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 Taking Lyrics Literally

by Laura W. Haywood

 

You're in the car with an "oldies" station on, or in an elevator, or just loading the dishwasher, and you're singing an old song. But do you ever think about the lyrics to some of those songs?

Take, for example, Sleepy Time Gal. The singer points out that the girl has danced the evening away, and there's every reason to believe she enjoyed it, since she apparently does that quite regularly. But he ends the song with the promise that, when her dancing is done, he'll build a little home for her and

...you'll learn to cook and to sew.
What's more you'll love it I know,
when you're a stay at home,
play at home,
eight o'clock sleepy-time gal.

Yeah, right.

I know a man who dated a swinging gal. He took her out night after night but, once they were married, he expected her to love being a homebody. Want to guess how long that marriage lasted?

Then there's a little ditty called (I think) To the Ends of the Earth. In it, someone is promising to follow his or her love To the Ends of the Earth. That song ends with the lines:

I'll follow you, my love, you'll never be free,
to the ends of the earth
till you've given your love to me.

You know what that's called? Stalking.

Similarly, there's a number called I'm Walking Behind You. In that one, he or she is at the wedding of a lost love. The singer promises that, if the marriage doesn't work,

...Look over your shoulder. I'm walking behind.

Stalking again.

And, of course, there's the male chauvinist pig anthem, Dance, Ballerina, Dance. Now here's a woman who has worked since she was four (ballerinas have to start very young) to be a ballet star. Then she met this guy and they fell in love. But she continued her career and now she's stealing the show. Is he proud of her? Hell, no. His seat in the second row is empty. From my point of view, she's lucky; that jerk was never going to appreciate her.

There are hundreds of songs that glorify jealousy, abuse, and cheating — and just plain self-delusion.

I have no idea what things the current crop of songs praise — if I can understand they lyrics at all, they make no sense to me. But with this musical heritage, is it any wonder the divorce rate is astronomical?

Come on, songwriters, let's have some music praising people smart enough to wait till they have enough maturity to pick the right partner, songs that celebrate fifty-three years of marriage, songs that endorse figuring out you aren't the type to be married at all; songs that show the wisdom of walking out on an abusive partner. Not romantic? What's romantic about marrying at seventeen, divorcing at twenty-three, and messing up the lives of three kids? What's unromantic about a couple who've celebrated their golden anniversary and are still happy? What's romantic about a marriage that consists of nothing but fights? What's romantic about a black eye or a broken jaw?

What's unromantic about intelligence?

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