Pop Goes the Prof
updated 11/28/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 11/28/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST
A visiting professor of literature and writing at Marlboro College in Marlboro, Vt., Cooper, 37, wrote "Fun" ("We are drinking beer at noon on Tuesday/ In a bar that faces a giant car wash") 10 years ago after a beer with a buddy. When Crow sought permission to use it, he says, "I was so happy someone had actually read my book that I instantly said yes. I didn't even think about the fact that they would pay me." With album sales topping a million, Cooper—one of five writers credited on the song—figures "All I Wanna Do" has already earned him twice his $25,000-a-year teaching salary. He has also earned something else: "My platinum album is supposedly on the way."
The disc will make a nice decorating touch in his newly rented log cabin near the Marlboro campus, a long way from suburban Rochester, Mich., where Cooper grew up. One of four kids born to a tool-and-dye specialist and a teacher's aide, he wrote his first verse in the fifth grade: "Arithmetic is a dirty trick/ to play on an innocent kid." Cooper studied literature at the University of Utah, Virginia's Hollins College and back at Utah, before dropping out of that university's creative-writing doctoral program in 1986. Stints as a bartender, proofreader and carpenter preceded his 1991 move to Vermont, where Cooper, who is single, now teaches three classes plus a James Joyce tutorial.
Cooper first met Crow last April at a Boston concert. "Sheryl and I seem to have a similar outlook on life," he says. "We're both on the outside looking in." Now, from his perch at the top of the charts, Cooper sees a chance to give bards everywhere a boost. "Pop music doesn't need my help to find an audience," he says, "but poetry does."