A Long Overdue Honor

In their infinite wisdom, Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will soon be inducting one of my favorite songwriters: Tom Waits.
One of the most versatile un-pigeonholeable writers out there, Waits has a four-decade career of pushing the envelope–musically and lyrically. His off-beat observations and wry turns of phrase have also garnered him several supporting roles in eclectic movies, like “Mystery Men”, “The Fisher King”, “At Play in the Fields of the Lord”, “The Outsiders” and “Ironweed”. And his unmistakeable rasping voice is actually remarkably versatile.
His songs have been used in dozens of soundtracks and covered by such disparate artists as Bruce Springsteen, Bette Midler, The Eagles, Rod Stewart, Johnny Cash and and many folk musicians, from Prescilla Herdman to Lisa Mosciatello to Moxy Fruvous. Even Scarlett Johanssen! A Russian jazz group, Billy’s Band, performed a large number of Waits covers at our Rochester Jazz Festival last June, and I hear jazz musicians doing Waits arrangements all the time. The list goes on.
Tying into the theme of aging, here is one of Tom’s songs, “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” (this and many of his songs give co-writing credit to his wife, Kathleen Brennan, whom he considers to be an essential editor and shaper of his songs). The song is not a glum as the lyrics look; in fact, it’s a fun, up-tempo romp that forces us to examine “adult” values, while ultimately wondering where the time has gone. here’s a video and the words (there’s about 50 seconds of “hijinks” before the songs starts:

I Don’t Wanna Grow Up
(Tom Waits/K. Brennan)

When I’m lyin’ in my bed at night
I don’t wanna grow up
Nothin’ ever seems to turn out right
I don’t wanna grow up
How do you move in a world of fog
That’s always changing things
Makes me wish that I could be a dog

When I see the price that you pay
I don’t wanna grow up
I don’t ever wanna be that way
I don’t wanna grow up
Seems like folks turn into things
That they’d never want
The only thing to live for
Is today…

I’m gonna put a hole in my TV set
I don’t wanna grow up
Open up the medicine chest
And I don’t wanna grow up
I don’t wanna have to shout it out
I don’t want my hair to fall out
I don’t wanna be filled with doubt
I don’t wanna be a good boy scout
I don’t wanna have to learn to count
I don’t wanna have the biggest amount
I don’t wanna grow up

Well when I see my parents fight
I don’t wanna grow up
They all go out and drinking all night
And I don’t wanna grow up
I’d rather stay here in my room
Nothin’ out there but sad and gloom
I don’t wanna live in a big old Tomb
On Grand Street

When I see the 5 o’clock news
I don’t wanna grow up
Comb their hair and shine their shoes
I don’t wanna grow up
Stay around in my old hometown
I don’t wanna put no money down
I don’t wanna get me a big old loan
Work them fingers to the bone
I don’t wanna float a broom
Fall in love and get married then boom
How the hell did I get here so soon
I don’t wanna grow up

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2 Responses to A Long Overdue Honor

  1. Karen Overturf says:

    The best line in that song….
    “The only thing to live for is today”
    It reminds me of the admonitions in the bible, “Don’t worry about tomorrow.”
    We are truly happiest when we simply live today.
    I’ve been reading your book, Dr. Power. That is all anyone wants is to live a meaningful today! Your skill at getting your point across with research evidence, observation, morality tales and references to other disciplines makes it easy to read and understand!
    I’m just getting to the part about putting the dragon to sleep. It is encouraging, and I am sure that I will refer to it again and again as I walk my path toward a new paradigm. Thank you.

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