I've been hearing the song for over forty years, first in the hit version by the Platters, from the fifties, though the song's somewhat older than that. My brother was a big Platters fan and owned their Greatest Hits album (which also included "Twilight Time," co-written by our distant relative Al Nevins
). I've heard many versions of "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" over the years, both instrumental and vocal, but I never thought too much about the lyrics, even though I could recite them by heart. I never thought too much about them until this morning, that is.
On the subway I was listening to an exquisite rendition by Clifford Brown
. It was an instrumental version, but the lyrics, second nature after all these years, played out in my head. And all of a sudden, toward the end of the chorus, one particular line struck me as rather bizarre, or at least troubling: "Now laughing friends deride tears I cannot hide..."
Whoa, Nellie. What kind of friends would laugh at you and deride tears you cannot hide?
Those are no friends.