In 2002 my son Clayton turned 30, and the following year I hit the big 6-0, both disturbing birthdays (as are all ending in zero except the two you look forward to: 10 and 20). Everyone knows people who hate their birthdays and never celebrate them, or who minimize their importance. One of my chosen family members, Ann, has commented that her age at any given birthday is just a “random number,” to which I, perhaps unkindly, pointed out that the random number is somehow never lower than those in previous years. But, readers, I believe, and trust you agree, that we might as well celebrate our birthdays since they aren’t going to go away. We should take what enjoyment can and, as one wit on Savoynet (David Cookson) puts it, “beat the living carp out of that diem!”
This is particularly true for birthdays ending in a zero. Thus when Clayton and I reached the ones mentioned above we decided to write a special birthday song for such occasions. He needed a thirtieth birthday song, and I needed a sixtieth birthday song, so we decided to write one that would also operate as a fortieth birthday song or a fiftieth birthday song.
We both have some background in song writing. For mine see my post: “Strange Songs, Inc.,” September 29, 2010. Clayton, from an early age, has possessed major musical talents. He graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy High School in Michigan, where he explored these abilities in detail: teaching himself to play the piano, learning music theory, performing, singing (lovely bass voice), etc. For years in Seattle, where he now lives, he had his own rock band, and recently Clayton’s been writing classical music, including a string quartet he’s entered in competitions. Incredibly, he approached me last year with the idea of an opera, asking me to write the libretto for him to set to music (he’s very interested in atonal theory), and we’re well into Act One of what is currently named “The Center of the Universe.”
While trapped in an airport boarding area in mid-2002, I came up with the idea for a comic song called “Big Birthday” which would be adaptable for singing at any celebration of a birthday ending in a zero. Here are the lyrics I sent to Clayton for him to set to music (underlined words should be stressed to keep the right meter, and the name and age of the celebrant should, of course, be changed as appropriate):
They say it’s just a number
And age is in the mind
They say you’re looking younger
But they’re just being kind
Now we all surround you
With gifts and everything
Fire up the cake
Your wishes make
And everybody sing:
Oh, it’s a BIG BIRTHDAY
With a zero at the end
Yes, it’s a BIG BIRTHDAY
For you, our aging friend
Goodbye to your (20s)
Although you loved them so!
Happy Birthday (Clayton)!
It’s the Big (3) 0!
Once you were a youngster
With no thought of growing old.
You’re wiser now and smarter
(At least that’s what we’re told)
So do not let this birthday
Make you sad or blue
Though every year
More people here
Are younger, friend, than you!
Chorus: Oh, it’s a BIG BIRTHDAY (etc., but ending with "Oh, NO!")
Clayton produced a rock version of this song, and it was performed by him at both birthday celebrations, but I suggested to him that a non-rock version might be easier for large groups to sing, so we played around with his melody to produce the version of the song that has since become quite popular. People who hear it at one birthday party frequently request a CD of the music and a copy of these brutal lyrics to use at another. This led us to the idea of selling the song on my website, where visitors can listen to it gratis, and then, if they like, download it: http://douglaswhaley.bandcamp.com/track/big-birthday. Two versions of the song exist as MP3 files: one with and one without the vocal (sung by a talented man named Pete Tender, who is also playing the accompaniment), permitting singers to rehearse the song by hearing the vocal and then use the other music-only version at the actual birthday event. Both versions can be downloaded for the total sum of $1.75.
If you are one of those evil friends who want to sing something different for a 30th birthday song, a 40th birthday song, a 50th birthday song, a 60th birthday song, or an even higher big birthday, see if this nonsense might be suitable.
Warning: unless you are deliberately trying to end a friendship, only perform “Big Birthday” for celebrants who can take it with a grin.
“The Boot Camp Fiasco,” April 21, 2010
"Strange Songs, Inc.," September29, 2010
"'The Carolers': A Comic Christmas Song," December 7, 2010