Do you hear music? I mean really hear music. I am not talking about recognizing a song from a popular band on the radio and then singing the lyrics. If you are anything like me, you mumble along with the song on the verse until the chorus comes along. Then you belt it out word for word and note for note only to return to mumbling along when the next verse begins. Or you might be absolutely certain that you know every word to your top songs only to find out decades later, when you hear slower acoustic versions, that you have been singing them wrong...not just a little bit wrong but nonsensically wrong; inventing words, butchering and changing the meaning until it is unrecognizable.
Several years ago, returning from an outing with my sister and her family, one of my favorite songs began to play on the car radio and I mumbled along to verse one then sang out loud and proud on the chorus…
"We all live in a lighthouse.
Don't carry me too far away.
Oh, oh, oh we all live in a lighthouse,
And it’s here that we want to stay."
My nephew turned to stare from the front passenger seat with his mouth hanging open and looked at me with a mixture of horror and confusion on his face. My sister burst out laughing; only stopping when she couldn't catch her breath and gasping for oxygen, she said, "That’s not how that song goes.” She began to belt out the real lyrics…
“Big ol’ jet airliner,
Don't carry me too far away,
Oh, oh, oh big ol’ jet airliner,
‘Cause it's here that I've got to stay.”
I felt like an idiot especially since the words were actually in the title of the song; Jet Airliner by The Steve Miller Band but being skeptical, I said, "Next you’ll tell me that I've been singing Bennie and the Jets wrong."
"Well everyone sings that one wrong but how do you think it goes?" my sister inquired.
"Like everyone else, probably, 'She's got electric boobs. A mahazoo. She’s got a rabbit and a Pakistani’,” I sang.
"What the heck is a mahazoo?" asked my brother-in-law. I thought it was a type of machine gun and will never live that one down. It wasn't until Pink's version of Bennie and the Jets came out in 2018 that I truly understood the lyrics.
One afternoon as we were lounging by the pool, I decided to come clean to my musically inclined daughter and let her in on some mistakes I regularly made with the lyrics of pretty much every song I sang. She has always been well spoken for her age and as early as three years old, she pointed out to me “This is the song where Ariel grew her legs.” as we listened to “The Little Mermaid” soundtrack on a record. Honestly, I never even heard music playing in the background of the movie. I only really noticed it was musical when someone was actually singing. More recently, we gave my daughter two tickets to “The Music of Ramin Djawagi”, creator of the music for “The Game of Thrones” and “Westworld”. She really hears and appreciatesmusic. She took a friend who also hears the music.
After my confession, she shook her head and looked at me with concern. "Don't beat yourself up Mom. We can't know the words to all the songs. I thought Bennie and the Jets said 'She's got electric boobs' until the Pink version came out."
Lisa Owens writes a monthly column for the Empire-Tribune and Glen Rose Reporter. Her columns are inspired by true events. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.