“Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” was originally titled “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young”, and was an essay written as a hypothetical commencement speech by Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich. Released in 1999 on Australian director Baz Luhermann‘s album “Something for Everybody”, which featured music from his plays and films, including his remake of Willima Shakespeare’s “Romeo + Juliet”. The most popular single from the album was “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”, which was more a spoken word track rather than a traditional musical track.
The track is the fourteenth off of the seventeen track long album. The song became a radio hit around the world, with the voice of Australian actor Lee Perry as the narrator of the track, featuring the choral backing of Rozalla’s “Everybody’s Free To Feel Good”. The track gives advice about wearing sunscreen, to “do one thing everyday that scares you”, to floss, and to not waste time on jealousy. Filled with titbits of useful and comedic advice, the track’s writer has been mis credited many a times throughout the years. Schmich still continues to write for the Chicago Tribune today, and told British newspaper “The Telegraph” the story behind the track in 2017. “It was a Friday, I was on my third column of the week and I was out of ideas”, said Schmich. “But I was walking to work along Lake Michigan and I saw this young woman out sunbathing. And I just thought, “I hope she’s wearing sunscreen”. I kept walking and I thought, it’s graduation time, I could write a mock-graduation speech for my column. I was 43 then, an age where I thought I had all this advice I would like to administer to young people. So I sat down and I wrote what I would tell 18 to 24-year-olds.” Schmich’s essay has been often erroneously attributed to American writer Kurt Vonnegut, who at the time was extremely vocal about the fact that it was not written by himself, but Schmich. Schmich also stated to The Telegraph that she does receive royalties from the track, “…although that doesn’t make me a rich woman. I’d like to point that out. I’m a hard working, average journalist!”.
The music video for the track that was aired on MTV featured visuals of sunscreen, flowers and images that correlate to lyrics about weight, the future and other themes in the song. It was made by Baz Luhrmann, and has over 16 million views on YouTube.
Release Date: 1999
Songwriter/s: Mary Schmich
Producer/s: Baz Luhrmann, Josh Abrahams & Nellee Hooper
Chart Rankings & Certifications: In the year 1998 to 199, the track went to #1 in the UK, Scotland and Ireland. It also reached mainstream charts in the US, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Belgium, Norway, Germany and Sweden. The song also received Platinum certification in the UK.