My song is posted. It’s about Mr. T, and it’s called “I Pity The (Song) Fu.” I would link straight to the file right on this here blog page, but that would prevent you from going to the Song Fu page and throwing it your damn vote.
I’m not all that competitive, but votes would be nice.
I struggled to fit some excerpt from this into my song for this week, but I couldn’t find a place to non-awkwardly slip it in. But the time is right, and I want to share it anyway.
The passage quoted below is chapter I of Mr. T’s 1984 autobiography, the unambiguously titled Mr. T by Mr. T, which I found in Long Beach’s recently-extinct used book store Acres of Books. Weighing in at 276 pages, it is unquestionably the greatest $4 I have ever spent.
I have checked and double checked to make sure that this text is true to the original. All grammar, punctuation, and syntax from hereon out is all T. (The occasional underlining is mine.)
So you want to meet Mr. T, personal and up close. The man with the gold, not just around his neck but deep down in his heart. Well, this is my story about my life, and I wrote it myself—without a ghostwriter, because if I had a ghostwriter my book would have become his story instead of my story. I am sure there will be other books about me, but they won’t tell it like it is. So if you want to read the honest-to-goodness truth about Mr. T, this is it. But, on the other hand, if you want to read lies, scandals and half truths, then read someone else’s point of view about Mr. T. Lies sell more books and make more money than the truth because that’s what a lot of you want to read and hear. Even though we know the truth yet we still lie. I am glad I follow the teachings of Jesus, and he said, “Speak the truth and the truth shall set you free.” So here is the unadulterated truth, told, written and spoken in such terms that even a fool can understand what I’m talking about.
I have something to say, and I said it in this book the way I talk. It’s unconventional and not like everybody else’s style, but this is me. This is the me that makes me me. Now, you all know I’m not a Harvard graduate. I’m not a Fancy Dan, I’m not a proper-speaking guy. I just say it like it is, and put it out there. It might not be as smooth ans flowing as other folks’ books, but this is my book and I wrote it my way. It reads like me. I might have made it pretty, but then that don’t sound like Mr. T. I talk about this and that, and jump and move around, but by the time it’s over I’m sure you’ll understand what happened, what’s going on. It might not grab you straight off, but when you read it through, you’ll know something about this character, this Mr. T.
You’ll learn how I went from rags to riches, from welfare to faring well and from the ghetto to the get more. You’ll learn about Mr. T: the father, the son and the born-again Christian. Some things will shock and amaze you, while others will make you cry and laugh. You will feel my heart, my pain, my joy and my sorrow. You will become a part of me, and thus when you finish reading my autobiography you will know Mr. T. You’ll know that I was a follower, now a leader, a doer and always an individual. You may find some contradictions, but what the heck, I’m a very controversial guy. Some may see me as a bit outspoken and may criticize some of my actions. But this doesn’t bother me because I am not here for a popularity contest. Unlike an elected official, I am not trying to win popularity, but I am just trying to proclaim the truth and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Unlike most Hollywood celebrities, I try to devote most of my attention to representing the church for the good of mankind. Locally, nationally and internationally, I think this involvement is the greatest thing I have done. I feel it is my duty to make certain that the rights of all people are protected, especially people who are voiceless and powerless. That’s why I feel the church must be present to raise a voice and cry out. Because the Blessed of us must try to save the less of us.
Just think for a moment how hard I had it growing up in poverty and being a poor, nappy-headed, snotty-nosed, raggedy, hungry, black child. Now, I am not bitter nor do I hate anybody, I just want you to know where I came from. I should make it clear right now that my sole purpose and reason for writing this book is not to make a million dollars, but to let you, the public, know who Mr. T really is and what Mr. T is trying to do. That’s what this book is about, not just some gossip about my private life. This is no “celebrity” story here.
Now let’s be honest with each other: You don’t know Mr. T, do you? I mean really know Mr. T? I know you think you know him, because you have read a couple of articles about him in several different papers and magazines. But you can’t really understand Mr. T or truly know him just by reading some short and inaccurate article or listening to some tall tale about him. Now if you want the truth and nothing but the truth, you keep reading this book. Don’t listen to someone who claims to have gone to school with him. Don’t listen to some disgruntled chick who claims to have been his lover once. But listen to Mr. T when he speaks because it’s time he tells it like it is, with no holds barred and no punches pulled. [MOLLY: Third person?] I’m going to tell you the hard cold facts about me and I am not ashamed of anything that I’ve done, because if a push becomes a shove I’ll do it all again. Everything that I did was done in the name of survival, so don’t try to question my judgment on any certain occasion but put yourself in my position at the time of that decision.
I will guarantee that when you finish this book you will owe me an apology. Because so many of you see me as a big, black, strong, musclebound nigger, who is mean, mad, angry, hateful, vengeful, cocky and arrogant. Which is all untrue. Very few of you see the Godly qualities in me because even though we know the truth we still lie. That’s what it’s so important that I come at a time like this. I come maybe not exactly like John the Baptist or Moses, but I come. I come to you with a message of love. It’s nothing new. It’s as old as the Scriptures but modern as tomorrow’s sunrise. Now please don’t get sidetracked and start looking in the other direction because I have been chosen by God Almighty to be one of his messengers and news carriers. Look beyond the color of my skin, my combat boots, my hairstyle, and my gold.
