Sunny Side of The Street

In 5th grade our musical education teacher would visit us in our classroom once a week. A short woman with bright white hair, she teetered around pushing a cart full of dusty songbook. She went out of her way to enunciate every word she said with overstated lip movement that it looked like she was trying to teach us all lip reading. She couldn't have been better for the role. We had a few staple songs, one oft-requested song called Ghost Ship that we would sing in round, and another called Sunny Side of the Street. One of my classmates with much older brothers raised his hand during music class one day, and our sweet old music teacher called on him, "Uh, Ms. Nelson, my brother said that the guy who sang this song was on drugs." The normal thing to do in front of a class of 5th graders would have been to laugh and say "Of course not, now let's sing a round of Ghost Ship!" Instead she stood there for a few moments with a look on her face I would later recognize as abject shock and said, "Well, yes, I suppose so." Then we went back to singing Sunny Side of the Street. It should have been a watershed moment for all of us to realize that not everyone who tried drugs ended up a homeless addict robbing people for their next score as Nancy Reagan had taught us. But instead I think we all assumed that the songwriter later became a "user" and homeless addict, you know, after the song. No one whose life had been ruined by drugs could ever write something so lighthearted and happy.

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