What does What A Fool Believes mean?

Doobie Brothers: What A Fool Believes Meaning

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Album cover for What A Fool Believes album cover

Song Released: 1979

What A Fool Believes Lyrics

He came from somewhere back in her long ago.
The sentimental fool don't see.
Tryin' hard to recreate
What had yet to be created
Once in her life.

She musters a smile for his nostalgic tale
Never coming near what he wanted to say,
Only to...


    #1 top rated interpretation:
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    Mar 13th 2012 !⃝

    Punctuation is important here. The key phrases are "What a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away" and "What seems to be is always better than nothing."

    Translated, that means, "There's no point trying to reason with a deluded fool. He sees what he wants to see, and you'll never convince him that he's wrong. But hey, maybe he's HAPPIER with his delusion. For a lonely fool, a fantasy love may be better than no love at all."

    The song itself is telling a story of a woman who briefly meets a man she knew long ago. PERHAPS they had gone out a few times, or perhaps he was a casual acquaintance who loved her from afar. Either way, that man has always been madly in love with her, but she hasn't even thought about him in years.

    He approaches her and tries to reminisce about old times. She smiles politely, then makes a fast, phony apology ("Whoa, look at the time! I have to be going, but it was great to meet you- we must get together again real soon. Bye") and leaves.

    Any smart, sane person would see that she wants nothing to do with him, and that she just left him flat. But he's so blinded by love, he tells himself there's still hope, and that she may yet fall in love with him.


    #2 top rated interpretation:
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    Oct 26th 2021 !⃝

    While melancholy...he still has something she can never take away; His memories and love for her supersedes the reality .. He holds her in a sweet memory. There's a sweet sadness, but also a treasured memory, where, maybe wisdom/reason does not belong.
    <3 felt this from the female side, too. No regrets for the emotion.


    #3 top rated interpretation:
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    Jan 13th 2022 !⃝

    Isn't there some of this in all of us? We can all have been the fool, nostalgically coveting something that could have been but wasn't. We can all have been the one who moved on - and wonders why others have not.

    I've been both of those. I think the way the song resonates with so many people suggests many others feel the same. Maybe that's what the song is about.

  4. anonymous
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    Nov 25th !⃝

    43 years ago my first love, Sarah, died aged just sweet sixteen in a car crash. I wasn't with her at the time.

    We had known each other for less than two years. Everything was very innocent as we were both so young. I miss her still.

    Time has dimmed my memory and, sometimes, as in this song that I remember so well, we cannot necessarily be sure of the exactness of our feelings.

    We did love each other, we said as much, but how things would've turned out, I'll never know. I still visit her grave from time to time.

  5. anonymous
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    Mar 10th 2023 !⃝

    My Interpretation
    Ok. So... in my opinion, many have understood the fabric and meaning of the song. BUT, there's nuance... and ultimately, hope.

    The fabric is pretty well understood;

    A man falls in love with a woman a long time ago. He holds onto those feelings for a very long time.

    Then, he has a chance - to sit with her, to reminisce. He has hope rekindled...

    Yet, figuratively, for her, it was just “somewhere back in her long ago”. It was "once in her life", which could infer even a one-night stand, but certainly a short romance at best. But, she "musters her smile for his nostalgic tale" (not tales, so probably not a long relationship, lol).

    But he also in his foolishness “was trying to recreate what had yet to be created”. Meaning to me, he had fallen for her, cherished her for years - over this brief soirée or very short one-sided romance - yet the love was not cemented nor reciprocated.

    So, in this once in a life chance to meet with her again, and in his haste, he never got to say what he really felt, thought, or wanted to say. "Never coming near what he wanted to say". Then he realizes, it never was going to be like that for her - "Only to realize, it never really was".

    For him, the sentimental fool, the notion of her was held onto and cherished and he longed for the day that “one day she’ll return”. She had a big place in his life, yet she never thought twice about him. Yet for years, he held onto this dream that if he could just sit with her, just tell her how he felt, she would feel the same..."She, had a place in his life. He, never made her think twice".

    Now, she's smiled and apologized, and she wants out of there. He's still holding onto hope...standing as she leaves, but anyone else would surely know...he's watching her go...for good.

    But, he doesn't want to see it that way, and he holds onto those dreams. That belief. That hope is eternal. As a woman that has no interest leaves. he still hopes for another day. Another chance.

    So now he goes back to living in his notion of being in her long ago. And here I disagree with others. They were never in love. he was not trying to get her love back...he never had her love, it was just what the fool believed; hoped he could create from a very brief chance moment in her life many years ago.

    My take is skewed. It is influenced by real-life similarities.

    I however have a happier ending. The woman I felt like that for almost 28yrs, after a short relationship. I was actually afraid to sit with her. The fear of becoming a similar tale. Facing a similar fate. I avoided her. Was even told by her friends she wouldn't remember me...

    Thankfully, I didn't have to rise to her apology...we established similar feelings!

    We spent the next 4 days together. I told her how I truly felt, and now we are together. it was worth the wait...

