Growing up for me in the late 70’s and early 80’s had it’s high points as well as the low points that I have talked about within this blog. I have also talked about the importance music had on me to get me through some of the low points during the bully years.
One group of musicians that I latched onto early, (long before they became the popular group in the late 80’s), was R.E.M. Besides the fact that I thought their music was unique, there was also a nerdy quality about them that made me think they understood the plight of those who were bullied. Back in the early days, when the album Murmur first came out in 1983, I was already hooked to their sound. I followed them through High School, College, and then in 1992 they released maybe my favorite album by them, Automatic for the People.
Their previous album was very bright, as in the music had a happy energetic beat and seemed very commercial. But Automatic for the People returned them to their quieter, darker roots. One song in particular was very powerful. It was called “Everybody Hurts” and was their message about suicide. The video was also very popular and powerful and touched many people.
Recently, my younger son, who is 12 has been going through the typical tween tough times. Things are happening, like friends are friends with you one day and then treat you bad the next day, then are friends again the next day, etc. Also, he is starting to do the “growing up” thing, where he realizes he can’t be a younger kid anymore, but he’s not quite a teenager. These are tough times, I remember, and for some even tougher due to bullying.
The other day, we were talking about this when he was in one of his more “I’ll talk to Dad” modes. He shared with me his troubles and how he was feeling. I told him it’s hard to imagine right now, but that these tough times do get better. That his friends will mature also and that everybody goes through these tough tween, teen times. As I was saying this to him, I was struck by how easy it probably is for these young people to not see the light at the end of the tunnel. The future seems so far away when you are 12, but later in life 12 years goes by in the blink of an eye. It made me think of the saying about life having peaks and valleys. But the reality is that, whether you are on a peak or a valley, you still need to keep walking to get to your next destination, whether that’s another peak or a valley. That’s the great unknown.
Given the recent news about suicides from bullying, I thought I would share the lyrics to this song. Back in the early days, many critics of R.E.M. complained about their music, because Michael Stipe had a tendency to mumble their lyrics when he sang. Not on this song. Maybe you have heard it before, maybe you haven’t. Take a read of these lyrics. They are still powerful to me, 18 years after they first came out. Then maybe listen to the song again. I’ve included the video below. And while listening, remember Carl Josef Walker, Phoebe Prince, and the countless other young people who have taken their lives due to the bullying they endured.