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As in the song 'Real Gone' by Sheryl Crow:

"Everybody's lookin' for a way to get real gone."

Does that mean something cool?

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= gone for good? – Kris May 21 '12 at 18:56
Van Morrison went one better with his classic Real real gone. – Shoe May 21 '12 at 20:42
Let's not forget Boney M's camp disco classic "Rasputin": "There was a cat that really was gone." – Paul Richter May 22 '12 at 3:08
up vote 12 down vote accepted

The term generally means something like absent from normal concerns or behavior in a way that's cool or outrageous in a hip way. The Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions defines real gone as "really cool; mellow and pleasant. (See also gone.) : Man, this music is real gone." It can also mean mellowed through drugs or alcohol; the top Urban Dictionary definition says "another word for high." In some uses, the term leans more toward excited behavior; Straight from the Fridge, Dad: A Dictionary of Hipster Slang defines it as 1. Far out, wild, totally sent and 2. Insane. The term has been around for a while, as evidenced by the 1954 cartoon "Real Gone Woody." The earliest reference I could find to the term is 1941 in Google Books, in These I Like Best: The Favorite Novels and Stories of Kathleen Norris, page 50.

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+1 What an answer! – Kris May 21 '12 at 19:52
In fact, the Kathleen Norris reference you found is originally from Little Ships, first published in 1925. – Hugo May 21 '12 at 20:35
Interesting that the term was used that far back. – Bill Lefurgy May 21 '12 at 21:28
Although the OED has two relevant definitions of gone. The first has citations from 1598: Lost, ruined, undone. Also, a gone case, a hopeless case; gone sensation (feeling), a feeling of faintness or utter exhaustion.. I think this applies to Maggie needing coffee in Norris 1940. The fourth has citations from 1946: Very inspired or excited; ‘out of this world’; extremely satisfying; excellent; esp. in phr. real gone. slang (orig. U.S. jazz musicians'). This is more like the Crow/Shanks 2006 meaning, but I can see how it could transition through the mellow definitions you found. – Hugo May 22 '12 at 8:45
And there's a "Mr. Markham's real gone on that young lady," he said to himself. at the top of page 123 in the 1890's Heart of Gold, that is more like "a hopeless case" than "out of this world", but I suppose both could apply. – Hugo May 22 '12 at 8:50

The Beats were into Buddhism and it seems that I remember Burroughs, Kerouac, and Ginsberg writing about people who were "real gone cats" and people with "Buddha eyes" meaning the same thing. I always associated this with the concept of the Tathagata in Buddhism, a term the Buddha often used to identify himself. It refers to an enlightened one and the etymology is "tatha" meaning "thus" and "gata" meaning gone. Thus the Buddha calls himself the "the thus gone one" which could easily mean "the real gone cat."

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