Posted by: garispang | April 12, 2009

Baz Luhrmann – Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)

Indie director doles out sound advice with ‘Sunscreen’ hit.

April 9, 1999
By Donna Freydkin
CNN Interactive Contributing Music Writer

(CNN) — “Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum,” intones the weather-beaten, weary voice of everyman against a backdrop of languidly throbbing synth-pop. “The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.”

“Do one thing every day that scares you. Sing,” he goes on. “Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours. Floss.”

Just another recording from a self-help guru? An audio version of one of the chipper motivational tomes known as “Chicken Soup for the Soul”? Hardly.

The uplifting song in question is an oddity that metamorphosed from mock graduation speech to Internet hoax to urban legend and, finally, in 1999, to national radio smash.

Released by indie director Baz Luhrmann, “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” is perhaps the most unusual radio hit of the year. It’s clever, cute and saccharine-free, a pithy spate of advice for those who eschew self-help books. And it’s pretty funny.

“Basically, it just makes you feel good,” laughs voice-over actor Lee Perry, who recites all the lively bits of wisdom in the song.

Author ‘amused, astonished, sometimes disconnected’
Luhrmann took the words — originally written as a mock graduation speech by Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich — and transposed the words into a spoken-word song, placing them against the choral version of ’80s dance hit “Everybody’s Free,” and released it as a single.

To say that Schmich is surprised by the emphatically positive response to and soaring sales of the single would be an understatement.

“Amused, astonished, sometimes disconnected — Did I really write those words? How’d they get on the radio?” she says. “And really grateful for this odd opportunity to have something I wrote connect with so many people.”

And connect it does. According to SoundScan, sales of Luhrmann’s full-length album “Something For Everybody,” which includes the single, increased more than 150 percent over the course of a week.

As of March, the song was the No. 1 most requested track at radio stations in New York, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Atlanta, Boston, Washington and Philadelphia.

From hoax to hit
But an enlivening, inspirational, spoken-word radio hit, at a time when acts such as rap-metal outfit Limp Bizkit and teenyboppers ‘N Sync seem to monopolize the charts? Why not, indeed, says Aussie actor Perry.

“I think people respond to it because it’s so positive and inspiring,” says Perry. “It means different things to different people, but mainly, it’s something positive in negative times.”

The song is unusual enough in and of itself, but the account of how Schmich’s creation went from mock-speech to myth to hit is downright bizarre.

The Chicago Tribune columnist and writer of the comic strip “Brenda Starr” originally wrote it in 1997 as a sham graduation address. The speech was lifted by an enterprising, but unknown college student, who passed it off as an address given by author Kurt Vonnegut at a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduation ceremony. The student than chain e-mailed it to people around the world, catapulting a little-known piece of work into urban legend status.

Two years late, enter Luhrmann. He was in Australia, working on a compilation album of his movie soundtracks from flicks including “Romeo & Juliet” and “Strictly Ballroom,” when someone emailed him Schmich’s speech, misidentified as Vonnegut’s address. A little Web digging later and Luhrmann knew the truth.

But he says he still wanted to use it on his album — Vonnegut or not — because “the ideas in the piece seemed to make such great sense.”

“What I think is extraordinary, apart from the inherent values of the ideas, is that we were experiencing ourselves a historic moment in the life of the Internet, an example of how massive publishing power is in the hands of anyone with access to a PC,” says Luhrmann in a statement.

So, according to Perry, Luhrmann called him and asked him to provide the voice of a 50-something American who sounded like he had been through a lot in life and was just spinning off some advice. The entire recording session, recalls Perry, took about four hours, and was held in Luhrmann’s Sydney home.

And now, “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen),” a song recorded with nothing more sophisticated than a DAT machine and a Walkman, is vaulting up the Billboard Hot 100 singles charts, where it’s currently perched at No. 46.

Yet, despite the massive acceptance and growing popularity of the song, the song’s scribe says she remains unaffected by the hype.

“I had no particular intentions for it at all. Baz had this wacky, ingenious idea and the Tribune and I said OK, and, frankly, I didn’t think about it much beyond that,” says Schmich.

Witty wisdom
Throughout the song, Perry narrates such sensible snippets of advice as: “The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.”

“Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements. Stretch,” he adds. “Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds still don’t.”

“Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly,” he continues.

It’s hard to remain detached when hearing such common-sense commentary. And combined with the catchy musical backbeat, “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” is pretty much irresistible.

“I want people to come away with a more positive attitude,” says Perry. “It seems like we’re coming on to a new millennium and the world is having a mid-life crisis. Reflecting on the future and this songs may help them refocus on that and become more grounded.”

Recognizing the formidable task of following up a hit like “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” with another knockout, both Perry and Schmich deflect any questions about possible similar projects.

“It’s too early to say if there is a worthy project to follow this up with,” says Perry. “It would have to be something really good.”

“If this escapade has taught me anything, it’s that you never know what’s in the future,” adds Schmich.

And perhaps that’s her most pragmatic piece of advice yet.

THIS IS THE ORIGINAL MUSIC VIDEO Great Music video from the nineties ! The lyrics are taken from a famous essay which gives some amazing advice for life, thoroughly recommend everyone to watch this…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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