It’s Monday and you know what that means: It’s time for Monday’s Music Moves Me! (It’s also the 15th of the month so if you’re looking for my Battle of the Bands post, click here. Or you can always find it on the sidebar of my Home page. But first check out this cool post…or come back for it).
I’m thrilled to be this month’s Honorary Co-Host of the 4M blog hop. Last week was my first theme week and I think we all had fun with it. This week is a Freebie and since we each get to do whatever we want with a music post I know we all like those! Here’s my freebie offering for this second week of October:
Today’s post is PART 3 of my SONGS ABOUT AGING AND GETTING OLD(er) Series. If you missed Part 1, entitled Time Passages, you can check it out here. Part 2 was about one of my favorite things to do: Reminiscing. Check it out here.
And today, Part 3 songs focus on the realities of aging, some harsh, some hilarious. Join me in a playlist of fabulous songs that speak to this fact. (oh, by the way, Part 3 is also where this rock chick [yours truly] wanders off a bit and goes a little Country.
GETTIN’ OLD AIN’T FOR SISSIES!
The songs in this playlist certainly illustrate how age takes a toll on us, physically, mentally and emotionally. The first half of the playlist deals with those types of issues and some of the songs can hit you with the reality of what a somber, desolate and mournful place old age can be. But then I take us out of that mood, jump tracks and get fun and lively. Enjoy!
When I’m 64 by The Beatles (1967) – written by Paul McCartney (credited to Lennon–McCartney) and released in 1967 on their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The song is sung by a young man to his lover, and is about his plans of their growing old together. Although the theme is aging, it was one of the first songs McCartney wrote, when he was 16. It was in the Beatles’ setlist in their early days as a song to perform when their amplifiers broke down or the electricity went off. This was a favorite of The Beatles at their early club shows, where they were required to play for hours. When their amps overheated, they would sing this around the piano.
Paul McCartney used to play it when The Beatles were still known as The Quarrymen. He put lyrics to it later in honor of his father’s 64th birthday.
Someday When I’m Old by Easton Corbin (2010) – Dan Easton Corbin (born April 12, 1982) is an American country music singer. His music is primarily categorized in the Neotraditional Country genre, a style that emphasizes the instrumental background and “traditional” country vocals. He signed to Mercury Records Nashville in 2009 and released his self-titled debut album in March 2010, featuring the two number one hits “A Little More Country Than That” and “Roll with It”, as well as the number 14 hit “I Can’t Love You Back. This song, “Someday When I’m Old”, is a song from that first album and was written by Aimee Mayo, Chris Lindsey and Troy Verges.
Of the song, Corbin said
“This song is different and unique. I just thought it was a great song when I heard it. It’s really powerful. It makes a young person look at how they might feel in 40 years when they have kids and grandkids.”
Grandma’s Hands by Bill Withers (1971) – “Grandma’s Hands” is a song written by Bill Withers about his grandmother. It was included on his first album Just as I Am, and was released as a single, reaching number 18 on the Best Selling Soul Singles chart and 42 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Withers grew up in the rural town of Slab Fork, West Virginia, and his Grandma Galloway was a huge influence in his life, nurturing him and telling him that others would someday appreciate what he had to offer. As the lyrics say, she really did look after unwed mothers in the area as well as her own family. In the 2009 documentary Still Bill, Withers explains, “I learned how to really love somebody from just a nice old lady. My favorite thing that I’ve written has to be about this favorite old lady of mine.”
Veronica by Elvis Costello (1989) – “Veronica” is a single from Elvis Costello’s 1989 album Spike, co-written by Costello with Paul McCartney. In 2004, Entertainment Weekly voted it one of Costello’s top ten greatest tunes.
The song focuses on an older woman who has experienced severe memory loss. Costello’s inspiration for this song was his paternal grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s. When talking about the song on a VH1 interview, Costello reminisced about his grandmother having “terrifying moments of lucidity” and how this was the inspiration for “Veronica”. Her name was Molly, or more formerly, Mabel Josephine Jackson. In fact, her Catholic confirmation name, Veronica, provided the very title of the song.
