As readers of these pages know, I'm a huge fan of Tom Paxton, winner of a Lifetime Achievement Grammy, among many other honors. And even got to meet with the good fellow a couple of times, and got a lovely email from him after writing a column about him on the Huffington Post. So, it was a real surprise and treat when I saw a TV ad the other day that used one of his classic songs, "What Did You Learn in School Today?"
The ad was for Frontier Communications. And as pleased as I was to see one of his songs in the ad, it was also completely taken aback at home they edited it, to entirely change the meaning of the song 180-degrees.
More on that in a moment, first here's the ad.
Now, yes, it's a cheery song, and Paxton has written numerous children's songs, including the well-known "The Marvelous Toy" that Peter, Paul & Mary had a popular recording of.
But this is not a children's song. In fact, that's an almost hilarious bitter irony here in that the point of the song is proven by what the ad did. The point of the song, which was written in 1963 just as the United States had gotten involved in the Vietnam War -- and was first introduced by Pete Seger -- is to warn against believing everything you're told by authorities. That authorities sometimes leave out important facts, sometimes lie, sometimes tell you the very opposite of what the reality is, so learn what the truth is, think for yourself.
That Frontier Communication took this song with that point, moved lyrics around (to the degree that they don't even rhyme), and cut out all the dripping sarcasm, and turned it into an "All is well, authorities are always our friends!" is just too, too precious. And teeth-gnashing.
The one good thing from it, though, is that I suspect a lot of people will seek out the song online and hear the real thing.
Here's the real thing --
And just as a fun bonus, here are some updated lyrics that Tom Paxton wrote for the song -- and that he wrote these in 2010, not last year (or arguably even two weeks ago), is especially prescient of the guy,
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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