Singing in the car when alone has always been a passion of mine, even though my singing is awful. Marie, my daughter who is deaf, is the only person who can ride with me when I am singing, although she rolls her eyes when I do so.
It was only recently, while watching a movie with Marie with word captioning, that I realized that the lyrics I had been blasting aloud have been wrong. How embarrassing! One of my favorite songs is Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” a melody made even more trendy by the success of the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It did seem odd that the singer was “kicking your cat all over the place,” but who am I to judge? It was only recently, when watching the movie with my daughter, that the real lyrics flashed across the screen; “Buddy, you’re a boy, make a big noise, playing in the street, gonna be a big man someday, you got mud on your face, you big disgrace, kicking your can all over the place, singin’ we will, we will rock you, we will, we will rock you.” Kicking your can all over the place still doesn’t make any sense, but at least it doesn’t practice cruelty to animals.
That got me thinking about other songs with questionable lyrics, for instance Bruce Springsteen’s “Blinded by the Light.” It has always bothered me that a feminine hygiene product was included in the lyrics, but it didn’t prevent me from warbling “wrapped up like a douche.” Imagine my surprise when I learned the lyrics are “Blinded by the light, revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night.” Not knowing what a deuce is, it still doesn’t make any sense, but it does flow better than what I was singing.
There are many children’s songs where the lyrics are clearly understood, they are just completely inappropriate for children. Generally meant to soothe, entertain and educate, many songs have the opposite effect. The lullaby “Rock a Bye Baby” has the anti-soothing lyrics “Rock a bye baby, on the tree top, when the wind blows, the cradle will rock. When the bow breaks, the cradle will fall, and down will come baby, cradle and all!” What a lovely thought to put in the mind of an innocent baby, who will undoubtedly have nightmares about falling out of bed.
Then there is the other lovely song “Three Blind Mice,” often sung in rounds. “Three blind mice, Three blind mice, See how they run. See how they run. They all ran after the farmer’s wife, Who cut off their tails with a carving knife, Did you ever see such a sight in your life, As three blind mice.” This song appears to prepare children for the slasher movies they will undoubtedly love to watch when they get older.
“Ring Around the Rosie” is a song where children hold hands, dance in a circle and fall down at the end. It was great fun to play this when I was a child, until I found out about its origin to simulate the black death. “Ring around the rosie, a pocket full of posie, ashes, ashes, we all fall down.” Ring around the rosie itself refers to the red rings that would form on the skin of plague victims. Keeping a pocket full of posies, (flowers,) was meant to ward off bad smells. Ashes referred to the burned bodies on the ground. What lovely thoughts to inspire joyful dancing!
Perhaps the creepiest song I remember is the bedtime nursery rhyme “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the lord my soul to take.” Such thoughts kept me awake all night, afraid to fall asleep lest I die in the middle of the night. WHAT were they thinking?
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