07 Apr Why Musician Randy Kaplan’s Version of ‘Hugs for My Family’ is the Virtual Embrace We All Need
By Randy Kaplan
Hello there! I just released a digital single: “Hugs for My Family (Coronavirus Version).” My pal Marisa — a fellow rocker parent and the editor of this blog — invited me to share the song with you and tell you a bit about its inception. So here goes.
In 2018, I participated in Steve Denyes‘s 20-Songs-in-20-Days challenge, in which Kindie Music fans created titles and Steve (and a different one of his colleagues each day) wrote songs with those titles, one per day for 20 days. On the morning of February 4 (Super Bowl Sunday), I was given the title “Hugs for My Family, High Fives for My Friends.” I cooked up a song about that season’s flu epidemic. It became a SiriusXM Radio Kids Place Live hit, and I donated a portion of the royalties to Happy Star Melodies, a charity that brought musical instruments and musical experiences to kids facing long hospital stays. (The charity has since closed its doors.)
Last week, during our quarantine and lockdown here in Michigan, I thought about that song and how that terrible flu season seemed like the good old days compared to this current scourge. I took a look at the lyrics and saw that some changes were necessary if I were going to sing the song again. In the original version, the narrator has hugs for his family but only high fives for his friends. Now it would be luxurious to high five a friend. So I had to change that lyric along with some of the other no-longer-relevant passages. The coronavirus version was thus formed.
I also changed some of the symptoms from those associated with flu to those associated with COVID-19. And I had to add lines about handwashing and hand-sanitizing and the dry knuckles that result from all of that abrasion. Some interesting rhymes resulted:
So now that I’ve donned these gloves I’ve got on
and rolled down my sleeves, I’m not quite as skeeved.
But it’d still be nightmareful if my hands touched a hairful
or a handful of germs from your palm or some derm-
atological surface; we gotta be careful
not to cough or sneeze droplets and not breath in airfuls
of air that are filled with this novel corona-
virus that’s high-risk, so I sit here alone. A
slick surface like metal can host this corona thing.
It’s really unsettling. I just want my phone to ring
‘cause sitting here reading online is too much for me:
percentages, ratios, CNN, CDC.
I also worked in some terms in the news, terms we’re all well-versed in by now: “social distancing,” “flattening the curve,” “asymptomatic transmission,” fomites … okay, nobody but me and the infectious disease doctors know that last one. But you’ll know it too as soon as you look it up. [Side note, for the kids: Hey, when I was your age, I had to use an actual dictionary with weight and volume. It was much more onerous!] Anyway, “fomite” rhymes with “poem might,” so I had to use it.
I have gotten a lot of nice feedback on the song. It seems to make people feel better to hear someone express a range of emotions they feel but may not have expressed. There’s anxiety in the song, yes, but there’s also hope, humor, and solidarity. The overall message, seen most clearly right there in the last quatrain, is the same as it was two years ago:
For now, yes, it’s scary, but we’re in it together.
This ton-of-bricks heavy’s feeling light as a feather
‘cause talking to you keeps me safer for longer.
The long and the short of it’s that together we’re stronger.
I’m certainly looking forward to high-fiving you when this quarantine ends! Until then, see you in cyberspace!
Listen for free (for now) at SoundCloud:
Coming soon to iTunes, Pandora, and all the rest!
Randy Kaplan is a father, musician, teacher and author.