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God Knows I’m Good (Song Lyric Sunday)

I had to smile when I found this Bowie tune that had two of the prompt words in it; albeit ‘concern’ has a different meaning to the collective genre.  ‘God Knows I’m Good’ came from the 1969 album Space Oddity – not one of Bowie’s earlier purchased albums. If I remember rightly I picked it up from Debenhams for a bargain price + staff discount in the sale in 1980. 

During the 22 years I spent in retail management, I had to deal with lots of pilfering issues, this little story offers another perspective. ‘God Knows I’m Good’ harks back to Bowie’s mid-1960s observational storytelling style of songwriting. The song’s protagonist observes an elderly woman who steals a tin of steak, and pleads to God for clemency. As she is led away by a security guard she faints, and is aided by “a crowd of honest people”.

‘Communication has taken away so much from our lives that now it’s almost totally involved in machines rather than ordinary human beings. There’s nobody to talk your troubles over with these days, so this track is about a woman who steals a can of stew, which she desperately needs but can’t afford, from the supermarket and gets caught. The machine looks on ‘shrieking on the counter’ and ‘spitting by my shoulder’. David Bowie Disc and Music Echo, 25 October 1969

I think this is the saddest song on the album, about a little old lady shoplifter who was simply hungry and treated as a criminal when discovered in the act.Tony Visconti, May 2015
Five Years (1969–1973) book

‘God Knows I’m Good’ portrays Bowie’s emergent interest in modern technology. In its year of release, he told the UK music press of his concern that communication was becoming dominated by machines, a prescient notion that pointed towards the future days of BowieNet or the rise of social media in the 21st Century.

Source: bowie bible

Was walking through the counters of a national concern
And a cash machine was spitting by my shoulder

And I saw the multitude of faces, honest, rich and clean
As the merchandise exchanged and money roared
And a woman hot with worry slyly slipped a tin of stewing steak
Into the paper bag at her side
And her face was white with fear in case her actions were observed
So she closed her eyes to keep her conscience blind

“God knows I’m good
God knows I’m good
God knows I’m good
God may look the other way today

God knows I’m good
God knows I’m good
God knows I’m good
God may look the other way today”

Then she moved toward the exit clutching tightly at her paper bag
Perspiration trickled down her forehead
And her heart it leapt inside her as the hand laid on her shoulder
She was led away bewildered and amazed
Through her deafened ears the cash machines were shrieking on the counter
As her escort asked her softly
For her name
And a crowd of honest people rushed to help a tired old lady
Who had fainted to the whirling
Wooden floor

“God knows I’m good
God knows I’m good
God knows I’m good
Surely God won’t look
The other way

God knows I’m good
God knows I’m good
God knows I’m good
Surely God won’t look
The other way”

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: David Bowie

God Knows I’m Good lyrics © BMG Rights Management, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

BBC recording

David Bowie recorded ‘God Knows I’m Good’ on one occasion for BBC radio. It was a solo recording, just Bowie and his 12-string guitar.

Post inspired by Jim’s Song Lyric Sunday – This week’s theme is songs that feature the lyrics: Concern, Fear, Fret, Worry suggested by Fandango of This, That and the Other.  Click through for the rules if you, too, would like to join in …

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