    Happy hunting and great tune! Be a fool....believe.

  6. anonymous
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    Oct 28th 2022 !⃝

    What an incredible and emotional song. Perfect example of what separates us from the animal species. We have the privilege of observing this event from a third party perspective, as in judgement mode. The connection between the heart and the mind or some may view it as the disconnection between the two. Is it better to have loved and lost or not loved at all? What say you.

  7. anonymous
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    Apr 12th 2022 !⃝

    It's like Lloyd in "Dumb and Dumber." Mary let's him know: "No, it's not like you have a one in a hundred chance with me. More like one in a million." To which Lloyd says: "So, you're telling me there's a CHANCE!" The guy in the song thinks he has a chance with this woman from his past. He doesn't. But he foolishly believes that he does. It would be obvious to anyone else. The foolish illusions people (and societies for that matter) live with. -Frankie B.

  8. Squirrel62
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    Dec 2nd 2021 !⃝

    LOVE this song, it reminds me so much of a boyfriend I had at school, we were 14 years old, held hands and kissed #VeryOldSchool We broke up and I moved on as you do at that age. He however still asks me out, he went to the school reunion ONLY to see me.... it doesn't matter that we are different people now, he is still 14yrs old and doesn't understand why we can't be together. He sees everything through rose coloured glasses, he still texts regularly and still after all the time that has past is still pursuing me I am 59 years old! I guess we all have a first love, and that is something that can never be superseded, I am his but he isn't mine :( But he is happy in his head :) #WhatAFoolBelieves

  9. anonymous
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    Sep 24th 2021 !⃝

    The interpretation for this song, a guy saw girl after a long time. It was unrequited love or the feeling was not mutual. Figment of the imagination. Maybe he thought the girl had an interest but he was only seen as a friend. Wikipedia interpretation - The lyrics tell a story of a man who is reunited with an old love interest and attempts to rekindle a romantic relationship with her before discovering that one never really existed.

  10. anonymous
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    Sep 22nd 2021 !⃝

    Longing for past love is a fools errand, but sometimes holding onto a fantasy dream can be comforting as one realizes anything is possible. Sure beats nothing!

  11. anonymous
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    Aug 1st 2021 !⃝

    Most men are "hunters," in the sense that they, especially when younger, tend to view women as prizes to be won or conquered. This is why, for most of human history, women have been treated as objects rather than human beings, and why they have often been subjected to violence at the hands of jealous men. The song's lyrics are evocative of a more civilized society, but the dream harbored by the man is a remnant of this mindset. He is incapable of honest communication, apparently and makes assumptions about the present based on romantic dreams he has harbored from the past.

  12. anonymous
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    Aug 1st 2021 !⃝

    This is what happens when you harbor romantic feelings for another person without really knowing them; you waste your precious time in dreams. The song also illustrates that romantic dreams are a refuge for the lonely, because our society runs on dreams and not honest communication.

  13. anonymous
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    Jul 31st 2021 !⃝

    I was that guy forty years ago, couldn't love deeply but thought I could. A woman and I met and loved mutually. My take on the matter was far more powerful than hers, it seems. When she left I was devastated, then I heard this song which has always cut kinda deep. What A Fool Believes. I'm that fool with a deep residue of imagined love to this day.

  14. anonymous
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    Apr 27th 2021 !⃝

    He loved her and he let his head run away with the fantasy that there was something there for her too. But it was all a fantasy. “He never made her think twice.” “Trying hard to recreate what had yet to be created.” It sounds pathetic. I guess it is. I know. You learn a bit and you grow a bit. Takes time to let go. I do disagree, though, that living in fantasy is better than living in truth. There’s no growth to be gained in not facing the truth. Cheers!

  15. anonymous
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    Jan 1st 2021 !⃝

    Micheal MacDonald in an interview said it depicts a fellow who was, in his youth, deeply in love with a young woman who liked him only in a platonic way.
    Then, years later, they bump into one another and the old flame is re ignited in him.
    But she doesn’t feel any such flame; realizes he still feels that way about her... and quickly steps away, so as not to embarrass him or cause her discomfort.

    Sounds like a scenario that we can all recall from our past... back in our “long ago...”

  16. matthewkennethgray
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    Nov 8th 2020 !⃝

    I've looked at all the responses and interpretations here, and I think you all hit the nail on the head with this one. It's Unrequited and Unresolved love for her that kept his head in the game for her but her thought was it was NEVER love that matched his, in fact, he was just someone he spent time with and barely remembers. Totally sad but it does remind me of like, when you believe in something so strong inside you and it gets squashed by women who had no intentions but to just hang out as friends... He was in the Forgotten Friend Zone I suppose.

  17. Chelle
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    Jun 10th 2020 !⃝

    I relate to that mans thoughts and feelings.. maybe I was wrong...I never meant anything...such a person yes but was I significant in his life...sadly no.

  18. anonymous
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    Apr 29th 2020 !⃝

    She is heading for the door and he gets up as she is getting ready to apologize for having to leave.

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