Jackson Browne rocks Red Rocks in Colorado. Photo by Al Lewis.
Everything I needed to know about money, I learned from rock and roll.
In fact, Jackson Browne set the stage for my whole life with just a couple of lines:
“I’m going to be a happy idiot and struggle for the legal tender,” he sang. “Where the ads take aim and lay their claim; on the heart and the soul of the spender.”
Browne released “The Pretender” in 1976, long before credit cards and home equity lines turned us into a nation of deadbeats and bankruptcy filers.
It was a time when rock and roll was not the standard sound track for TV commercials. When rock stars were more likely to be considered subversives than mainstream celebrities. And when corporate America had no clue that it could simply co-opt our cynical anthems of teenage rage, rebellion and non-conformity to sell us products.
Here are some other money lessons I’ve learned learned from rock ‘n roll:
*Somewhere in America, someone is falling for yet another Ponzi scheme. Or as Led Zeppelin sings: “There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold.”
* Wall Street is never what you think it is. Lou Reed: “A hustle here and a hustle there; New York City is the place where they said; Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side.”
* Cash is king. Beatles: “Money don’t get everything, it’s true; What it don’t get, I can’t use.”
* Bankruptcy is just another economic opportunity. Grateful Dead: “One man gathers what another man spills.”
* Whoever is president, reckless bankers still get bailouts and bonuses. The Who: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”
* Beware the man in the suit. Traffic: “The percentage you’re paying is too high priced; while you’re living beyond all your means; and the man in the suit has just bought a new car; from the profit he’s made on your dreams.”
* Rich kids can get away with anything. Warren Zevon: “Send lawyers, guns and money; Dad, get me out of this.”
* All wealth should more or less be distributed equally. Pink Floyd: “Share it fairly, but don’t take a slice of my pie.”
* “The check is in the mail” is still a viable stall tactic. George Thorogood: “I tell the landlady I got a job, I’m gonna pay the rent; She said “Yeah?” I said “Oh yeah”; And then she was so nice; Loh’ she was lovy-dovy.”
* Challenge authority, but pay your dues. Bob Dylan: “Don’t follow leaders; Watch the parkin’ meters.”
* Advertising is infectious: The Rolling Stones. “When I’m watchin’ my TV; And a man comes and tells me; How white my shirts can be; But he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke; The same cigarettes as me.”
* The bait and switch is as prevalent as the Ponzi. Neil Young: “They give you this, but you pay for that.”
* Americans will line up to buy anything from a large corporation. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: “As we celebrate mediocrity, all the boys upstairs want to see; How much you’ll pay for what you used to get for free.”
* There’s really only one good time to invest. The Doors: “There’s blood in the streets, it’s up to my ankles; Blood in the streets, it’s up to my knee.”
* If you don’t own the business, you are a chump. Bachman Turner Overdrive: “If you’re train’s on time, you can get to work by nine; And start your slavin’ job and get your pay. If you ever get annoyed; Look at me I’m self-employed. I love to work at nothing all day.”
* War in the Middle East is just another industry. The Clash: “The king called up his jet fighters; He said you better earn your pay; Drop your bombs between the minarets; Down the casbah way.”
* Everything you work so hard to maintain, may one day seem strange and unfamiliar. Talking Heads: “And you may tell yourself; This is not my beautiful house!; And you may tell yourself; This is not my beautiful wife!”
* You actually can buy love, but it may not be worth the price. J. Geils Band: “I’ve been through diamonds; I’ve been through minks; I’ve been through it all; Love stinks.”
Learned any lessons about money from a song? Post them here, and rock on!