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Audio influences

I was a guest in the inner sanctum: Oldest Daughter's bedroom.

We were painting a skyscape on the ceiling. The Goo Goo Dolls and Cher were there, too, providing high-decibel inspiration. (Do you suppose Michelangelo listened to KISS 108-FM, I wondered?)

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"Dad, have you heard this one?" she asked. "You'll like it."

The No. 1 requested song of the night was ... a commencement address.

That's right.

Four-and-a-half minutes of pithy, fatherly advice intoned over a disco tune. Not rap. More like a reading.

Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum....

Do one thing every day that scares you.


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


Get to know your parents.

Wow. A song for all those parents who fret about the audio influences on their offspring.

I'm not saying this is Proverbs. But when your adolescent seeks refuge in a sonic world largely inhabited by morning shock jocks and such talents as Insane Clown Posse, this is, at worst, a nice change of pace. And teens recognize it.

At rock radio stations from Boston to Seattle, "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" is the No. 1 requested song. Sales are soaring. The album debuted last week at No. 125 and is now at No. 78 on Billboard's Top 200 chart.

The kicker? Adults can understand the lyrics.

If the words sound familiar, then you might remember that this is the same graduation address supposedly given by novelist Kurt Vonnegut at MIT two years ago. It isn't by Mr. Vonnegut. That was an Internet hoax. In fact, the "lyrics" are by Mary Schmich, who wrote them for her Chicago Tribune metro column.

The reincarnation of Ms. Schmich's column as pop music comes courtesy of Australian film director Baz Luhrmann. Mr. Luhrmann, who made "Romeo and Juliet," starring Leonardo DiCaprio, apparently has a keen sense for what clicks with teens.

"Sunscreen" draws the ultimate phrase of praise from our resident eighth-grader: "It's cool."

Listen to the song.

But don't actually tell your teens you like it. That could be the kiss of death, like saying, "Mmm, don't you just love these Brussels sprouts?"

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