Since the song loses something if you haven’t heard it, I invite you to listen now. You really only need the chorus, so if it’s not your thing, you don’t have to listen long.
It’s by this guy: Arlo Guthrie.
The famous American folksinger, Woody Guthrie, is his dad. Woody’s work is stellar, and much more earnest than Arlo’s.
Today in the car, Child said, “hey mommy, you wanna hear a song I know?”
It was after she’d demanded I play Regina Spektor’s “Uhmerica,” which Child calls “The OOh song.” She prounounces that Ooh as if she’s getting socked in the gut. Click the link. Hear the song. Good times.
So while I scrolled through tracks and discs, Child sang, “I don’t want a pickle, I just wanna ride on my mooooooootorsickle…”
This is a song that my father sings.
He instilled a fondness for that and for “Alice’s Restaurant” in all four of us kids via the vinyl copy of Alice’s Restaurant that’s probably still swimming around in the clutter at my parents’ house.
God I loved “Alice’s Restaurant.” Some of my earliest artsy teen memories are of open mic night at the local coffee shop where I’d always ask this hippie guy, the Em Cee, to do his full, 20-minute rendition of the song.
But all of us sing “The Motorcycle Song.” Dad’s rendition is particularly cute. My sibs, both my parents, and now Child.
So I asked her, “Did Pop Pop teach you that?”
She said, “Nah. I just heard it and learned it.”
She sang all of the words perfectly. I said, “Who did you hear singing it,” hopeful for a moment that there is some kind of neo folk fan movement about which I am not aware because I suck at pop culture.
She said, “You, Grandma, Auntie, Auntie, Uncle Kuppie, Pop Pop.” She said this like some sort of bored, teenage list. Seven is sassy. You should know that she calls one of her aunts Anty (the Southern pronunciation) and one of her aunts Ahnty (the New England pronunciation).
Aside from the way this exchange tickled me, and aside from the fun Child and I had thinking up words that rhyme with pickle and die, to insert into silly renditions, it occurred to me that Arlo Guthrie is the author of a pretty significant chunk of cultural influence on my family’s. I can’t decide if I think that’s awesome or sad. At this moment, I’m leaning hard on awesome.
What about you–what are your family’s theme songs?