The Difference Between Brian Wilson and 2Pac

One was responsible for the 1966 Beach Boys masterpiece Pet Sounds, which included the song "God Only Knows"; the other was behind 1996's All Eyez On Me, and its defiant "Only God Can Judge Me."

These two compositions, thirty years apart, both invoke a deity, though for vastly different purposes, and it's up to the listener to decide which has more musical merit.

What cannot be argued, though, is the grammar. The placement of the modifier "only" is tricky, and the plain fact of the matter is that Brian got it wrong while 2Pac got it right.

What Brian *meant* was that no one besides God knew what would become of him without his beloved companion. This would have been correctly expressed as, "Only God knows what I'd be without you," or perhaps, "God alone knows what I'd be without you." It doesn't sound as good that way, I'll grant him, but hey: accuracy isn't always catchy.

'Pac, on the other hand, could probably find part-time work as a substitute English teacher, were he not dead.

"Only God can judge me" is an airtight, thugged-out refusal of personal responsibility, and even Brian, who was in contrast not shot four times in a drive-by following a Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas, must concede that, in at least one respect, 2Pac got the better of him.

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