I grew up listening to a variety of different English accents, including “butler English”, “Indian English”, and diluted “British English” (meaning, imperfect but not bad, one in which the first syllables of college and body always¬† imitated awe and bawdy, not caaledge or baady, as Bob Dylan, for example, says them).

In America, I found myself so immersed in my literary career that I had no time to investigate the lyrics of the songs I heard, most often accidentally. And I began to partially understand the American accent, but it was only decades later that, by Googling lyrics, I discovered I had gotten a fundamental element of Bob Dylan’s “You Gotta Serve Somebody” wrong. I had heard it as “You May be the Devil, or You May Be the Lord”–which is far more radical than the real Bob Dylan words: “It May Be the Devil, or it may be the Lord”. If, despite being the Lord, you still have to serve somebody, God help you!

Bob Dylan was just one of the singers who brought me joy. During my years of crisis, the following are just a few of the other singers who gave voice to my pain and cheered me up: Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, assorted blues singers including Muddy Waters (from a CD called Atlantic Piano Blues, I think), and Don McLean’s American Pie (the line “the day the music died”). There was also a CD titled Riding With the King, in which I loved the title song and most of the songs, including the dark ones. But I had no clue as to some of the actual lines, and misheard or didn’t “get” a few of the lines.

Such as, in “Key to the Highway”, I thought it was “When the moon leaps oe’r the mountains.” And I thought Eric Clapton’s way of saying “mountains” was kind of funny.

When I discovered my mistake, many years later–not just that one, but hundreds of others–I began to make fun of my own mishearing by stretching the absurdity even further. As in: “When the loon, Leaps Oe’r the Mount Anes.” And “I Gotta Pee Through the Highway.” So I am able to enjoy songs in three different ways: when I listen to them, and just enjoy the music and the words that I can understand; when I discover the lyrics on Google and get the larger meaning, and the missing or misheard words, and laugh at myself; finally, when I sing along to the song, making a joke of nearly every other line.

I’ll be publishing a short book of assorted humor, but titled, I think, You May be the Devil, or You May Be the Lord.