A few days ago I downloaded a song online. I’m not sure where. I think it was a link to a site to a site or some sort of randomness. It doesn’t matter. The song was labelled that it was by Baz Luhrmann and I was kind of like “he sings?” and put it in iTunes but didn’t listen to it. Until today.
Today I listened to the song and recognized it as a popular tune from the late 90’s, Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen). I listened to it several times and then IMed Greg and asked him if he remembered the song and he said “Oh, you mean the song based on the Trib column by Mary Schmich? And I was like “uh. no!” And then my head exploded when he sent me this link.
Mary Schmich? How could this be the same Mary Schmich? The one who writes craptacular columns about how it’s mean to honk your horn and how life can be measured in telephone phases. Surely, he was kidding me, right?
He wasn’t joking. After some research, here’s the back story from Amazon:
One of the most surreal singles in memory, “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” has an even stranger story than you’d imagine: in 1998, a student lifted the text of an article columnist Mary Schmich had written for the Chicago Tribune and started sending it around the world, crediting it as a commencement speech given at MIT by Kurt Vonnegut. Film director Baz Luhrmann (who had taken a big part in designing the soundscapes of his films Strictly Ballroom and William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet) got his hands on it just as he was working on a remix of Rozalla’s 1992 dance hit “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good).”
And here are both the text of the article and the song’s lyrics:
Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97:
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. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve 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 bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. 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 of 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 your 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’re 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 with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you 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. Travel.
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.