is beautiful, we are all rich men and women.
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