Life is so short; we should all have a theme song.

Everyone and everything should have a theme song.

Something that makes you feel good, even if times are not so good. Something that gets your foot tapping, your blood pumping, your face smiling.

Mine’s “Pirate” by Ini Kamoze.

click image to watch / listen

“‘Pirate.’ Of course,” say people who either know me or are regular readers, probably with a bored sigh. Enough, already, of hearing about how I was born on International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

More on that in a minute…

Actually, Ini’s song hits different for me in three different ways; the unofficial international holiday is just one.

I. Reggae

I’ve loved reggae since 1983, when UB40 released its iconic album, “Labor of Love.” Who doesn’t love “Red, Red Wine,” “Please Don’t Make Me Cry” and “Cherry Oh Baby” But UB40 is more of a ska/pop/reggae mix, not traditional or pure reggae. Even so, they led me to The Man, The Myth, The Legend –Bob Marley. The late, great reggae master and his Wailers really brought the form into the mainstream.

And what a form it is. Happiness and light – you can almost feel the Jamaican sunshine on your shoulders – plus gravity and defiance set to bass, drum and guitar upbeat. And the voices! Oh, the voices.

Bob led me to others, like Peter Tosh, Ini, Neville Lindo and Toots & The Maytals. To this day, the latter’s “Beautiful Woman” is one of my favorite songs of all time. You should check it out.

Me & Reggae Side Story

In the summer of 1989, right after my sophomore year at North Dakota State University, I worked at a dude ranch called the Aspen Lodge just outside of Estes Park, Colo. Besides climbing Longs Peak (elevation 14,259 ft.), which was right across the valley from the lodge, one of the highlights was to be a concert at Red Rocks amphitheater. There were some amazing acts at Red Rocks that summer: Stevie Ray Vaughn, 10,000 Maniacs and Indigo Girls, just to name a few. There also was to be an all-day reggae festival in August, “Reggae on the Rocks.” I couldn’t afford to go to more than one show that summer, so I held out. But then…

In mid-July, Red Rocks announced that Reggae on the Rocks was postponed to September, by which time I would be back in North Dakota, probably thinking about an upcoming exam.

I skipped 10,000 Maniacs opening for Indigo Girls.

I skipped Stevie Ray.

I skipped the entire Red Rocks summer season.

That’s how much I loved – and still love – reggae.

Lyrics to "Pirate" by Ini Kamoze - Theme Song 1
Lyrics to "Pirate" by Ini Kamoze - Theme Song 2

I still have not seen a concert at Red Rocks.

I’d still make the same decision.

II. The Message

“Well, I don’t wanna be friendly / with a man who would tell me / one truth and twenty lie.”

BOOM! What a line.

It’s always struck me, and stuck with me.

Keep in mind, I grew up in the Reagan ’80s. Even at age 17 in 1986, when “Pirate” came out, I knew trickle-down economics was malarkey, politicians lie How do you know when a politician’s lying? He opens his mouth. – and too few people had too much wealth while the rest of us had next to nothing by comparison. I knew it all too well, having grown up in a household whose annual income hovered just above the poverty line for a family of four.

They say Ini was writing and singing about the treatment he received from the executives at Island Records, his first label. But to me, the words are a perfect encapsulation of the “haves.” Plus, the line describes nearly every politician who ever “served,” where “served” means always looking out for #1, amassing as much wealth as possible and screwing over anyone necessary to get it, including, and perhaps especially, their constituents.

These days the correlation is more poignant than ever. (Pease see: Ted Cruz, Ron Desantis, Joe Manchin. Please also see: Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Elon Musk.)

As a bona fide “little guy” type of guy, I’ve always despised those 20 lies.

MCFIV as pirate with Barbarossa tattoo
Barbarossa (Italian for “Redbeard”) was a Mediterranean pirate. I have no idea what he looked like, but this one’s mine.

III. I Am a Pirate

Hilarious, right? Coming from a guy who is literally as far from any ocean as it is physically possible to be. Here in Fargo, N.D., I’m only 181.4 miles from the geographical center of North America.

Still, I am a pirate. A landlocked one, granted, but a pirate nonetheless. Try to tell me otherwise and I might take one a’ yer eyes, ye scurvy dog!

I claim piracy for two reasons:

First, my birth date is September 19, which just happens to be International Talk Like a Pirate Day. How could I not claim that? And write about it. Repeatedly.

Ergo the bored sighs.

Second, I identify with pirates. Not in all the nastiness – thieving, killing, pillaging and whatnot – but in being oneself and living by one’s own rules.

My code includes integrity, honesty, straight talk, kindness, empathy and never, ever allowing others’ opinions of me guide my decision-making. It’s a daily thing, an hourly thing, even, and, depending on who I’m with at a given moment, it can be a minute-to-minute thing. I’m not always successful, but as they say, tomorrow’s another day.

I’ve discovered this can be a challenging way to live. Plus, it really pisses some people off. While most would never admit it, they can’t abide people they can’t control, shape in their own image or force to kowtow to societal norms.

Graphic of Sylvester McNutt III quote

Funny thing, though: I’ve also discovered this is an easier way for me to live, and I’m a lot happier when I do. Besides, pissing people off is nothing new for me; I can deal with that, and them, when necessary.

Finally, I offer no explanations (except the one you’ve just read); I don’t believe I owe them.

Mostly, though, it’s about, as Ini says, “To my own self I must be true.”

Theme Song Guy

As for theme songs, well, I realized I should have one while watching Disney’s “The Emperor’s New Groove” recently. If you haven’t seen it, you really must. Fun flick.

Not only does Emperor Kuzko have a theme song, but he has a Theme Song Guy. Check it out:

So.

Look…

This is all kinda goofy, I know. But what the heck. “Pirate” makes me feel good. That’s all that truly matters.

Take my advice and find a song that speaks to you. Something that makes you feel good. Something that can reach you when you’re feeling low, when things aren’t going quite the way you hoped, when someone who should always be there for you isn’t. Something that holds a deeper meaning. Whatever the song, whatever the reason(s), as long as it makes you, in the immortal words of Mr. Marley, a-feel alright.

Play it. All the time. Or at least whenever you need it. Remind yourself that you are badass, no matter what others say or what’s going down in your life. Life can be a bummer; a kick-ass theme song is the least you can do for yourself. And remember – to channel Quentin Tarantino through Christian Slater as Clarence – “Sometimes it goes the other way, too.”

So be a pirate, or whatever it is you want to be. You be you. And above all, be kind to yourself. It’s the best thing you can do for everyone else.

MCFIV is a pirate. Argh!

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Graphic - MCFIV Copyright 2022 Black

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