The Gospel Of Baz

When I was in Kuala Lumpur in June 1999, one particular song was playing in William’s car while we were cruising down Jalan Loke Yew. Or was it Eric’s car? My recollections of those times are scant. It was early evening; that I am sure of. Exhaustion from the previous night’s clubbing was catching up. I was exhausted and did not pay much attention to it. Besides, the song was monotonous.

A few months later, my sub-conscious memory tossed out some parts of the catchy lyrics. They made sense. Indeed, those bits were already words of wisdom. I searched for it in Yahoo! and Alta Vista. At that time, I have never heard of Google yet. That song was commonly known as The Sunscreen Song. Its title is Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen).

According to Wikipedia, the lyrics were originally an essay written by Mary Schmich and published in the Chicago Tribune in 1997. It became an urban legend when it was wrongly attributed to novelist Kurt Vonnegut as a commencement speech at MIT. Baz Luhrman, the Australian film director bought the rights to it. The track was read by Australian voice actor Lee Perry while Quindon Tarver performed the chorus.

Whenever I needed a pick-me-up like today, I would play the song to death. Inherently, some parts of it would reach out and touch me. Good sane advice those lyrics. I can identify with many parts of it. It has taught me how to be a better person. Yes, all that from a song that topped the UK Charts in June 1999. This is a song everybody should listen to at least once. Who knows? It may touch you they way it did me.

Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)
Baz Luhrman

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’97,

Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable then my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice… now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind, you would not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded, but trust me in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future, or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind: the kind that blindsides you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts; don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive; forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters; throw away your old bank statements.


Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives; some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of Calcium. Be kind to your knees – you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40; maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary.

Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body: use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or what other people think of it; it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance… even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.

Read the directions even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines; they will only make you feel ugly.

Brother and sister together we’ll make it through
Someday a spirit will take you and guide you there
I know you’ve been hurting, but I’ve been waiting to be there for you.
And I’ll be there just helping you out whenever I can.
Everybody’s free.

Get to know your parents; you never know when they’ll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings: they’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but that a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps and geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard.

Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths: prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old; and when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse, but you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you are 40, it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia; dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal – wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts, and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Brother and sister together we’ll make it through
Someday a spirit will take you and guide you there
I know you’ve been hurting, but I’ve been waiting to be there for you.
And I’ll be there just helping you out, whenever I can.
Everybody’s free.

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. End-stage renal disease since 2017. Principal Facilitator at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. Former columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

5 thoughts on “The Gospel Of Baz”

  1. I love that song! The words are so down to earth and realistic! Thanks for the lyrics. 🙂

    As realistic as it can get… advice that money cannot buy.

  2. I LOVE this song! Thank you for googling it for me! I’ve always wondered what it was called!

    Now you know! Hope you enjoy the song even more.

  3. yeah, thanks for bringing the memories back. it was indeed a wonderful song and it still struck a chord after so many years.

    i esp. love the first paragraph.

    The first paragraph? Wear sunscreen?

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