The mother of all misheard lyrics

Published 6:15 am Wednesday, February 28, 2024

By Les Ferguson Jr.

I have it on good authority that a friend once had a celebrity crush on Linda Ronstadt. I can’t fault him too much; she was a pretty lady.

Me? I was never much of a fan. I was more into Journey, Styx, Queen, or Boston in 1977. But that was a good year for Linda Ronstadt. She scored a hit with a cover of Warren Zevon’s “Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me.”

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In full disclosure mode, I don’t remember listening to that song back in the day, either from the original artist or the cover. But years later, it has become a staple on certain satellite radio stations. 

Have you ever heard of the MOAB? Not the Moab nation of the Bible, but the MOAB. That’s the nickname for the most giant non-nuclear bomb in the US arsenal. The Mother of All Bombs. 

It’s hard to imagine a connection between Linda Ronstadt and a military bomb, so let me explain.

I grew up in an era where song lyrics were not readily available. If not printed in the album, eight-track, cassette, or CD liners, your only recourse was careful attention to what you heard. Consequently, with the combination of human minds and ears, the listening world has long been plagued with misheard lyrics. Since you can google these days, I’ll let you look up your own examples. 

But that’s where the connection with Linda Ronstadt and MOAB comes into play. For more years than I care to remember, I’ve heard and sang along to “Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me.” 

Instead of the mother of all bombs, I now understand I was singing the mother of all misheard lyrics and what a bomb it was.

Poor, poor, pitiful me? Absolutely! I’ll never forget when my wife looked at me with unbridled horror as I sang, “Poor folks tickle me.”

Go ahead and laugh. It’s been ten years or so now since I learned the error of my ways. And, of course, I no longer wonder what those strange, misheard lyrics could mean. 

With apologies to Ms. Ronstadt for butchering her song all those years, I wonder how often I have misheard, misread, or simply misinterpreted people and their motives.?

I wonder how often I’ve caused harm by a failure to listen or even understand.

Seems to me in a fractured society such as ours, we’d do well to remember what James, the brother of Jesus, had to say: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: ‘Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.’” (1:19 NIV)

It wouldn’t take too much effort to make this world a better place, but until we do? Poor, poor, pitiful me and you.