Saturday, April 01, 2006

Toying With the Kids

I've never brought an argument with a friend on to the blog, but this one's really gotten to me. "That Lucky Old Sun" is probably my second-favorite Ray Charles song, behind "You Don't Know Me." And I've always loved, in particular, the verse where he sings (to my ear):
I fuss with my woman
And I toy with my kids
I sweat till I'm wrinkled and gray
I know that lucky old sun
Has nothing to do
But roll around heaven all day
Nick was singing the first two lines of that verse walking around during lunch the other day, and he sang "I toil with my kids." I stopped him. "No, it's 'toy' with my kids." He expressed contempt for my position. And when we got back to the office, he sent me a ream of Internet research that proved with some certainty that the lyric, as originally written by Haven Gillespie and Beasley Smith, was "fuss with my woman, toil for my kids." That makes sense, and I've come to a hard-won peace with it.

Still, my argument remains that it's possible to imagine Charles changed it. After all, he's clearly singing "with," not "for," so he at least changed that. (As Nick points out, this could easily have been a simple mistake; and I believe he also made a crack about the possible role of heavy drugs in such a mistake.) I've always heard "toy," and can still hear it, though Nick says the "toil" pronunciation is obvious (and granted, Nick's ear is a thousand times more refined than mine).

Why do I care so much? I don't like having petty, but emotional, longstanding beliefs altered. And this is an emotional song. And I like the idea that he's wearily singing about toying with his kids, making it sound like an obligation in which he's halfheartedly participating. And while toiling for kids makes sense, toiling with kids doesn't as much -- are they punching in at the coal mine with him or something?

A few people on the Internet hear "toys," but the evidence is strongly on Nick's side. Anyone who knows the song well care to weigh in?


Anonymous Nick said...

Sure. It's "toil."

8:24 PM  
Blogger Dezmond said...

I don't know, but JW makes a good point. Just because the lyrics are written one way by the songwriter, there is a long tradition of artists messing with them.

My favorite is what Devo did you The Rolling Stones "Satisfaction". They altered almost entire verses.

12:12 PM  

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