Years before the anti-bullying movement rose to prominence, a country hit spoke for teenage mothers, the homeless, and kids who were picked last on the playground. And they all had the same request.
“Don’t laugh at me.
Don’t call me names.
Don’t get your pleasure
From my pain.”
‘Don’t Laugh At Me’ was a big hit for Mark Wills in 1998 but there were richer rewards for songwriters Steve Seskin and Allen Shamblin. This is their story behind the song.
Allen Shamblin: I was noodling around on the guitar one day, and my wife walked in the room and said she liked what I was noodling, and I said, “What am I doing?” She said, “You’re singing about a homeless guy standing on a street corner saying, ‘Don’t laugh at me.’”
We started talking about my nephew wearing braces, and our daughters were starting to wear glasses. That was the seed of it that Steve and I started with.
Steve Seskin: That prompted a conversation between us about my son, also, and about kids in general. Which is interesting because the homeless guy is in the second verse. So we didn’t start it out really thinking about kids, but it led us to a conversation about growing up and times we were picked on, called names and all that – that stuff nobody likes.
When you start talking about that with people, Allen has said this before, it’s (from) people who you wouldn’t expect. “You? You were (bullied)?” So, you can take the really pretty blonde, and you think, “Well, she got – look at her!” Well yeah, but a lot of people think, “Oh, there’s the dumb blonde.” Well, it’s usually not true.
“Everybody’s got their problems.”
In the bridge of that song where it says, “I’m fat, I’m thin, I’m short, I’m tall, I’m deaf, I’m blind, hey aren’t we all,” that was us trying to bring it back to everybody. You know, everybody’s got something.”
AS: Well, it resonated with a lot of people.
One of the great gifts of
being a songwriter is
finding purpose for your pain.
Steve and I found a purpose for our pain through that song, and it’s been useful to other people that have felt pain.
SS: I visit schools sometimes, and the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me is not the kids that come up and say, “Oh yeah, I can really relate to that because I’ve been bullied since I wore glasses.” It’s the kid that comes up and says, “Hey, I really needed to hear that song, I’ve been being a bully. I’m not going to do that anymore.”
Based on an article in the Tennessean, December 2017