The first time I heard the last line in the last song on the second album from Steve Forbert, I felt the most delightful little explosion in my brain.

The lyric goes like this: “It’s often said that life is strange, oh yes, but compared to what?”

Compared to what, indeed. Makes ya think, doesn’t it? This thing called life is all we have and maybe strangeness is a feature, not a bug.

When I heard that line — koan-like in its simple complexity — I knew it would make a perfect email signature file, encapsulating, as it does, my outlook on life as well as the pose I try to strike in my column. As I explained in this space yesterday, that’s what a good signature file does: It allows us to show a bit of personality in an impersonal format. I just happened to borrow someone else’s personality for my sig file.

The lyric is in a Forbert song called “January 23-30, 1978.” It came out in 1979 on the album “Jackrabbit Slim.” The first single from that record, “Romeo’s Tune,” reached No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and if you’re my age, you’ve heard it.

But I hadn’t heard “January 23-30, 1978” until buying the LP at a used record store long after its release.

It’s a funny kind of song. There’s no chorus, just a rhyming, chronological recitation of the titular trip Forbert took back to his childhood home in Meridian, Miss., from New York City, where he’d moved to seek fame and fortune.

“Plane comes down on the old runway,” he sings. “Home again, for a week I’ll stay.”

And then: “Hanging out like I used to do. I hope to find some old friends I knew.”

He finds his friends. They ride around, get drunk, skip church, then Forbert flies back to New York.

“It is literally an accurate account,” Forbert told me when I rang him up not long ago.

“When you’re young, so many things are new and exciting,” he said. That trip took place before he’d hit it big, but the listener can tell the singer has already changed.

Forbert felt there was some merit in memorializing the experience.

“It was, you know, someone going from a new life in the city and going back home again,” he said. “You can say Thomas Wolfe if you want. It’s inevitable.”

As for that line — “It’s often said that life is strange, oh yes, but compared to what?” — Forbert said it just “materialized.”

“I don’t think I’m able to tell you the exact germ of the way it did,” he said.

To me, the song is an exploration of perspective, from the way your perspective changes physically when you’re at 30,000 feet in an airplane to the way it changes temporally when you gain — then lose — an hour traveling between the East Coast and Mississippi, to the disconnect of finding yourself back in your East Village walk-up, trying to distill what you’ve just experienced.

“It’s a constant sense of perspective, I suppose,” Forbert said. “Maybe that’s why you like it, too.”

Here’s a perspective that’s always in my mind: Life — living — often seems like something we ought to know how to do. We forget we’re all making it up as we go along.

I told Forbert about something an elderly reader once said to me. She’d called to share a story, but felt she was having trouble making herself understood. “I’m sorry,” she said, flustered, “I’ve never been old before.”

“I can relate to her line,” Forbert said. “I like it a lot.’ ”

That in turn put Forbert in mind of a Lily Tomlin quote — “Reality is nothing more than a collective hunch” — and of a phrase he’d read in a book by the English poet Alfred Noyes, who remarked upon “our insensibility to the utterly inscrutable mystery that anything should be in existence at all.”

Any of those would make a great email signature file.

After spending years in Nashville, Forbert, 65, now lives on the Jersey Shore. He still tours — or does when there isn’t a pandemic — and he has a new album out, a collection of covers called “Early Morning Rain.”

And he still sings “January 23-30, 1978.”

“People enjoy this song, and I like to sing it,” he told me. “It’s not detached from me at all, even though it’s a kid going home. That was 40 years ago. I can still sing it, and it works and it’s always got that line at the end.”

I asked Forbert if he stuck any snappy aphorism at the bottom of his emails — he doesn’t — then I sheepishly asked if he minded me taking his lyric and casting it into the ether with each and every email I send.

No, he said: “I’m glad you like it.”

Twitter: @johnkelly

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