Recently I saw a concert by Billy Joel on, of all places, PBS. It was called “Modern Masters” or something like that. The show ended with “Only the Good Die Young.” I’m trying not to turn into Farmer McGregor here, shaking my finger at the Peter Rabbits who listen to pop music. I sang along with this tune back in the big-haired 80s myself. But seeing Billy Joel singing it and listening carefully to the words almost turned my stomach. Could the devil have written this any better? I was going to put little pithy paraphrases into the text, translating it into more direct speech. But then I read it again. It wasn’t needed. The message is clear enough: “Don’t wait for marriage. Don’t trust the Church. Don’t trust your elders. Let me use you.” And to top it off, the girl’s name is…. Virginia. Is my response to this song reasonable or have I just publically proclaimed that I have hit middle age?
Come out Virginia, don’t let me wait
You Catholic girls start much too late
But sooner or later it comes down to fate
I might as well be the one …
Well, only the good die young.
They showed you a statue, told you to pray
They built you a temple and locked you away
Aw, but they never told you the price that you pay
For things that you might have done
Only the good die young, that’s what i said, only the good die young
You might have heard I run with a dangerous crowd
We ain’t too pretty we ain’t too proud
We might be laughing a bit too loud, aw but that never hurt no one
So come on Virginia show me a sign
Send up a signal I’ll throw you the line
The stained-glass curtain you’re hiding behind
Never lets in the sun
Darlin’ only the good die young
You got a nice white dress and a party on your confirmation
You got a brand new soul, and a cross of gold
But Virginia they didn’t give you quite enough information
You didn’t count on me
When you were counting on your rosary.
They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait
Some say it’s better but I say it ain’t
I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
the Sinners are much more fun…you know that only the good die young.