Saturday, April 12, 2008

Of Batman, Cocaine, and the Chicago Cubs . . .

One of the tunes we've been rehearsing for our April 26 show is a song I've been singing since 1968, when I was four years old. The album off of which I learned that tune was a chart-topping smash. It was also in heavy rotation on my dad's record player in our little apartment in Hillside, Illinois.

The singer was a superstar with his own weekly TV show. Back in 1968, I ranked him right up there with Ernie Banks and Batman. (N.B., I still hold all three in high regard.)

As for the song, I certainly had no idea, back in 1968, what the words meant. And I'm sure my parents never worried that the violent, misogynistic, drug-heavy lyrics could warp my young brain like so much model airplane glue.

In any event, I escaped childhood unharmed -- I think.

Forty years later, however, the landscape has changed. Just as I wouldn't consider putting my kids in a car without seatbelts -- something I never used as a kid -- I also wouldn't think of playing this record while my youngest child (age six) is within earshot. Same holds true, though for slightly different reasons, for a lot of my favorite cuts by Prince, Marvin Gaye, and the Isleys.

The kicker, as far as this particular tune is concerned, is that it wasn't even spawned by the drugs and violence that were everywhere in 1968. No, this song had first been a hit -- for singer Roy Hogsed (pictured above) -- twenty years earlier, back when Harry Truman was in the White House.

Still, it's strange for me to think about the days when I used to walk around our apartment, decked out in my Batman pajamas with the feet in them, singing:

"Early one mornin' while makin' the rounds
I took a shot of cocaine and I shot my woman down
Went right home and I went to bed
I stuck that lovin' .44 beneath my head"

God bless Johnny Cash.

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