The Idler is concerned with the topic of happiness today because of hearing that song about happiness over and over until he’s become so happy he could pulverize the next radio he hears it coming out of. You know, the one where the singer urges you to “clap along” if certain conditions are met. For instance, you should clap along “if you feel like a room without a roof.” Not to get too technical, but my personal experience with rooms is that the overhead affair they’re most likely to feature is known as a ceiling. Also, is the listener being asked if he feels like the room or like he’s in the room. I wonder if you’d feel more like a room if your name was Wally? (Ha-ha! OK, sorry.) The one time I felt like I was in a room without a roof – or a ceiling – was on a camping trip. “Happy” wouldn’t be the way I’d describe the feeling, though. “Cold” would be more accurate. “Wet” would be spot on.
Another suggested reason to clap along is if you feel that “happiness is the truth.” We’re not sure what to do with that one. Happiness might be the truth if you just hit the lotto, but not if you’re about to get a root canal. Truth if you draw to an inside straight; not if the rent is overdue. Truth if your girlfriend says she loves you; not if it’s “like a brother” (feel free to insert West Virginia joke here).
This type of tune seems to come along cyclically like sunspot activity or the Ebola virus. Back in the 80’s, Bobby McFerrin skyrocketed to No. 1 on the charts with “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” This was in an era when President Reagan was engaged in some nuclear brinkmanship with the Russkies. It had a calypso thing going on, and you may be surprised to learn that it was sung acapella. The entirety of the background “music” consisted of vocalisations by McFerrin. The problem was that the lyrics were complete gibberish. Nevertheless the song sort of hung around for months and years and scientists have yet to calculate how much audio equipment was destroyed as a result.
Before that there was the Broadway hit “Bye-Bye, Birdie” which everybody’s high school drama club probably put on at least once in the four or more years you attended. The Broadway show debuted in the early 1960’s and featured the song, “Put On A Happy Face.” This was at a time when superpower tensions were ramping up over the Berlin wall, followed by the apocalyptic nuclear standoff known as the Cuban missile crisis which took place right around the time the film version was released. The song is not nearly as irritating as the others inasmuch as it features some imaginative lyrics like, “Gray skies are gonna clear up, Put On A Happy Face! Brush off the clouds and cheer up, Put On A Happy Face!” That’s the kind of tune that could cushion the blow of a thermonuclear holocaust, am I right?
Hey, wait a minute, the Idler sees a pattern emerging here. Every time in recent history the world was about to end, someone came up with a sappy “Be Happy” song. Is history repeating itself? Does this mean that the Russians or the Iranians or the Israelis are set to drop the big one? If so, I don’t want to go out feeling like a room, roofless or otherwise. Let’s let Dick Van Dyke cheer us along as the ICBM’s receive their launch codes: “Pick out a pleasant outlook, Stick out that noble chin, Wipe off that full-of-doubt look, Slap on a happy grin! And spread sunshine all over the place, Just Put On A Happy Face!”
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