In January, the world was saddened by the news that Mary Tyler Moore had died. Lots of us had grown up watching her on TV, first as Laura Petrie on the Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966) and then as Mary Richards on the Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977). And over the years she further impressed us with her many acting roles in television and in film. Most memorable for me was her performance as the cold and controlling, yet deeply wounded, mother and wife in Robert Redford’s Ordinary People (1980).
Her death has generated numerous tributes to her as a person and to her life and her work. And that’s what led me to a rabbit hole that took me on a rather interesting and, at times, frustrating journey of discovery. Not the discovery of my inning self and my emotions. I don’t have any of those.
No, it was a journey to discover just what is that line in the lyrics of Love Is All Around, the theme to the Mary Tyler Moore Show?!
For all these years, I had thought the lyrics to the chorus were:
“Love is all around, no need to waste it.
You can have this town, why don’t you take it?
You’re gonna make it after all.”
But last Friday morning, in the Bulletin Board (an online forum in which regular folks can tell stories, jokes, make observations, share pictures,etc) a contributor noted that a recent Nancy comic strip’s tribute to Mary had quoted, according this fellow, the lyrics wrong.
The incorrect line was: “You can have a town, why don’t you take it?”
According to this Bulletin Boarder, the actual line is: “You can never tell, why don’t you take it?”
The person rather snarkily noted that people whose hearing was intact back then, and even now, could be certain it was “never tell,” not some line about having a (or in my case, this) town. In fact, the person noted, “I wish I’d kept track of how many tributes I’ve seen with the misheard version.”
Nearly 47 years and now this revelation? I was stunned!
However, I’m a skeptic, so I thought I better do some digging to see if I could verify this “never tell” claim. Thus began the journey of discovery.
You should be aware of a phenomenon known as priming. Priming can happen when a person is told what they should be able to hear when they listen to poor quality audio or even audio played backwards. Once you are told what to hear, it’s rather difficult, maybe even impossible, to not hear it. That’s priming.
And I found out that knowing about priming doesn’t protect you from falling victim to it.
In my search to determine the true lyrics, my first step was to look up the lyrics online. I found conflicting information. A couple websites had the “never tell” line, while others had versions of the “town” line. Hmm. However, one of the websites with the “never tell” line was the Boston Globe. They are a well-respected news source, so I started thinking I had been wrong about the “town” line. Or was I being primed?
Next I found several versions of the song on YouTube. The song was written and recorded by Sonny Curtis (not Paul Williams as some people have thought), who was a member of Buddy Holly’s Crickets and had been previously best known for writing the Bobby Fuller Four hit – I Fought The Law. Several of the versions I found were recorded by Curtis. There were two versions for the show: One for the first season and one for the rest of the series with some changed lyrics, but both versions retained the “never tell/town” line. Curtis also recorded two additional versions, which he released as singles, one in 1970 and the other in 1980. They still had the same lyrics to the disputed line, even though the instrumentation of the songs was different.
There are also several cover versions of the song. Sammy Davis Jr, Joan Jett, and, 80s punk band from St. Paul, Husker Du have all covered it. It’s not quite clear if it’s “never tell” or “town” on Sammy’s and Joan’s versions, but Husker Du clearly say “town.” In fact, they even sing it the way I’ve heard it as “this town” not “the town” or “a town.”
I was beginning to lean toward “never tell,” because I had put my faith in the Boston Globe‘s journalistic prowess, but I still wasn’t sure. It’s really hard to determine just what is the line.
Then it hit me! Sonny Curtis is still alive! At least according to Google. I found that he has a Facebook page and an official website. I couldn’t be certain he would get my messages, but I sent messages to both sources. I pleaded to him for an answer.
By the end of that Friday’s tumble down the rabbit hole, I received an email from the man himself. (Well, the email claimed it was him. I don’t want to go down another rabbit hole, so I’ll just accept that it was him.)
I’ll allow Mr Curtis to settle this once and for all.
Thanks for your interest in the Mary Tyler Moore Theme. Below with my compliments are the lyrics.
Mary Tyler Moore Theme
Words and Music by Sonny Curtis
Who can turn the world on with her smile
Who can take a nothing day and suddenly
make it all seem worthwhile
Well it’s you girl and you should know it
With each glance and every little movement
you show it
Love is all around no need to waste it
You can have the town why don’t you take it
You’re gonna make it after all
Published by Sony/ATV Music
Hope this is helpful.
All the best,
Very helpful! Thank you, Mr Curtis!
Oh! And, in your face! Mr Bulletin Boarder who thinks his hearing is so good!
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