I’m driving in my car. I turn on the radio. (No, this is not a Pointer Sisters song. This is really happening.) My kids are in the backseat having an amiable conversation about Club penguin and something called a “Puffle.” The commercial for male pattern-baldness ends and a song starts to play on the station, a song that I am not familiar with, but it sounds good and my daughter, ever the music-lover, says, “Yes! This one!”
The singer is in a groove, making all kinds of proclamations to the object of his affection. The melody is catchy, the beat is snappy enough to make me bob my head back and forth in rhythm and do an impromptu drum solo against my steering wheel. I’m diggin’ it. My daughter’s diggin’ it. Even my son is nodding in time, though ever so subtly, so as not to appear uncool.
Then suddenly, the singer sings the following lyric:
Bet I get you naked by the end of this song.
I almost crash my minivan into the center divider.
I was the youngest in a family of four kids. My brother is nine years older than me, so when I was listening to things like Free to Be, You and Me and the soundtrack from Star Wars, he was listening to Queen and Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and Cream (think about that for a minute), and all kinds of songs that were probably not appropriate for my virgin ears. And I turned out all right, at least marginally okay. I never really listened to the lyrics, or if I did, I didn’t intellectualize them, like, for example: “She’s all right? Who’s all right? What kind of a name is Cocaine, anyway?”
Should I worry about the songs that my kids are listening to as we make our way from one event or errand to another? The question plagues me. I was thrilled when McDonald’s came out with KidzBop. Until I popped in a cd and heard the songs the freaking McDonald’s people chose. How on earth could they think that Kryptonite and Girls Just Want to Have Fun are appropriate for little kids? There was something very disturbing about watching my angelic little girl, three at the time, dancing around the house belting out “Oh Daddy dear you know you’re still number one/ But girls, we want to have fun…” and my five-year-old son solemnly singing, “You stumbled in and bumped your head/ If not for me then you’d be dead…Yikes. Kidzbop, my ass.
Still, one can only take so much of Mary Poppins soundtracks and Dan Zanes, right? I mean, at one point, after listening to the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang soundtrack 37 times in a row, I almost threw myself out of the minivan on the 405 freeway. Truly scrumptious it was not. Every once in a while, I gotta have my Jagger and Bowie, know what I’m saying? And is it such a bad thing to introduce my kids to music legends like those, regardless of what the subject matter is?
Perhaps I’m worrying too much. I mean, my kids have never asked me what any of the lyrics to any of the songs mean. Do they know what they’re singing about? Probably not. Or maybe they do and I’m totally in denial. I often feel guilty that I am marring them for life, that subconsciously they are taking every single word in, and will need decades of therapy to deal with the fact that someone wore a raspberry beret, and someone else voulez-vous coucher’d, and yet someone else loved the one he was with, that it was raining men, that she was a brick house, that he would never be a beast of burden, that love is a battlefield, that fat-bottomed girls, they make the rockin’ world go round.
Maybe, in twenty or thirty years, when their own kids are screeching in the backseat about “Any way you want it, that’s the way you need it” my kids’ eyes will go wide with the realization that they are accidentally treating their children to an advanced education.
Whatever. I still love Sheena Easton’s “You’ve Got the Look.” And if my kids ask me what “Let’s get to ramming” means, I’m going to start talking about goats.