Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)

lyrics by Mary Schmich (Chicago Tribune journalist); incorrectly attributed to Kurt Vonnegut for a MIT graduation speech he never gave
by Baz Luhrmann [director of Strictly Ballroom and Romeo + Juliet]
from Something For Everyone
voice: Lee Perry

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '97, wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.
The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists,
whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable
than my own, meandering experience.
I will dispense this advice, now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth.
But never mind, you will not
understand the power and beauty
of your youth until they've faded.
But trust me, in twenty years,
you will look back at photos of yourself and
recall --- in a way you can't grasp now --- how much
possibility lay before you
and how fabulous you really looked.

You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future.
Or worry, knowing that worry is just as
effective as trying to solve an
algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.
The real troubles in your life
are apt to be things that never
crossed your worried mind.
The kind that blind sides you at
4 PM on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don't be reckless with other people's hearts,
don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don't waste your time on jealousy.
Sometimes you're ahead.
Sometimes you're behind.
The race is long and in the end,
it's only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive.
Forget the insults.
If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.
Keep your old love letters.
Throw away your old bank statements.


Don't feel guilty if you don't know what to do with your life.
The most interesting people I know
didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives.
Some of the most interesting 40 year olds still don't.

Get plenty of calcium.
Be kind to your knees.
You'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't.
Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't.
Maybe you'll divorce at 40.
Maybe you'll dance the 'Funky Chicken' on your
75th wedding anniversary.
Whatever you do,
don't congratulate yourself too much
or berate yourself either.
Your choices are half chance.
So are everybody else's.

Enjoy your body.

Use it everywhere you can.
Don't be afraid of it or
what other people think of it.
It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.


Even if you have nowhere to do it
but your own living room.

Read the directions even if you don't follow them.
Do not read beauty magazines.
They will only make you feel ugly.

Brother and sister, together we'll make it through.
Someday our spirit will take you and guide you there.
I know you've been hurting,
but I've been waiting to be there for you.
And I'll be there, just helping, well, whenever I can.

Get to know your parents.
You never know when they'll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings.
They are your best link to your past and
the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go.
But for a precious few, you should hold on.

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle,
for as the older you get, the more you need
the people you knew when you were young.

Live in New York City once,
but leave before it makes you hard.
Live in northern California once,
but leave before it makes you soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths.
Prices will rise. Politicians will philander.
You, too, will get old.
And when you do,
you'll fantasize that when you were young,
prices were reasonable,
politicians were noble
and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you.
Maybe you have a trust fund,
maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse,
but you never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair
or by the time you're forty, it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy,
but be patient with those who supply it.
Advice is a form of nostalgia.
Dispensing it is a way of
wishing the past from the disposal,
wiping it off, painting over the
ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Brother and sister, together we'll make it through.
Someday our spirit will take you and guide you there.
I know you've been hurting,
but I've been waiting to be there for you.
And I'll be there, just helping, well, whenever I can.

Everybody's free.
Everybody's free to feel good.

added February 2000 (source)

Following from http://hollywoodandvine.com/bazluhrmann/main.html 

Anton Monsted, Josh Abrahams and I were working on a remix of Everybody's Free when Ant showed me something he had received from a friend by e-mail; apparently Kurt Vonnegut's graduation speech to students at MIT. On reading it, Vonnegut's simple observations and ideas seemed to provide a profoundly useful guide for getting through life, and we instantly decided to record it. The problem was we only had a day or two to go on the deadline and contacting Vonnegut's agent in time was impossible. The idea seemed unlikely. It was two o'clock in the morning, and this somewhat depressed us, so Anton plugged his computer into the wall and surfed the net to find more information on contacting Vonnegut.

What he found was to surprise us all: newspaper articles on what had become the "Sunscreen Controversy" and what was to prove an amazing moment in the early life of the internet. Anton was immediately printing out news of how the work of a brilliant columnist for the Chicago Tribune had been lifted from her column, and a student as a hoax had connected Vonnegut's name and chain e-mailed it to students all over the world. The words struck a chord with those who read them, and so Vonnegut's "sunscreen speech" was born. It was now four o'clock in the morning and we sat stunned as we read pieces of information.

It seemed to us, whether Vonnegut wrote it or not, the ideas in the piece make such great sense. Back onto the internet again, and we were e-mailing Mary Schmich, the young journalist who wrote it for the Chicago Tribune. Fortunately, Mary had quite a connection to both Strictly Ballroom and Romeo + Juliet, so a day later we were in Sydney recording with a local actor the spoken element of what is now "Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen)." What I think is extraordinary, apart from the inherent values in the ideas, is that we were experiencing ourselves a historical moment in the life of the internet, an example of how massive publishing power is in the hands of anyone with access to a PC.

from Chicago Tribune

The 'sunscreen' column by Mary Schmich

It all started innocently enough in a June 1, 1997, column: "Wear sunscreen." The column set off an odd swirl of e-mail, confusion and unruly hair all over the country and its esteemed media:

"Friends had e-mailed it to friends, who e-mailed it to more friends, all of whom were told it was the commencement address given to the graduation class at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The speaker was allegedly Kurt Vonnegut.

"Imagine Mr. Vonnegut's surprise. He was not, and never has been, MIT's commencement speaker.

"Imagine my surprise. I recall composing that little speech one Friday afternoon while high on coffee and M&M's."

June 1: The column that started it all
"Most of us, alas, will never be invited to sow our words of wisdom among an audience of caps and gowns, but there's no reason we can't entertain ourselves by composing a Guide to Life for Graduates."

August 3: When the Internet meets reality
"... out in the lawless swamp of cyberspace, Mr. Vonnegut and I are one. Out there, where any snake can masquerade as king, both of us are the author of a graduation speech that began with the immortal words, 'Wear sunscreen.'"

August 8: Whither cyberspace?
"My editors -- I swear -- asked me to write this column exploring the cyber issues of the story. They were as sympathetic as concrete when I whined that I was too busy exploring the issues on the nightly news and "Nightline," though they seemed happy to know why, for a change, I'd combed my hair."

March 31, 1999: From column to song: “Sunscreen” spreads to Chicago
"In Chicago's rich journalistic history, newspaper columns have nailed corrupt politicians, freed innocent prisoners and won Pulitzer Prizes. Not until this month, however, had one cracked the Billboard Hot 100 pop music charts.” By Mark Caro.


TUNarium - tune lyrics  /  last updated July 29, 2000 / Feedback welcome