(With thanks to Mark, whose comment on my post "Holy Infidel Frog," introduced me to the word "mondegreen," though I had long been all too well acquainted with the concept.)
Growing up, our house had a soundtrack on the weekends--our dad singing aloud to whatever was on the radio or record player. Johnny Rivers, Gordon Lightfoot and Charlie Rich were always in heavy rotation. Consequently, I feel like I was practically born1 knowing the words to songs like "Poor Side of Town" and "Sundown" and "Rollin' With The Flow."
It's as though certain songs from certain albums were hard-wired into my neural programming. For as long as I can remember, I've been able to sing along to those songs without missing a beat2, no matter how long it had been since the last time I heard them.
Or so I thought. I recently put Charlie Rich's "Rollin' With The Flow" (written by Jerry Hayes, credit where it's due) on a mixed CD to listen to in the van. The song is basically about a guy who has refused to settle down and is proud of it, while at the same time a little surprised to still be alive.
There was a line in the chorus that my dad always sang, "I've got my angel raisin' kids, but I'm raisin' hell just like I did." Makes a certain kind of sense, right? Give the little woman a shout-out while you're bragging about still lovin' rock-and-roll and hanging out with your crazy friends, who forgive you of your sins?
For decades, I've sung it the same way and then one day this past week, something caught my ear as Charlie belted out that line. I thought to myself, "That sounds like a consonant at the beginning of that line." It was as if my whole world shifted beneath my feet--or at least the teeny corner of it reserved for my perceived mastery of pop music lyrics.
I skipped back a little in the CD and played the line again, trying desperately to figure out what he was saying because it was clear that it wasn't what I (or my dad apparently) had always thought. "Why guard my angel raisin' kids?" or "While God sends angels raising kids?" or "Why gargle angles on the skids?"
After several days of fruitless replaying, it was time for a sit-down with my pal Google. If what my father passed down to me was a mondegreen, what the first website offered me was surely a mondegreener: "I don't guide my age on raisin kicks."
Of course the actual answer--when I found it--was so obvious, I have no idea how I ever heard it any other way: "While guys my age are raisin' kids, I'm raising hell just like I did."
My dad turned 62 today. I'm not sure how much hell he feels like raisin', but his long-time girlfriend recently sent out a family email telling us all how he was serenading her during their week-plus vacation/road trip. It's nice to know some things haven't changed.
1. Never mind the fact that many of said songs were released well after my birth.
2. Please note: "without missing a beat" refers solely to knowing the lyrics and when and where to place them. I make no claim to any other ability commonly thought of as crucial to singing "well" or even tolerably.
"Chicken in the Car-The Car, She Go"
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