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Published on Sep 12, 2010
Wear Sunscreen or the Sunscreen Speech are the common names of an essay titled "Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young" written by Mary Schmich and published in the Chicago Tribune as a column in 1997, but often erroneously attributed to a commencement speech by author Kurt Vonnegut. Both its subject and tone are similar to the 1927 poem "Desiderata". The most popular and well-known form of the essay is the successful music single "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)", released in 1998, by Baz Luhrmann.
Baz Luhrmann version The essay was used in its entirety by Australian film director Baz Luhrmann on his 1998 album Something for Everybody, as "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)". The song sampled Luhrmann's remixed version of the song "Everybody's Free (To Feel Good)" by Rozalla. The song opened "Ladies and Gentlemen of the Class of '97".
The song was subsequently released as a single (with the opening words changed to "Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '99").
Luhrmann explains that Anton Monsted, Josh Abrahams and he were working on the remix when Monsted received an email with the supposed Vonnegut speech. They decided to use it but were doubtful of getting through to Vonnegut for permission before their deadline, which was only one or two days away. While searching the internet for contact information they came upon the "Sunscreen Controversy" and discovered that Schmich was the actual author. They emailed her and, with her permission, recorded the song the next day.
The song features a spoken-word track set over a mellow backing track. The "Wear Sunscreen" speech is narrated by Australian voice actor Lee Perry. The backing is the choral version of "Everybody's Free (To Feel Good)", a 1991 song by Rozalla, used in the film William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet. The chorus, also from "Everybody's Free", is sung by Quindon Tarver.