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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

HEAVY DOSE OF CHEESE: Lyrics from 1999 pop record set this old punk thinking about advice to young people

Tara Iguana, innocent youth in need of advice?
Last weekend I found myself watching ‘50 Greatest One Hit Wonders’ on S4C (The Welsh Channel 4) at three o'clock in the morning. By and large it was a pleasant but meaningless nostalgia trip, a smile coming across my face occasionally when I remembered old tracks I had not heard for a while. However, there was one song in particular which set me thinking. ‘Everybody’s Free (to wear sunscreen)’

I don’t really remember the song, I vaguely remember catching bits of it on the radio occasionally, I don't think I ever heard it in it's entirity, I certainly do not remember it being number one for four weeks in 1999 (not that I could tell you any of the number one's in the last few years). It was an unashamed pop song and not meant to be heavy but I like the lyrics, there is something slightly profound about them, even though they are cheesy and ultimately nonsense.

The lyrics were originally written for a column in the Chicago Tribune by Mary Schmich. An urban legend soon grew up around the column and eventually it was picked up two years later and read out by Australian voice over artist, to music by Baz Luhrmann. The whole thing is about advice to young people on how to live life, given by someone with the benefit of hindsight. I would agree with huge chunks of it, but the fact is kids will only learn through experience and they will not understand these words till they are also looking back... youth is wasted on the young an all that.

Anyway, enough ado. Here are the lyrics:

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’99... wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be IT.

The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are NOT as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements.


Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself, either. Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s. Enjoy your body, use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance. Even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings; they are your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography in lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you're 40, it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.


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