Sing A Song

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 (Richard Swerdlow)

From Elmo to Guns ‘n Roses, Richard Swerdlow’s nephew has grown up awfully fast.

The rock concert was in full swing. Ear-splitting music had the place rocking out. The crowd roared as the guitar player played intricate licks, bopping up down, shaking flowing rock-star hair, singing harmony as he expertly strummed chords for the Guns 'n Roses tune.

But singing wasn't really new for him. I should know, he's my nephew Max and he and I spent many a babysitting evening singing together.

As a toddler, though, his musical choices were slightly different - more Sesame Street than Steppenwolf. At age 5, his signature tune was "Sing a Song" performed by a fuzzy red puppet named Elmo. A tiny Max and I would sing along. “Sing, sing a song," we belted together, more Ethel than Elmo, “Sing out loud, sing out strong."

And sing out strong he did. In the soap opera world of teenagehood, where every small crisis looms large, Elmo's simple song seemed to contain a useful philosophy for getting through high school.


"Sing, sing a song, don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear..."

And, somehow, when I wasn't looking, Max grew up. He suddenly towered over me, and sported a wispy hipster beard. Somehow, high school was over and he was in college.

"Sing, sing a song...let the world sing along."

Suddenly he had his first apartment, and was beginning his real life. Standing at the packed concert, watching Max enthrall the crowd, I realized he and his music had come a long way from Sesame Street. "Born To Be Wild" was far from "Rubber Duckie" and "Stairway to Heaven" was not quite "These are the people in your neighborhood." And, though the head-banging rock music was not exactly sentimental, I found myself a little choked up, thinking how quickly the years pass. How had little Max turned into this cool grown-up right before my eyes? One day, they're toddlers, next day they're rock stars.

The music may have been different all those years ago, but Elmo was right. Sing, sing a song. Make it simple to last your whole life long.

With a Perspective, I'm Richard Swerdlow.

Richard Swerdlow teaches in the San Francisco Unified Schoool District.