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About the Song "By the Way"
"By the Way" is the third song from Barbra Streisand's seventh studio album, Lazy Afternoon (1974). The song has the distinction of being the first one written by Barbra Streisand; in fact, she co-wrote the song with singer Rubert Holmes of "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" fame ("If you like piña coladas, and getting caught in the rain . . . ").
As for "By the Way" being her first-ever songwriting credit, Streisand says she decided to express her feelings from a "sense of resolute rather than desperate emotions." One reviewer called "By the Way" one of her most classic songs, and he said he found her vocals to be "controlled."
Rolling Stone magazine praised the song as one of the best on the album, and it received universal critical acclaim. However, the song was never one of her most popular hits, and most people have probably never heard it.
Why Is This Song Underrated?
I'm not sure why the song never reached audiences like it should have, but it certainly is one of my Barbra Streisand favorites, and I'm sure many others feel the same way. The music is both sweeping and subdued at the same time, Streisand's voice is superb, the control she exhibits here is insane, she hits every single note in perfect time, and the lyrics are everything; check it out for yourself in the video below.
"By the Way" by Barbra Streisand (Lyrics)
By the way did I hear you say?
If some night I seem too lonely
You would stay
Oh and by the way
Have I told you yet that only recently
He moved out on me
Took the towels we stole
From some motel in Tennessee
He was gone long before he really left
I knew it . . .
By the way he began to say:
Love takes time, I'm in a hurry
Anyway that's all yesterday
Let's get back to us
Why worry if it's right?
Calling by and by
Oh, and by the I thought I mention
You can stay . . .
Leave the lights
You don't look a thing like he did
And it's time to play
It's another day
Why can't we make love fall
By the way?
What the Lyrics Mean
The phrase "by the way" loosely refers to something that happens incidentally, or something unexpected that occurs during the course of a journey to get to something else. What I get from the song is something reminiscent of a "Love the One You're With" vibe (Crosby, Stills and Nash). Clearly, from Streisand's lyrics in this song, she cannot be with the one she loves, so she's making a conscious choice to love the one she's with in the moment.
In Streisand's "By the Way," she speaks of a recent break-up; she reminisces, for a second, about some of the fun times they had together, but then she goes on to infer that he was emotionally detached from the relationship long before he actually left. Clearly, she's not over this loss, but she has no control over the situation.
She is mentioning all of these things to a new suitor, who's clearly nothing more than a temporary stand-in for the man she really wants, the one who left her. It appears that she is either saying these things to him or mostly to herself as she reminds him twice that he has an invitation to stay the night and infers it's up to him to take it or leave it.
The song speaks of loss, heartbreak and unrequited love. Her temporary stand-in will probably see no more of her past their one-night stand. Or, perhaps the two will eventually marry each other, with her spending a lifetime with him, while her heart belongs to someone else . . . eventually, the passage of time subdues all feelings.
This Song Deserves to Be Praised as One of Streisand's Best
In any event, "By the Way" by Barbra Streisand is an understated and hauntingly beautiful song, and it is every bit as deserving of praise and accolades as "The Way We Were," "Evergreen," "Somewhere," or any of the other more famous Streisand tunes.
Okay, well, maybe on second thought, "Somewhere" might be pushing it just a little. But surely, dear reader, you catch my drift. The song doesn't get the credit it deserves, and if you're reading this article, you probably agree.
Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on February 25, 2020:
I think "beautiful, but sad" is a perfect way to describe "By the Way" by Barbra Streisand. Thanks for reading!
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 25, 2020:
Barbra Streisand has such a spectacular voice. Thanks for introducing me to this song of hers of which I was unfamiliar. It is beautiful but sad.
Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on February 05, 2020:
Thanks for the comment Kelly. Most people haven't heard this one before, but I think it's such a simple, yet beautiful song.
Kelly Ann Christensen from Overland Park, Johnson County, Kansas on February 01, 2020:
I enjoyed Barbara Streisand's music and even movies years and years ago, but I have never heard this one. Thanks for the article.