Baz Luhrmann’s “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”

Share This Post: listening once more to the Mary Schmich-Baz Luhrmann collaboration, with Renzie Baluyut.

About ten years ago, I remembered pushing for this song to get more airplay at the radio station I was working for then.

The song was “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” by Baz Luhrmann.  It came out in one of those international samplers the station subscribed to, and I loved it the first time I heard it.

It was inspirational, it was different, it had a positive message to it, and it made for great listening. At the time, the prevailing rumor was that it was taken word-for-word from a Kurt Vonnegut commencement speech he gave for the graduating class of MIT.

Much later, it turns out that Kurt Vonnegut had nothing to do with the song.  The original piece of work was by Mary Schmich, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

From Wikipedia:

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.

However, “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” wasn’t radio-friendly- the single ran for more than 7 minutes (you can play 2 songs in 7 minutes), and it wasn’t backed up by any significant marketing effort from the local recording companies.

I managed to sneak the song in several times within some of my special programs, but Baz Luhrmann’s “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” unfortunately, never saw the heavy radio rotation I felt it deserved.

Nevertheless, the song remains very inspiring even to this day.  So here it is, along with the spoken-word lyrics to it.  I hope it inspires you too.

“Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”
written by Mary Schmich
remixed by Baz Luhrmann

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’99… wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be IT.

The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.

I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.

You are NOT as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements.


Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary.

Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself, either. Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body, use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance. Even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings; they are your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on.

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography in lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you’re 40, it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Vocals for “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” were done by Australian voice actor Lee Perry.  Samples were taken from Rozalia’s 1991 R&B hit “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)”.   The chorus parts were sung by Quindon Tarver (those parts were edited out of the video above, unfortunately).

Wear Sunscreen: A Primer For Real Life by Mary Schmich.
"Wear Sunscreen: A Primer For Real Life" by Mary Schmich.

If you’d like to get a copy of Baz Luhrmann’s “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”, you can get a copy right here.  Alternately, you can download just the single here.  Or even pick up a copy of Mary Schmich’s book “Wear Sunscreen: A Primer For Real Life” here.

Special thanks to Sandra for remembering this song with me.

Cheers, everyone!


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