Well now they often call me Speedo
But my real name is Mister Earl.

The Cadillacs (1955)

Speedo died this past Sunday. He was 75 and had been in a nursing home following a stroke.

Speedo was Earl Carroll’s nickname. He was lead singer for the Cadillacs. Their big hit was “Speedo”, in 1955. That was about the same time that Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock” came out. I was in elementary school and we kids were all excited about this new thing, rock and roll.

I’d listen to Little Richard on the radio and the next tune would be from Patti Page.

Some of the old folks called it devil music. Some called it race music. But that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about.

When I was a couple of years older and going to dances, DJs were still spinning Speedo and I loved kickin it to that song. And lots of others. We had good music. And since the old folks hated it, it was ours alone. But that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about.

I was listening to a short tribute to Earl Carroll on NPR in my car yesterday on my way to the yoga studio. They were talking to Jerry Butler, and he was reminiscing about Earl who had been a good friend of his. Jerry Butler was a top act in the day; he’s in the R&R hall of fame. He said that in later years Earl had worked as a  janitor at an elementary school. And he loved it. And the kids loved him. Somebody even wrote a children’s book about him and the kids.

So here was a man who had been famous, a celebrity. And from there he became a janitor. Was that a step down? I wonder whether he experienced any sense of loss over that. Many would have. Sounds like maybe he didn’t. But that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about, either.

The interviewer asked Jerry Butler what he learned from his long friendship with Earl Carroll. He said, I learned that everybody’s a star, whether anybody knows it or not.

That’s a beautiful insight, and that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.

You are a star, whether anybody knows it or not. Whether you know it or not.

Suzuki-roshi said, You are perfect just as you are, and you could use a little improvement.

So two frames of reference. The ultimate and the everyday.

The everyday is changeable. The ultimate is unchanging.

Work with the everyday to realize the ultimate.

I got to class, and I just happen to have “Speedo” on my iPod.

So I docked it up and played “Speedo” for those beautiful, perfect yogi-stars who had come to my class.

Rest in peace, Mr. Earl.

Earl Carroll 1937~2012


9 responses to “Speedo

  1. Oh, thank you for this, David. I always did wonder who it was that Paul was singing about…and I agree that we all are brilliantly shining stars in the wilderness of infinite space, and we could also use a little work…I have noticed that janitors often provide the housing for creative and compassionate consciousness…god is everywhere you look, and everywhere you are.


  2. What a beautiful, inspiring little post. Love it. I’m 27 but I love that music. I grew up listening to it, thinking it was from my generation. Until i turned 10 and realized none of the kids i knew, besides my siblings, had ever heard of it.

    What an example of a humble human being. We are all little stars indeed. Thank you for sharing this.


  3. I think we are all stars.

    As time goes by, we tend to layer on mud and dirt. We get encased with regrets and sorrows, joys and beauty, unfounded fears and glorious memories. We tend to layer on so much stuff that we forget. We forget that we’re all stars. That, at the core, we’re all little pieces of the wonderful infinite. It’s at that point of remembrance that we start to shine a little more brightly, where not only can we see our glow, but others can as well.

    One of my favorite artists is Michael Franti. He happened upon my iPod about 15 minutes ago…the chorus to one of his songs goes like this:

    Be who you are nothing more nothing less
    And let the beauty that you love be the very best
    Sing praises to the highest with your feet on the ground
    And reach for your brother with the words that you sound and
    Don’t let mistakes be so monumental, and
    Don’t let your love be so confidential, and
    Don’t let your mind be so darn judgmental
    And please let your heart be more influential

    Be thankful for all the Spirit provides
    And be thankful for all that you can see without eyes
    Give thanks to music that keeps us alive
    And give thanks to all the DJs worldwide

    You never know who will remind you that you are in fact a star…but in this case…it’s you 🙂


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