Old Friend

by Joel Knopf

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This is one of those songs that isn't exactly true, but isn't exactly false, either. It tells the story of an old friend and I from elementary school to the present day.



Brilliant yet lazy, careless and fast
You could crack Rubik’s cubes in one blinding move
Master at Battleship, whizkid at Set,
You were the brightest boy I’d ever met

You slept through the school bus then whipped up excuses
and gave yourself cowlicks with gleeful delight
while I wore my khakis and finished my homework.
That’s why you liked me. I did things right.

Fifth-grade, we clicked like the mode and the mean:
We killed it at math. Wrote rhyming stanzas
about trigonometry. No one could stand us
and nothing could ever divide us, it seemed.

Old friend, I wanted your head
Elegant theorems as perfect as art
It was such a privilege to see what you see
you were so smart.

Then middle school came and you hugged all the girls
I stuttered and stared and wouldn't go near 'em
You sat with the popular table at lunch
and you dazzled…bet you didn’t talk about the Pythagorean theorem

Where was the boy who had beat me in Battleship?
Made it yourself on my TI-83.
I felt so lost. What was basic for you
was dividing by zero, by zero, for me.

Old friend, what’s in your head?
There’s this chaos where there used to be art
I'd give my best lyric to see what you see…

Recess I’m watching the ants as they crawl on the wall,
just like me. Why’d you get it all?
You summed up successes, and trophies and kissing my crush
While I played the cynic, idealist, and such
X can be greater than Y, how much is too much?

Old friend, get out of my head!
I was so jealous you were winning and smart
I wanted to be you, you wanted instead
to move on and broke your friend's heart

Old friend, where have you gone?
Lockers and lunch we pass opposite ways
but I still remember our battleship days
on the back of the bus…

Years have rolled onwards in peaks and in valleys.
You founded a start-up, moved out to Cali
I’m laughing while graphing, you built my TI-83
but beautiful and free.
I went to school where they boxed up my brain on a shelf
I forgot how to feel and lost touch with myself.
So I decided to quit, write it all down.
You said, just like we used to

Old friend, am I still in your head?
There are days I lose touch with that kid.
Help me unwind these numberless lines
Show that boy who he is
I know you still see him.

Old friend, I will fly to your city
of fog on the hill. The story can start
when the sun taps the skyline, you’ll say you are proud of me
cuz you use your head, but I use my heart.


released May 26, 2014



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Joel Knopf Berkeley, California

Joel Knopf is a singer-songwriter based in Berkeley, California. A musical omnivore, his songs range from faux-jazz standards to musical theater duets to spirituals. With unexpected lyrics and catchy melodies, his music combines the whimsy of Raffi with the lyricism of Iron & Wine. ... more

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