“Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” by Baz Luhrmann (ft. Lee Perry)

We live in a world where we’re constantly being bombarded with advice on how to live our lives, and it can perhaps be said that this movement, if you will, really started circa the 1990s. That said, part of the reason that life coaching, as some people call it, has become so popular would logically be because many of us are in fact discontent with how things turned out for us personally. A lot of times, as presented by such advisors, the reason things don’t materialize as idealized is because we are adverse to capitalizing on certain advantages when the time is ripe to do so.

“Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”

The above is at least part of the message behind this song. As noted, the lyrics represent a mock commencement speech, though what’s being put forth is for the most part pretty serious. 

The instruction to “wear sunscreen”, which starts off the presentation, reads as if, what the vocalist is actually advising is to value and preserve your youth as long as possible. 

Or as put forth later in the song, he is “the sunscreen”, with said substance being one which, most generally put, protects our health. So it’s as if the vocalist is saying that if his advice is indeed practiced by the intended addressees, not only would it lend to one achieving the aforementioned goal but also edifying their lives in general.

Thesis-sentiment wise, it can be said that the premise of this piece revolves around the idea of, as the old saying goes, ‘youth is wasted on the young’.

Or viewed differently, “the power and beauty of… youth”, as inferred by the vocalist, is one of the greatest gifts life has to offer. But it’s such that people don’t tend to understand how much of a blessing it is until after the fact. To note, it’s really the beauty aspect of being young that the vocalist seems to harp on. He talks about how 20 years prior, under his estimation, he was a lot more attractive than he is today.

Don’t waste your time worrying

Seemingly in relation to maintaining a youthful outlook on life, he also puts forth that worrying is not a good thing. Or more specifically it’s an act of vanity, as the more-pressing problems which materialize in life tend to be such that we couldn’t have predicted them anyway.

Focus on the positive things in life

Shortly thereafter, the song takes on more of an interpersonal dimension. And most simply put in that regard, the narrator seems to espouse the practices of shunning negativity, such as jealousy, while cleaving to positivity, “like the compliments” you receive from others. Conclusively concerning that segment, love should be prioritized over money.

As a young person don’t feel bad if you don’t know where your life is currently heading

Youth is also a time in one’s personal history where a lot of people don’t even know where their life is headed. Sometimes, we’re made to feel bad when we don’t have a definitive plan in tow. But what the vocalist is saying is ‘not knowing what to do with your life’ is nothing to “feel guilty” about. Or as he sees it, people who are more freestyle, if you will, also have a tendency to possess “the most-interesting” personalities.

The Long and Short of “Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen”

There are plenty of other musings that follow, more than we can succinctly encapsulate in this post. Some of it is very-personal to the narrator’s experience, such as him espousing spending time residing in NYC and Northern California. 

As the song progresses, it even seems to take on bit of a spiritual/religious tone, i.e. reading like the vocalist’s own Sermon on the Mount, in a manner of speaking.

But what he’s saying basically boils down to three general instructions. One is that youth is very enjoyable from a physical standpoint and thus should be cared for accordingly. 

Second is that having edifying interpersonal relationships, including with your parents and siblings, is paramount.  

Then third and perhaps most importantly is the idea that life isn’t meant to be stressful, and therefore we – and especially those who are now coming up – shouldn’t take things too seriously.

Baz Luhrmann, "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" Lyrics

Who wrote “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”

The lyrics of this song were actually written by Mary Schmich. At that time, Mary was a journalist writing on behalf of a popular newspaper known as the Chicago Tribune (and eventually winning a Pulitzer Prize in the early 2010s). As designed, the words of this song are meant to imitate a commencement speech, i.e. the addresses given by notable speakers during a graduation ceremony. And when it was published in 1997, Schmich, who was born in 1953, would have been in her mid-40s.

Beside for Schmich, the other credited writers of this song are Tim Cox and Nigel Swanston. The latter at least is someone who’s recognized as a musician even outside of this track. 

Baz Luhrmann

Meanwhile, Baz Luhrmann is a multi-faceted entertainer from Australia who’s primarily a filmography and not really into making music like that. In fact the Luhrmann album this song is featured on, “Something for Everybody”, appears to be the only one in his discography. But to note, on the film side of things (i.e. as a director), Baz is heavily decorated.

Luhrmann produced “Everybody’s Free” alongside two professional music artists, Josh Abrahams and Nellee Hooper.

More Interesting Facts

This song samples 1996’s “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)” by Quindon Tarver, which itself is a cover of a 1991 song of the same name by Rozalla. Tim Cox is credited as a writer of both of those pieces. And the Tarver version was featured on the 1996 film Romeo + Juliet, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It should be noted that Baz Luhrmann directed and co-wrote the said movie. 

So as the story goes, while they were working on the cover to “Everybody’s Free”, they came across Mary Schmich’s speech. At the time, the speech was circulating as a viral email and was wrongfully credited to another, more renowned writer, Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007). 

In any event Luhrmann and co. were instantly impressed by the text. They liked it so much that they promptly got Schmich’s permission to use it in a track based on that song. 

In “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”, Schmich’s words are being recited by an Aussie voice actor Lee Perry.

This track did prove to be a big hit, especially for a spoken-word piece. It appeared on four different American Billboard lists. It also topped the UK Singles Chart. In Ireland, it was also a number 1 hit.

Furthermore, it has been certified platinum by the BPI. Overall, “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” charted in many a nation. Aside from the United States and Britain, it charted impressively in these places too:

  • Switzerland
  • Sweden
  • Scotland
  • Norway
  • Netherlands
  • Germany
  • Denmark
  • Canada
  • Belgium
  • Australia

“The Sunscreen Song” is another title that this song commonly goes under.

Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)

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