30 songs in 30 days: #8 – Give it Away (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

Day 8: A song you know all the words to

I know most of the lyrics to lots of songs. When I listen to music I usually give in to the urge to sing along, so knowing the words is sort of vital to scratch that itch. Back when I used to buy albums on CD or even cassette, I would pore over the inserts, memorizing the lyrics to my favorite songs so I could belt them out when alone, usually while driving. In the event that there were no words included, I’d fake my way through the best I could, relishing the momentary euphoria of a sudden lyrical epiphany—I still remember the moment when, driving on a local road on my way to my parents’ house, I finally figured out a particularly elusive line in Collective Soul’s “She Said.” So gratifying.

Normally I confine my sing-alongs to moments of solitude, but in a flash of boldness not born of alcohol consumption, I tried my hand at karaoke. A month into graduate school was our departmental retreat, where the whole molecular biology department packed up and hung out at the beach for a nonstop science-fest of a weekend. The purpose is for labs to catch each other up on what everybody’s been doing for the past year, showcasing their major findings in short presentations and poster sessions. But after the evening talk sessions ended, the social hours began. So, enlisting the aid of a classmate, I decided to sing “Give it Away” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers in front of the entire department. Classmate was an over-6-foot guy wearing frayed camo shorts and chains around his neck, his long black hair spiked up into a pointy mohawk. Really looked the part. I was (and still am) a short, nondescript white guy. Nevertheless, confident in my knowledge of the words, I was the one fervently shout-rapping singer Anthony Kiedis’ lines, eschewing the lyric prompter in favor of storming and strutting around the stage area. I was neither glorified nor ridiculed afterwards, but I deem our performance a success based on an older student joining us from the audience and literally letting his hair down to headbang next to us. It was my own little taste of nerd rock-stardom. Thanks, Chili Peppers, for including your lyrics in your albums’ liner notes. And thanks, Dres, for letting me hog the spotlight that night.

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