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Song of the Month #19 - “Don’t Sit on the Sidelines”

(Track #10 on the Home Town CD)

album cover 

                                  Lyrics:  If your web browser does not support the Flash Player* included with the Lyrics, or you are uncomfortable allowing/downloading the plug-in/add-on, you can still listen to this song while you read.  Just go to our Downloads Page and click on the link, “Buy Home Town Songs from Napster”.  Then, click on "Don’t Sit on the Sidelines."  You can listen to it for free (not available outside the USA).

                                                         *Not being a techie, I use the term “Flash Player” loosely.


During my many years of teaching, I observed an endless number of diverse personalities in my classroom.  Since it would be nearly impossible to describe them all, and of course unnecessary, I am going to narrow my focus to two general groups of students.  First, there were those kids who were connected.  High school was fun for them.  They enjoyed being around their teachers and peers, participated in a wide variety of school activities, and succeeded both in and out of the classroom.  In contrast, there were those students who were somewhat disconnected.  They engaged very little with anyone on campus, often went home or to work after the school day was over, and did what they had to do in order to fulfill their high school requirements.  While I enjoyed all of my students, I developed more of an attraction for the latter group largely because they sought after me.  I believe this happened merely because I often worked in my room after school, and I was a good listener.


In the late 1980s, I met an awesome kid in one of my classes.  He was rather quiet and shy, a great artist, not much into the high school social scene, and not much into English.  Ah, the ideal student profile!  Anyway, for some reason, he began dropping by my classroom after school, usually when I was alone.  We talked about his art, my music, and just about everything else under the sun.  I soon noticed this kid, who barely grunted a syllable during class, was becoming quite the motor mouth after school, and I loved it.


As the year wore on, he fell in love with a girl who sat next to him in my English class, and of course, she became the topic of many of our conversations.  Through his casual chats with her in class, he learned all about her family, friends, activities, likes and dislikes, etc.  Every time he talked about her, I could feel the excitement in his voice, and I knew he was dying to take this friendship beyond the brief chitchat sessions that occurred between them.  So, since I thought this young lady was pretty cool myself, I asked him when he was going to ask her to get together and do something outside of school.  Well, you would have thought I had asked him when he was going to turn in his twenty page term paper.  He went through a long list of several lame excuses before he finally got around to telling me he was simply too afraid she would say no.  Since fear of rejection was one of the dominating themes of my own adolescent years, I decided to share with him my one big conclusion regarding this topic.


When fear keeps you from learning the truth, you leave yourself wondering what might have been.  If you overcome your fear and pursue reality, it may be elating or painful, but regardless of the outcome, at least you can move on with your life without having any doubts.  Putting it simply, the truth always sets you free.  When I conveyed this little thought to my young friend, I made it clear to him I did not come to this conclusion over night.  I let him know I had been in his shoes several times throughout my teenage and young adult life, and several times I let fear keep me from pursuing some potential relationships.  I also let him know that to this very day, I occasionally still wonder what might have been.


Well, I wish I could tell you my little pep talk brought about great results, but unfortunately, it went nowhere.  My friend never pursued that sweet little girl who sat next to him in class.  He had an opportunity to ask her to the soph hop, but he let it pass.  Later in the school year, she started dating an upper classman, and eventually, she disappeared from our list of conversation topics.  Although their relationship never got off the ground, their story remains welded in “Don’t Sit on the Sidelines.”


One afternoon at the end of the school day, I sat by the window in my classroom wondering about the relationship that never happened.  I thought about the little pep talk I had with my friend, and in the midst of my thinking, the words “pain” and “gain” appeared in my mind.  They became the first two end rhymes in the bridge of “Don’t Sit on the Sidelines.”  When I finished the bridge of the song, the theme, losing is better than not trying at all, was ready for a story to support it.  (For those of you who are unfamiliar with songwriting, the bridge of a song is the part that differs from the pattern set up in the verses and chorus.  It is used for many reasons; in this song, it is used to present the theme.  Usually the bridge of a song is written after the verses and chorus have been created, but that did not happen in this case.)  Anyway, with the bridge written, I composed a story of details reflecting the idea presented in the bridge.  The story is pure fiction, but I’ll bet the ranch the thoughts of the characters in the song come real close to the thoughts of my friend and the girl who sat next to him in my English class.


“Don’t Sit on the Sidelines” is pure Americana.  It is a sensitive folk ballad that has the potential to evoke two contrasting emotions.  First, it sadly reminds the listener of the many chances that he or she has not taken.  Conversely, in an uplifting manner, it encourages the listener to take chances because risk-taking inevitably leads to the truth.  The sensitivity of this song is enhanced with just the simplicity of my voice, guitar, and Joe Dady’s violin.  The verses, containing only my voice and guitar, are augmented when Joe deftly brings his violin into the choruses and bridge.  He plays the violin on three tracks, having them in harmony with each other.  It sounds like an orchestra!  It’s awesome!  You owe it to yourself to give it a listen!  Hope you have time to check it out!  I like it, and I hope you do, too.


I dedicated this song to all those students who made me their confidant.  For me, there were many rewarding aspects of teaching, but nothing ever topped the opportunity to be able to sit with a kid in the late afternoon and talk about things that really mattered.  Over the years, in phone calls, letters, and one-on-one conversations, many students have thanked me for spending time with them after school.  When I in turn thanked them, they were often confused.  They did not realize how grateful I was to have those moments with them.  You see, those moments verified my purpose in life.  So often, people struggle to find meaning and purpose for their existence, and when it comes right down to it, the moments we spend with others is really the answer.


Well, my English teaching career is over, but my music career still continues, and it creates a lot of opportunities for me to spend time with people.  For me, whether the setting is a coffee shop or a tavern, having a long conversation about the things that matter, still ranks number one on my list of things to do.  If I haven’t already hooked up with you somewhere, I hope we get the chance to chat sometime!


I recorded this song in 1993 at The Garage, a little studio in Rochester, New York.  The Garage, as I have told you before, is owned and operated by John and Joe Dady, two quintessential musicians.  When you record with them, you can always count on great coffee, good stories, and an aching stomach from laughing.  I highly recommend John and Joe if you are interested in recording.  Also, The Dady Brothers, John and Joe’s group, have many recordings of their own, and they tour the United States and Ireland.  Check them out on the web at


Well, there you have it.  I’ll have another song of the month for you next month.  If you have any comments or suggestions, please pass them on to me.  This is a work in progress, and I am always looking for new ways to improve it.



 (E-Mailed 10/18/08)






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