It’s originally from an Arabic word, qisma, meaning portion or lot, and taken from Turkey in the 19th century, meaning fate or destiny, but where has in turned up in song lyrics since the 20th century?
Kismet is a slightly old-fashioned word now, and has been sometimes inaccurately replaced by karma, but has cropped up a variety of context. On the Arabic-origin front, we’ve previously profiled the traditional song Misirlou on Song of the Day, with a variety of versions, mostly instrumental, most famously by Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, but for this timeless tune the translated sung versions include mention of kismet. For example, here’s a smoochy, jazz version by Woody Herman and his orchestra in 1941:
You, Misirlou, Are the moon and the sun, fairest one.
Old temple bells are calling across the sand.
We'll find our kismet, answering love's command.
Elvis Presley’s kismet meanwhile led him down a seemingly never-ending series of saccharine 1960s movies, usually where he kissed and met many women, including this one, from the cliché-filled Harum Scarum (1965) with a very smoothly performed number penned by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett.
When you meet by chance, it's not by chance
When two hearts stand still, it's destiny's will
The wheel of fortune spins, round and around it goes
Who will the arrow point to, only kismet knows
Until you came by, kismet and I, were strangers
But now that you're here, it's suddenly clear we've met
This is my lucky day, love's in the cards I'd say
Thanks to kismet, kismet, kismet
In a change of pace, but on the same theme, here’s another looker, Blondie, touched by a certain presence, from Plastic Letters (1977).
Was it destiny?
I don't know yet
Was it just by chance?
Could this be kismet?
Something in my consciousness told me you'd appear
Now I'm always touched by your presence, dear
And to close, and and also add to this contrast of styles, here’s more kismet from the fabulous final album by A Tribe Called Quest in 2016, with We The People, full of ironic political protest against the Trump era and right-wing anti-immigration politics, and how racist media tried to ban them from performing this song:
The fog and the smog of news media that logs
False narratives of gods that came up against the odds
We're not just nigga rappers with the bars
It's kismet that we're cosmic with the stars
You bastards overlooking street art
Better yet, street smarts but you keep us off the charts …
So where does your kismet find you in song lyrics, or other cultural references?
Want to suggest other examples of this word in song lyrics, or other unusual words or contexts? Does this song make you think of something else? Then feel free to comment below, on the contact page, or on social media: Song Bar Twitter, Song Bar Facebook. Song Bar YouTube. Please subscribe, follow and share.
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