I chanced to hear a song yesterday morning that I hadn’t heard in at least thirty years, yet there I was driving down the highway singing along, the lyrics easily coming back to me like some old childhood prayer that you can never forget. You know, one of those songs that keeps coming back to you throughout the day and you just can’t get it out of your head.
Yeah, that song brought back a lot of memories some pleasant and a few rather unpleasant ones as well. Funny how we have the ability to catalog memories and push the darker ones back to some far off corner of our minds where they remain un-thought of for decades until something comes along, like this song, to stir up the dust and uncover them.
I was actually quite surprised to have heard this particular song. It was only a minor hit, never a number one or even in the top ten, just another song of the time that I happen to associate with a certain period of my life. The song I’m referring to is “ Your Own Backyard” by Dion, who had a major hit with “Abraham, Martin and John” as well as a string of hits in the early 60’s with Dion and the Belmonts including “The Wanderer” and “Run Around Sue.” The song was released in 1970 but became more significant to me in the late 70’s. Here’s a sample of some of the lyrics:
Well I’m just sitting here thinking about when I started in drinking Went on to dope, Surely did change my life. I cried a tear in a beer for me lost everything near and dear to me mainly my children and my wife. My idea, of having a good time sitting with my head between my knees. I knew everything there was to know everything except which way to go I cried Oh God take me will you please. I can quit! Please let me finish what I got After all this stuff sure costs a lot Then I’ll get my feet back on the ground… final verse I can do anything that I want to do I do it straight, I do it so much better too And it’s got to start right in your own backyard. I said it’s got to start in your own backyard You know Everybody has their own beautiful backyard…
Yeah, It’s a great song, one of those songs that sort of kick starts the thinking process, gets you where you live. You may even find yourself saying to yourself, “Wow he could be singing about me.” Fact is, he could be singing about a lot of us. Although Dion is obviously talking about alcohol, drug addiction and getting straight, he doesn’t have to be. The drugs he refers to could be anything, money, power, greed, materialism, any number of things. The real theme of the song is redemption and rebirth. It’s about waking up and coming to terms with your problem or situation and facing it head on. It’s about taking a long, hard look at your life and realizing that what you’ve been searching or longing for has been there all along, right there in your own back yard. Yeah the song sort of put things in perspective.
Sadly it takes many of us most of our lives to discover that we have a beautiful backyard. You know the old saying about not seeing the forest for the trees? It certainly applies to many of us. Sometimes we have such a wonderful backyard, filled with friends, fun, family and love, yet we don’t see it. We don’t see what really matters. Instead we see a barren piece of land, or a plot of earth choked with weeds. We blind ourselves to its true nature and long for greener pastures often hurting those who truly mean the most to us and destroying ourselves as well as our relationships.
“Your Own Backyard” is a wakeup call. It beckons us to open our eyes, conquer our fears and addictions and dependencies and take back our lives! It’s a challenge to leave your crutches and other vices behind and realize what you’ve got before it’s too late. What was it Joni Mitchell sang back in the 60’s “Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you got til its gone.” Ain’t it the truth. As a good friend of mine once wrote:
“Take a long loving long Take a long, long, loving look around, and you just might realize, see the world with brand new eyes …”
So take some time and reevaluate your situation, make those long needed changes, learn to see the beauty of your own backyard. It will be worth it! You will be amazed! Remember, “an unexamined life is not worth living.”