A singer, a sociologist and a driver united by song

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A singer, a sociologist and a driver united by song


Prof. Song Ho-keun, left, shares a laugh with singer Cho Yong-pil. The two bonded over the story of baby boomers in Korea. [JoongAng Ilbo]

A singer, a sociologist at Seoul National University and a driver who offers a driving service for those who have enjoyed a night of drinking - what do they have in common?

Although on the surface not much, the unlikely trio now have a song in common, “One Day on My Way Back.”

The song depicts the sentiments of a retiree who feels lonely and empty on his way back home.

The driver inspired Song Ho-keun, a renowned sociology professor and lyricist for the song, and veteran singer Cho Yong-pil, who composed and sang the song.

Cho and his longtime fan Song do have a history of meeting up for a drink or two. Over a bottle, they’ve talked of music, their daily lives and the meaning of life.

The Seoul National University professor and author of “They Don’t Cry Out Loud,” a book about the lives of baby boomers in Korea, said, “I’d like to dedicate the song to the baby boomer generation who went through turbulent times in Korea.”

The song will be featured on Cho’s 19th album due out next month.

The collaborative work between the iconic singer and the academic came out of the blue.

The story dates back to the time Song called a service to drive him home after a night out. On the way home, a curious Song asked the driver about his personal life. The 50-something professional driver said he started a business after retirement, but it didn’t go well, so he ended up driving for a living. Song wanted to know more about his life, so the two went for a drink and talked about everything. At one point, the scholar realized that he and the driver had a lot in common, namely the struggles in their lives, despite the fact that they came from very different social strata.

Last October, Song relayed his encounter to Cho. Deeply impressed, Cho asked him to write lyrics about the driver’s story to the music Cho himself composed. At first, the professor was speechless as writing lyrics was out of line with his career. Song said in the interview, “I was so confused because he didn’t even give me any guidelines, but Cho just said ‘Once you start, you will get the hang of it.’?”

The quinquagenarian professor said, “I just listened to the melody over and over again to think of lyrics. After the numerous repetitions, I could embody the images that came up in my mind with the music.”

In his book, he says, “Baby boomers born between 1955 and 1963 live very unique lives. They are the sandwiched generation between the agricultural and IT generations. They play roles of mediators who bridge the gap between the two groups. Moreover, they are obliged to support their parents while their grown-up children are relying on them too. Their tough lives can be witnessed everywhere.”

“All of them suffer from varying amount of stress, but they all share the same responsibilities. They struggle to land houses, to raise money for their children’s education and marriage and to take care of their old parents.” The writer Song said, “I wanted to give comfort to those in their 50s. The release of the song will be meaningful to our society as well as to me.”

Song is noted for being a big fan of Cho’s, after he revealed he was deeply touched by his song “The Woman Outside the Window.” Song went as far as to contribute writing about finding his music gratifying to a newspaper several years ago. After that, the two became close friends. He characterizes Cho as a timeless singer who transcends generations with his numerous moving songs.

Currently, Cho’s recording for his new album is in full swing. A representative from his agency said, “The song will surely be on the new album. This song strikes a chord. Although it doesn’t directly say ‘I’m worn out from living,’ the song emphasizes the point.”

He added, “We already received reviews from some people. Some of them liked it so much that they recommended it as the title track.”

One Day on My Way Back Home

You waited for me at the corner

You smiled at me in the twilight

I have to leave behind the good and old memories of my friends

Don’t be sad by reminiscing the past

I wonder why I’m roaming around the path I walked on with my dreams

I can’t go back to the path but now I think I understand why I’m hovering around

Composed by Cho Yong-pil, lyrics by Song Ho-keun

By Lee Eun-joo, Lee Kyung-hee [estyle@joongang.co.kr]

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