• The Hesh

Lyric of the Week: HAIR WARS

Updated: Feb 7

episode one

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.


episode two

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.

My first haircut, September 1968, Long Beach, NY. Notice how in the first frame I'm still mugging for the camera, but by the fourth one, I'm no longer smiling but my father is. Incidentally, I still remember the barber's name—Mr. Fellner, a retiree who lived at the senior citizens' home that my father managed at the time.

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.

#originallyrics #hair #haircut #fathersonrelationships #family #autobiography

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