When it comes to words of wisdom, musicians are generally full of shit. Most are too busy rhyming ‘moon’ with ‘June’, spouting third-rate philosophy (think Sting) or pontificating on matters beyond their realm (think Bono) to offer much in the way of sound advice that a body can live with. But the dearth of deep thoughts in rock only makes the genuine pearls of wisdom shine that much brighter. Here are a dozen of my favorites…
The artist: Bob Dylan
The song: ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ (from the album Bringing It All Back Home)
The advice: You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
What makes it good: In typically cryptic fashion, Dylan speaks to the value of thinking for yourself, and puts a cool hippie twist on Mom’s old favorite: If All Your Friends Jumped Off A Cliff, Would You?
Listen: Subterranean Homesick Blues
The artist: Johnny Cash
The song: ‘Don’t Take Your Guns To Town’ (from the album The Fabulous Johnny Cash)
The advice: Don’t take your guns to town.
What makes it good: As Plaxico Burress can tell you, these are words to abide by…
Listen: Don’t Take Your Guns To Town
The artist: Woody Guthrie
The song: ‘Pretty Boy Floyd’ (from the album Dust Bowl Ballads)
The advice: Some will rob you with a six gun, and some with a fountain pen.
What makes it good: Leave it to a man from The Great Depression to sum up the current economic mess. Bank bailout anyone??
Listen: Pretty Boy Floyd
The artist: Supertramp
The song: ‘Take The Long Way Home’ (from the album Breakfast In America)
The advice: Take the long way home.
What makes it good: Modern life often feels like a race – it never hurts to slow things down and look around some.
Listen: Take The Long Way Home
The artist: Lynyrd Skynyrd
The song: ‘Simple Man’ (from the album Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd)
The advice: Take your time, don’t live to fast. Troubles will come, and they will pass.
What makes it good: Those words speak for themselves…
Listen: Simple Man [Live]
The artist: Funkadelic
The song: ‘If You Don’t Like The Effects, Don’t Produce The Cause’ (from the album America Eats Its Young)
The advice: If you don’t like the effects, don’t produce the cause.
What makes it good: George Clinton shares a simple formula for happiness.
Listen: If You Don’t Like The Effects, Don’t Produce The Cause
The artist: The Clash
The song: ‘Know Your Rights’ (from the album Combat Rock)
The advice: Know your rights.
What makes it good: A well-informed citizen is a good citizen.
Listen: Know Your Rights
The artist: The Beatles
The song: ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ (from the album Revolver)
The advice: Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream.
What makes it good: Stress kills…
Listen: Tomorrow Never Knows
The artist: Jim Croce
The song: ‘You Don’t Mess Around With Jim’ (from the album Photographs & Memories: Jim Croce’s Greatest Hits)
The advice: Don’t spit into the wind.
What makes it good: Beyond the literal interpretation, this is a good reminder to pick your battles wisely.
Listen: You Don’t Mess Around With Jim
The artist: The Rolling Stones
The song: ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ (from the album Let It Bleed)
The advice: You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.
What makes it good: Might as well get used to little defeats – life is full of ’em.
Listen: You Can’t Always Get What You Want
The artist: John Phillips
The song: ‘Holland Tunnel’ (from the album John The Wolfking Of L.A.)
The advice: Hock your watch and ring, ’cause it don’t mean a thing.
What makes it good: Shiny trinkets are not what happiness is made of…
Listen: Holland Tunnel
The artist: Prince
The song: ‘Kiss’ (from the album Parade: Music From Under The Cherry Moon)
The advice: You don’t have to watch Dynasty to have an attitude.
What makes it good: An open invitation to work that sass…