Bob Seger's "Like A Rock" - The Most Unintentionally Pathetic Song of All Time?

Bob Seger: A Pathetic Bastard.
Bob Seger: A Pathetic Bastard.

It's the fourth day of 2011, which means many of you are probably close to giving up your New Year's resolution.

Need a little inspiration? A few good reasons to buckle down, hit the gym, stick to your principles and/or work harder?

Give Bob Seger's "Like A Rock" a listen. Now, I know what you're thinking: "That corny-ass song from the Chevy commercials of yore? Is that really supposed to push my ass up the stair machine?"

But how closely have you actually listened to the song? Somehow -- I honestly have no idea -- the track ended up on my Shuffle over the weekend and I really listened to the lyrics for the first time. Turns out it's not the confident words of a some blue collar badass driving a truck with those scrotum-thingys hanging off the trailer hitch. Nope, it's actually sadly pathetic. The disillusioned wretch who wrote this song needs counseling and a personal trainer.

Seriously, listen past the first two verses and you half expect the song to end with the pop of a pistol and a silver bullet blam. It's no surprise that just after this song came out, Seger decided to cash-out with a quick pop hit written by someone else ("Shakedown" off the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack) and take four years off.

How have I -- and millions of men driving Chevy trucks -- been so wrong about this song? Well, if you listen to only the first verse or two you get the wrong idea.

Here's how it starts:

Stood there boldly
Sweatin' in the sun
Felt like a million
Felt like number one
The height of summer
I'd never felt that strong
Like a rock

I was eighteen
Didn't have a care
Working for peanuts
Not a dime to spare
But I was lean and
Solid everywhere
Like a rock

My hands were steady
My eyes were clear and bright
My walk had purpose
My steps were quick and light
And I held firmly
To what I felt was right
Like a rock

Seems mostly innocuous, right? A little over-the-top on the self-aggrandizing nostalgia tip, but nevertheless quintessentially Seger. Bob loves talking about what he looked like in tight jeans as a teenager (see: "Night Moves") so his long discussion of how attractive he perceived himself to be, and what good posture he had, seems only a little creepy and narcissistic.

Then things get a little darker.

And I stood arrow straight
Unencumbered by the weight
Of all these hustlers and their schemes
I stood proud, I stood tall
High above it all
I still believed in my dreams

What "hustlers" and "schemes" is a teenage boy in suburban Detroit really facing? That seems more like a contemporary concern reflected through a misplaced pining for youth. The line about still believing in his dreams is where the bottom starts to fall out. This man was a successful rock singer at his peak. Why so glum? You hate to tell the guy, but it's all downhill from there. This was inarguably Seger's last truly great song. The other singles from the Like A Rock album flopped and his next hit was, as mentioned, a soundtrack song written by someone else. After that, he didn't have another notable single -- unless you count 1991's low-charting and almost forgotten "The Real Love" -- until his appearance on 3 Doors Down's "Landing in London" nearly 20 years later.

That postscript makes the end of the song -- the verse that reveals the real story, a broken middle-aged man sitting in front of a fireplace thinking about how he got so far off track -- all the sadder.

Twenty years now
Where'd they go?
Twenty years
I don't know
Sit and I wonder sometimes
Where they've gone

And sometimes late at night
When I'm bathed in the firelight
The moon comes callin' a ghostly white
And I recall
I Recall

Like a rock. standin' arrow straight
Like a rock, chargin' from the gate
Like a rock, carryin' the weight
Like a rock

Anyway, the point is this: Stick to your New Year's reolutions.

If not, you'll end up like Bob Seger in "Like A Rock," a horrble, horrible fate, indeed.

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