Now if I can get you past all this makeup maybe you can see the man for what he really is‚ a man of God who would rather spend his weekends at hospitals visiting and praying with the sick or fulfilling a dying child’s last wish than go to a party with rich folks. In fact, let’s get this whole business out of the way right now.
My hairstyle is from Africa, it’s from the Mandinka tribe, the Mandinka warriors, a proud people. My beat-up, run-over, taped-up, raggedy and old combat boots used to belong to my father before they were handed down to me. I wear my father’s boots with pride because they help me not to forget where I come from and they tell me that I have to finish his journey.
Now the reason I wear mismatched socks is because there are a lot of poor children who don’t have a pair of matched socks, and people laugh at them. So I wear mismatched socks so people can laugh at me, instead of the poor kids. Plus I am making a fashion statement: Just wear what you got and be thankful.
The gold chains are a symbol that reminds me of my great African ancestors, who were brough over here as slaves with iron chains on their ankles, their wrists, their necks and sometimes around their waists. I turned my chains into gold, so my statement is this: The fact that I wear gold chains instead of iron chains is because I am still a slave, only my price tag is higher now. I am still bought and sold by the powers that be in this society, white people, but this time they pay me on demand, millions and millions of dollars for my services. I demand it and they pay it. Yes, I am still a slave in this society, but I am free by God. “How are you still a slave, Mr. T?” You see, the only thing that interests this society is money. And the only thing that it fears or respects is more money.
It took me eight years to complete this book (and it was eight years ago that I bought my first gold chain—1976) and eight years ago society had no money interest in this book, because I was just a small-time slave with no money value. The white man took the chains off my legs, wrists and body but he placed them around my brain. He shackled my mind by refusing me entrance into schools of higher education and jobs with higher pay and position. Yes, I am still a slave. Even with all my fame, fortune, money and power, I am still a nigger to the white man. That’s what I serve God, because He don’t make junk. You see the white folks made a “nigger” but God made a man!
But you see I got to get away from what the white man is thinking of what I am. He might say I’m nothing. But I got to know I’m a child of God, I’m something special. When people say, “Mr. T, you ain’t nothing!” I smile at them because I know I’m a product of God. God don’t make mistakes. God knows exactly what he’s doing.
Now I notice when I talk about prejudice and racism, white fold think I’m attacking them. They say, “Mr. T hates whites.” No, man! I don’t hate white folk, there is no hatred in my heart. But I have to tell it like it is. Now let’s be serious for a moment: We all know there is a lot of ugliness in this world. I’m just trying to put it out there so we can see it and do something about it.
Some white folks see me as defiant because I don’t bow and scrape to them. You see, I answer only to God and they don’t like that. I am loved and hated by the same people for the same reason. Some people love me because they see strength in me. Others say, “I’d like to be like him but since I’m not, I don’t like him.” So they are jealous and envious. You see, what I got attracts people, they want to see this man with all this gold, this funny haircut, bulging muscles, beat-up combat boots and rapid-fire speech. So while they are marveling at my appearance, I slip my message in on them. And I am blessed with the gift to know what I’m talking about. Because I can’t lead where I don’t go and I can’t teach what I don’t know.
I believe my message is very important but I also realize that a lot of people do not agree with what I have to say and they think I am not sincere. I say to them, I am more than a mindless, muscular, money machine or a walking jewelry store. People don’t understand me, so they tear me down and spread lies about me.
That’s why I love children so much. They are so young, innocent, pure and honest, with virgin minds. They are a very important part of my life, especially since I have a daughter myself (Lisa). I know it is very important to talk to children while they are still young. You see, children don’t know racial hatred, prejudice, or jealousy. All of that is taught by the parents. Children are not born to hate another race. Why do children love me so much? Well, they see what you adults don’t want to see—they see my heart and my love for them. I am a real true hero to them, so kids listen to me, not because they fear me but because they look up to me.
I want to save them while they are still young and have a chance. I want them to know the dangers of drugs, alcohol, smoking and dropping out of school. I try to set a good example for all children of all races to follow. I am trying to give them someone who is strong in spiritual beliefs and education values, as well as physical powers. I am trying to be a positive image for them.
Now, as their hero my advice to them is this: Stay away from drugs, listen to your parents and stay in school. I don’t want a kid to try to be tough like me, but to have a tender heart. Be a scientist, a doctor, an astronaut, because everyone can’t be Mr. T. For a person to really truly be like me that person would have to be a Child of God who ain’t afraid to take a stand. Because if you don’t stand up for something, you will sit down for anything.
Read on, open your heart, enjoy the book and, most important, go in peace, my brothers and sisters.
Copyright © 1984 Mr. T, St. Martin’s Press
If I do become an English teacher, I will have my students read this as an example of what it means to “write with a voice.” I turned the internet upside down trying to find clips of an audiobook to include in the song, but you can already hear him reading it so clearly in your head it doesn’t need an audiobook.