By G. Michael Dobbs
As a kid I used to see the late Eddie Lawrence on various variety shows on television in his alter ego of The Old Philosopher.
I bet you’ll remember his biggest hit record of the same name. It also received considerable on-air play.
Against an accordion playing the song “Beautiful Dreamers,” Lawrence would have a conversation with a silent partner about all of the calamities that have beset that person.
Here’s one: “You say you can’t pull your car outa the mud and you’re in the middle of nowhere and it’s pouring rain and you can’t get the top back up, and you’re paycheck’s all blurred, and your foot went right through the gas and your girl’s screaming bloody murder she’s scared of the dark, and a stroke of lightning splits your motor in half and your suit’s shrinkin’ up fast, and you start up the windy road on foot and 60 yards of barbed wire hits you right smack in the puss, and you both fall down in the mud and then a wild animal comes over and runs away with your shoes, and your car blows up suddenly and your windshield wiper ends up in your mouth, and you can’t move and the mud’s rising up to your nostrils and you’re sinkin’ fast, and you don’t hear your girl screaming any more?”
He’d then ask, “Is that what’s troubling you, friend?”
Lawrence would then offer an response in a loud bravura style, “Well, lift your head up high and take a walk in the sun with that dignity and stick-to-it-iveness and you’ll show the world, you’ll show them where to get off, you’ll never give up, never give up, never give up— [two drumbeats] — that ship!”
To hear Eddie's "Old Philosopher" monologue, click here.
As a kid I thought this all was hilarious and it was a real pleasure to meet Lawrence in 1994. He even gave me a copy of his last album “The Jazzy Old Philosopher.”
I’ve wondered how Lawrence, who passed away in 2014, would have handled the string of problems we’ve had this year.
Consider what we as a nation has undergone. A pandemic that has killed more than 219,000 Americans is at the top of the list. Social unrest has never been stronger than since 1968. The pandemic has created an economy that has unemployment at record highs. The wildfire season is growing, destroying millions of acres in California. Hurricanes are at a record level, devastating much of the South. Honeybees, key to much of our agricultural production, are still on the decline.
And it may seem as a joke, but it isn’t, we’ve seen the emergence of the Asian insects known as “murder hornets” – they kill honeybees – and The Atlantic has reported on the impact and rise of feral pigs. Their headline said, “Wild pigs are running rampant—and doing billions of dollars of damage each year.”
The icing on this hideous cake is the presidential election, which has dramatically divided the country.
The combination of all of these things has resulted in a reaction of the darkest of humor for some people. I know it has for me. That’s how I’m able to cope.
The recent dump fire in Springfield inspired me to ask people if they had “dump fire” on their 2020 bingo card?
What’s next? I don’t want to hear the answer to that question.
I will admit that I’ve considered a more imminent retirement that I had been, but I’ve decided to hang in there. It wouldn’t make any sense to face all of these issues without a regular paycheck.
So I’m taking Old Philosopher’s advice: “Well, lift your head up high and take a walk in the sun with that dignity and stick-to-it-iveness and you’ll show the world, you’ll show them where to get off, you’ll never give up, never give up, never give up— [two drumbeats] —that ship!”
G. Michael Dobbs is the managing editor of Reminder Publishing LLC, and Prime’s local columnist.