Tag Archives: Satchel Paige

Dance Like Nobody’s Watching

Mark Twain? Satchel Paige? William Purkey? Susanna Clark? Richard Leigh? Anonymous?

sunset03Dear Quote Investigator: The following words are attributed to a variety of people including Mark Twain, Satchel Paige, and William Purkey:

Sing like no one is listening.
Love like you’ve never been hurt.
Dance like nobody’s watching,
and live like it’s heaven on earth.

The ordering of the lines varies, and sometimes other statements are inserted. Could you explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1987 the songwriters Susanna Clark and Richard Leigh composed “Come from the Heart” which included the following lyrics:

You’ve got to sing like you don’t need the money
Love like you’ll never get hurt
You’ve got to dance like nobody’s watchin’
It’s gotta come from the heart if you want it to work.

QI believes that the other sets of expressions containing the statement “dance like nobody’s watching” were derived from these lyrics. There is no substantive support for ascriptions to Mark Twain or Satchel Paige. Additional information about the attribution to William Purkey is given further below. The important reference work “The Yale Book of Quotations” has an entry ascribing the lyrics to Clark and Leigh. 1

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 2006, The Yale Book of Quotations by Fred R. Shapiro, Section Susanna Clark, Quote Page 156, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper)

When He Turned Out the Light He Was in Bed Before the Room Was Dark

Muhammad Ali? Satchel Paige? Cool Papa Bell? Hablarias? Moran and Mack? Abbott and Costello? Anonymous?

alilight01Dear Quote investigator: Renowned heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali was famous for his witty remarks which included humorous boasts such as this:

I’m so fast I hit the light switch in my room and jump into bed before my room goes dark.

Yet, I believe that I heard a similar comical description employed by the famous baseball pitcher Satchel Paige who used it when characterizing another lightning-fast pitcher named James (Cool Papa) Bell. Could you explore this expression?

Quote Investigator: By the 1970s Muhammad Ali was using this jocular hyperbolic self-description. Some years earlier, in the 1960s Satchel Paige was using this gag when discussing James (Cool Papa) Bell. Interestingly, the remark has a very long history.

The earliest instance located by QI was printed in 1917 in “The Marines Magazine”, a monthly for United States Marine Corps personnel. A correspondent from Fort Mifflin, Pennsylvania using the pseudonym Hablarias employed the jape: 1

Corporal Smith is still in training and, believe me, he is some speed merchant. Here is one record he holds: It is 20 feet from the switchboard to his pile of alfalfa and he can switch off the lights and be back in bed before the room gets dark!

In 1919 an article covering the vaudeville circuit in the Chicago Tribune stated that the comedy team of Moran and Mack were using a version of the joke: 2

“Are you quick?”
“Am I quick? Why, man, when I go to bed at night and turn out the light I’m in bed before the room is dark.”

In 1920 a newspaper in Kansas printed the remarkable tale of swiftness. Many individuals still relied on gas lighting rather than electric lighting in that year: 3

An Atchison woman: “I’ll say my husband is fast. He is so fast that when he turns off the gas light he is in bed before the room gets dark.”— Atchison Globe.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1917 April, The Marines Magazine, (Report from Fort Mifflin, PA by “HABLARIAS”), Quote Page 32, Edited at Marine Corps Headquarters, Washington, D.C. (HathiTrust full view) link
  2. 1919 March 9, Chicago Tribune, Vaudeville Wit: Majestic, Quote Page D5, Chicago, Illinois. (ProQuest)
  3. 1920 February 25, Hutchinson News, (Freestanding short item), Quote Page 9, Column 3, Hutchinson, Kansas. (NewspaperArchive)

Age Is an Issue of Mind Over Matter. If You Don’t Mind, It Doesn’t Matter

Mark Twain? Jack Benny? Satchel Paige? Muhammad Ali? Unknown gerontology researcher?

bennysatchel075Dear Quote Investigator: On a popular website recently I saw a slide show of quotations ascribed to Mark Twain that included the following:

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

I thought this was said by the celebrated baseball pitcher Satchel Paige. Can you determine who should be credited?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Mark Twain created this witticism. For example, it is not found on TwainQuotes.com, the important website of Mark Twain quotations and resources 1 nor in the large compilation “Mark Twain at Your Fingertips”. 2

The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in an article about aging that was published in multiple newspapers in 1968. The saying was attributed to an anonymous scientific researcher. The prefatory phrase was somewhat shorter: 3

As one government researcher puts it: “Aging is a matter of mind. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

The quote above was printed in a North Carolina newspaper in June. The same article and saying were printed in a paper in Schenectady, New York in July. 4

The saying was memorable enough that the excerpt above was extracted from the article and printed by itself as a freestanding filler item in a Baton Rouge, Louisiana newspaper in July. 5

The adage continued to circulate and in 1970 it was ascribed to an anonymous physician in an article from the UPI news service: 6

“Aging is a matter of mind. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” With these words, one physician summed up one of the factors that means better health in the later years — the attitude that one has toward growing older, chronologically.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. TwainQuotes.com website edited by Barbara Schmidt. (Search performed December 17, 2012) link
  2. 1948, Mark Twain at Your Fingertips by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, Cloud, Inc., Beechhurst Press, Inc., New York. (Search performed on scanned pages)
  3. 1968 June 28, Statesville Record and Landmark, Facts Listed On Aging, Quote Page 7-A, Statesville, North Carolina. (NewspaperArchive)
  4. 1968 July 11, Schenectady Gazette, Researchers Say Heredity Affects Aging, Quote Page 38, Column 3, Schenectady, New York. (Google News Archive)
  5. 1968 July 18, State Times (State Times Advocate), (Freestanding quote), Page 7-C, Column 3, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (GenealogyBank)
  6. 1970 May 20, The Milwaukee Journal, Aging Called A Matter Of Mind Over Calendar, (UPI News), Part 2, Page 7, Column 3, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Google News Archive)