I tried to explain to my eight-year-old son that the song he was singing was not, as he continually called it, the Buzzsaw Burgers song. It was a classic song by a brilliant but underappreciated artist who died way too young. When the artist wrote the song while living alone beneath a Seattle overpass, Buzzsaw Burgers did not exist. It wasn’t even a glint in its parent company’s corporate eye. But now here my son is all these years later watching Rescue Robots on television when this commercial comes on. It shows a series of images of children with leukemia while the artist plaintively sings his most famous song in the background. The only music accompanying the vocals is an acoustic guitar, the same guitar he strummed to keep away the demons he’d been fighting beneath that overpass. I was reminded of what a tragedy it was when he overdosed, not just because he died but also because he left his estate to a soulless girlfriend who promptly sold every song in his catalog to the highest bidder. Hence the burger commercial.
The commercial is very well done if I’m being honest about it. The images are respectful but heartbreaking. You feel for those kids battling leukemia, and you even feel gratitude toward Buzzsaw Burgers for, as the understated text at the end of the message says, supporting the fight against leukemia. I was especially pleased that my son, who is just learning to appreciate music, was innately drawn to such a beautiful song. He kept singing the chorus over and over after seeing the commercial. Even days later he was singing it. I asked him if he’d seen the commercial again and he said no. He just remembered the song, he liked it, and could we please go to Buzzsaw Burgers to meet the guy who sings the Buzzsaw Burgers song.
At which point I smiled. “Son,” I said. “This song is not about a burger.”
“What is it about?” he said.
I thought for a moment. “Loss,” I said, but he was no longer listening. He had already moved on to something else. I had not. What’s been lost here, I thought, is the distinction between art and advertisement. The artist was not thinking about burgers when he wrote the song. He was a vegan in despair. The more I thought about it, the more it enraged me. I went to the computer to email the president of Buzzsaw Burgers. I wanted to let him know how I felt about their marketing department trashing one of my favorite artist’s most beloved songs. I went to their website, which was very well designed, very slick, but also easy to navigate. I was able to quickly find the contact information I wanted, but I also found something that surprised me: an entire web portal devoted to the stories of the children in the commercial. Each child had his or her own short film that explained their story. I watched several of the films and found them to be quite touching. This one boy, Jory, three years old, wore a Superman costume everywhere he went. He said it gave him power to fight the bad guys inside his body. I was in tears after I finished watching, you just can’t believe how sad it was seeing this little boy go through something like that. At the end of the video I clicked on one of the links and was shocked by what I saw.
Did you know that Buzzsaw Burgers contributed more than $10 million to fight leukemia in fiscal year 2014? That’s mind boggling to me. I began to rethink my anger toward the company. I watched more videos. Gradually I came to admire Buzzsaw Burgers’ commitment to the cause. I guess it just goes to show there are companies out there that can actually do good. I did end up emailing the Buzzsaw Burgers’ president, but instead of complaining about the corruption of my favorite song I thanked him for heading such a morally upright business. There just aren’t enough companies out there like yours, I wrote. Plus you make a darn good burger! After I hit send on the email I dug out the artist’s CD. I opened the case and flipped through the liner notes, which still smelled like the world I had inhabited when I was sixteen. “You would be proud,” I said to the artist’s photograph. Then I gathered my son and drove down to Buzzsaw Burgers with the song playing on repeat the whole time.
This is a paid advertisement for Buzzsaw Burgers – burgers to cut through your biggest hunger. Visit www.buzzsawburgers.com or follow @buzzsawburgers on Twitter.
Chad Schuster lives near Seattle with his wife and two kids. His work has appeared in Glimmer Train, Hobart and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter at @Chad_Schuster.