COLUMN: "When I Grow Up"

This is my weekly column for the Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. A version of this piece aired on 91.7 KAXE’s “Between You and Me” earlier in January.

When I grow up
By Aaron J. Brown

The first time someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was to be a detective. I had then, and possess now, no interest in the actual work of being a detective: the capers, the clues, the legal process. Rather, I was thinking about “Sesame Street” and the music that played as their knockoff Sherlock Holmes Muppet™ wandered on stage. See, at the time – age 5 or something like that – I believed, naively but truly, that everyone had a theme song. If you were a mechanic, a banker or a professional athlete, your entrance into a room corresponded with an appropriate musical interlude. I liked the tune that accompanied Sherlock Hemlock, the Sesame Street detective, and that was enough.

Later I learned that most work does not involve a theme song. In fact, it almost always involves a silent moment of reflection followed by intense mental energy dedicated to 1) the completion of vital tasks, and 2) not killing co-workers or supervisors with blunt weapons, such as sticks or fire axes. There are advanced degrees, safety training sessions and some form of retirement planning workshops, but never – indeed, never ever – is there theme music. This is a pity.

Perhaps if people thought of their jobs, their careers, their identities from the standpoint of “what would this sound like, musically,” they might find themselves trying harder for a better melody, or at least a more consistent bass line and drum beat. You know, something you can dance to. It really doesn’t matter what you do. This could apply to any profession. Even if your job is mundane, your life doesn’t have to be. A one-hit wonder? Still OK, as compared to a no-hit average schmoe barely living, rather existing in a form of pre-death.

The president gets theme music. I think that sets a good tone. For instance, let’s say a federal official walks into a room. Sometimes it’s a census worker. Sometimes it’s the president. You know what’s the difference? “Hail to the Chief!” RUM PUM PA TUM BA PA RUM BE DUM BE TUM TUM! Theme music!

Professional wrestlers know what I’m talking about. They make theme music a centerpiece of the whole show (I’m sorry, “competition”). If it weren’t for the theme music, you wouldn’t know which characters (wrestlers) were the good guys and which were the bad guys. A black leotard no longer indicates a bad guy wrestler (indeed, it may now indicate a complicated wrestler, struggling with the difficulties of being a man in the 21st century). What’s the difference? Well, I turn your attention to the theme music.

Is it ominous? Yes?

Does it include lyrics that indicate hostility? Yes?

Does the hostile music indicate hubris, directing anger toward women, animals or people who write newspaper columns? Yes?

Well, then that’s a bad guy. But if the hostility is directed toward institutions, such as “the man,” or “the government,” or “the system,” well, then you’ve got yourself a complicated wrestler, conditionally loved by some, based upon a sociopolitical scoring system that factors in income, education and desire to kick ass, respectively. But you know what? All of these factors can be overcome quickly … if the theme song rocks sufficiently.

Let your song rock, people. Let it rock hard.

Aaron J. Brown is a columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune. Read more at his blog or in his book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.”


  1. Theme music…what a great point. Would Rocky have had any success at all without Eye of the Tiger? Of course, he still had his down moments, as do we all. You’ve inspired me, Aaron. Instead of writing today, I’ll spend the day coming up with my theme song!

  2. Excellent! Then my work here is done. 🙂

    I contend that the opening sequence of the Rocky theme as the word “ROCKY” scrolls by in the first seconds of Rocky 1 justifies the whole rest of the bunch, even the one with Mr. T which wasn’t very good.

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