Lyric of the Week: HAIR WARS
Updated: Jan 26
Dad came to this country in 1955
Having survived the European hell
Elvis, the Yankees, fast flashy cars
What better time to rebel.
Exercising freedom in the land of the free
Making a new way in the home of the brave
All the greenhorn greasers bombing around Long Beach
My dad with his gang, Jon, Jack, and Dave.
Slicking their hair out like James Dean
Always looking for a new deal to wheel
This is America, anything is possible
Just make it happen and it’ll be real.
Dad’s sister, my aunt, got here in 48
Stayed in the world she called safe
Roots pulled out in Hungary got put down in Brooklyn
Marked the solid line between kosher and treif
Being the older sister and all
She kept an eye on Dad
And what she’d say carried a lot of weight with him
Since she was the only close family he still had.
“Beware of these guys with long hair,” she told him
“They’ll lead you down all the forbidden ways.”
And those words made such a deep impression on him
That I’m still paying the price today.
Dad had his wild days but soon they’d cool
He met Mom, they had kids, they sent us to school
Where we’d learn the tradition and to live by the rules
Brought down from the mountain 3000 years ago.
Now Dad didn’t always toe that line
It hadn’t been that long since he left the wild days behind
But his sister’s words were never far from his mind
And so he kept his hair short, wouldn’t ya know.
Oh how cute could a little boy be
Gets his first haircut at the age of three
A custom brought over from the old country
Upshern, it’s called
And from that point on it was the norm
To go every other Friday to get shorn
The kids my age would taunt and scorn
“Hey look, this kid’s almost bald!”
And so it went through the grammar school years
My regular biweekly meeting with the shears
Letting Dad have control of the way I appeared
Didn’t think much of it, didn’t much care.
But then the Real Me kicked in at the age of thirteen
Didn’t want any part of the way things had been
I wanted a say in how I’d be seen
And how often or how little I’d cut my hair.
I’d want to let it grow during the summer before going back to school
Before having to deal with the regulations and rules
I wanted to be hip, I wanted to be cool
But that didn’t much matter to Dad.
He’d say “you can be outstanding by getting good grades
Not by looking like a rebel or a renegade”
And he expected to be obeyed
That’s when things got really bad.
©2019 The Hesh Inc.
This lyric isn't really a song—it's more like a rhymed prose poem. It was intended at a sort of triptych describing the friction that I had with my father over the issue of my hair length. It is pretty much as described in the two 'episodes'—my father arrived in the USA in the 1950s and hung around with his fellow immigrant, Holocaust-survivor buddies trying to blend in with the style beginning to become popular among young American men, i.e., that of Elvis and the early rock'n'rollers. My aunt, also a survivor but who remained Hasidic, told my father off and warned him not to grow his hair like the goyim do. And so, to please his sister, my father kept his hair short, and made a big deal of making me keep mine the same way—from the day of my first haircut until the last time he saw me as of this writing, in December 2017. I have a lot of anger and resentment about this, and I am not done with the subject; there will eventually be an episode 3, though I'm not quite sure what I'll do with the whole thing afterward.