I’m not really one to listen to an iPod in the car, although I hasten to assure the trendy among you that I have one. It’s just that when I’m driving, I don’t like listening to that same original Boston album over and over and over again like I always do when I plug my iPod directly into my brain.

In the car on a long drive, I’d rather lean on the radio’s “scan” button, listening to snippets of songs and commercials until I find a station I like, which usually is good for about 15 minutes, at which time I repeat the entire process over and over and over again until either we arrive at our destination or until my wife tells me to knock it off (in which case, I shoot her a cold, steely glare and teach her a lesson, all without turning my head toward her or taking my eyes off the road).

Anyway, long drives give me an opportunity to listen to songs and musical genres I usually ignore and to hear all kinds of musicians with all kinds of things to say.

Billy Joel singing “Piano Man.” Mick Jagger croaking out something. Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle.” Chris Martin with Coldplay. Stephen Tyler with Aerosmith. Madonna. Cyndi Lauper. Hank Williams Jr. Bob Dylan. Pink. The Black Eyed Peas. Snoop Dogg. The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Johnny Cash. Buck Owens.

I don’t know if you’re picking up the pattern here, but there is one: Few of these people are particularly attractive, and none of them have particularly great singing voices.

In fact, using graduation-season vernacular, they’re not what we typically have been trained by the entertainment-obsessed press to think of as the “most likely to succeed” people at first glance.

And yet, they’ve all pulled in lots of money and fame shaking what they’ve got, which on the face of it doesn’t seem like much.

What to make of it?

Despite their ordinary looks and for the most part humble beginnings, each uses music to say something meaningful enough to set aside our first impression and see what they have to offer.

Which brings me to the beauty of this month, when so many young people graduate from high school or college. Graduation gives people a chance to start over. The old stereotypes, built up among friends since perhaps elementary school, don’t have to apply anymore.

The “fat guy” and the “airhead girl” and the “invisible person” can morph into whoever they want to be in a new environment and look for success in places where the good and bad of the past are wiped away.

The value we place in a Coldplay song, sung with Chris Martin’s unsteady and sometimes off-key voice, shows that, in the end, meaning trumps style, and it shows that the average guy can use that “averageness” to rise high above the crowd.

Just like we all had the chance to do when we graduated.


• The “Home Pros” remodel pictured on page 45 of April’s Home Design magazine was a job done by the Burke Company. For more information on this company, call 214-887-0005 or visit theburkecompany.com.
• Photographer John Noeding should have been credited for the cover and “Mad For Mod” photos in April’s Home Design magazine.

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