“Veronica” was also Costello’s highest-charting Top 40 hit in the US, peaking at No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, No. 1 on its Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart, and No. 10 on its Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.
The accompanying music video depicts an aged woman, probably nearing the end of her life in a retirement home, engaging in detached reminiscences from her life from young girl to young womanhood (played by Zoe Carides). The video for “Veronica” featured Costello delivering a spoken-word monologue to the camera, and occasionally singing the song softly over the original vocal track from the recording. The video, co-directed by John Hillcoat and Evan English, earned an MTV Video Music Award for Best Male Video.
Help the Aged by Pulp (1998) – Pulp was an English rock band formed in Sheffield in 1978. I never heard of this band, or this song, until I came across it last week while putting together my playlist for this post. This song was chosen as the lead single from 1998 album This Is Hardcore, and signposted the new direction the band took – one full of cynicism and loathing for the fame that had accompanied their breakthrough 1995 record Different Class.
It’s one that surprised many who were expecting more upbeat tunes like “Common People,” but one that Jarvis Cocker (lead vocals, guitar & keyboards) was keen to go in. Observer music critic Sean O’Hagan noted in a 2002 interview with Cocker that This Is Hardcore “cost Pulp a sizable proportion of their post-Common People fan base,” but Cocker in the same interview notes said:
“I weren’t surprised in the slightest. Songs about panic attacks, pornography, fear of death and getting old are never gonna be top of the hit parade, are they? I wrote about my own life. Before that, it was me pottering about, picking up bits of information from wherever. Then it became very interior. Introspective. I don’t think introspection is ever that healthy. In my experience, the more angst-ridden I’ve been, the worse the music is.”
In Seven Years of Plenty, Ben Thompson notes the dark themes of aging and death referenced in “Help the Aged”: “Jarvis Cocker croons caringly, over a sparse piano accompaniment, ‘One day they were just like you: drinking, smoking cigs and sniffing glue.’ But this jaunty one-two is just softening us up for the death blow: ‘If you look very hard behind the lines upon their face, you may see where you are heading and it’s such a lonely place.'”
Despite the dark tone of the song, “Help the Aged” still charted at #8 in the UK singles chart, making it the band’s fifth consecutive Top 10 single.
Wow, those were some sad, somber, sobering songs. Let’s ramp it up and put a little levity into this inevitable process of getting old!
Touch of Grey by the Grateful Dead (1987) – This song is from the album In the Dark. The song is known for its refrain “I will get by / I will survive”. It combines quasi-dystopian lyrics with a pop tempo. The music was composed by Jerry Garcia, and the lyrics were written by Robert Hunter. It was also released as a music video, the first one by the Grateful Dead. I was never much of a Grateful Dead follower but I have enjoyed some of their music, this song in particular. But it surprised me to read that this was The Grateful Dead’s first and only hit song. I mean I know they were “different” but I didn’t realize that they didn’t have other charting hits. They never set out to be on the radio, enthralling fans with their mind-bending musical landscapes and confounding critics with their interminable jamming. Their large and loyal following ensured that their albums sold well and their concerts were full. For many of the Dead faithful, it was strange hearing the group on pop radio and seeing them on MTV, but this song fit well with their canon and was clearly not an attempt to chase the ’80s trends.
The music video for “Touch of Grey” gained major airplay on MTV and featured a live performance of the band, first shown to be life-size skeleton marionettes dressed as the band, then as themselves. The skeleton of bassist Phil Lesh catches a rose in its teeth, thrown by a female attendee; later, a dog steals the lower leg of percussionist Mickey Hart, and a stagehand hurries to retrieve and reattach it. Near the end of the video, the camera pans up into the rafters to reveal that the living band members are themselves marionettes being operated by a pair of skeletal hands.
The popularity of the single and its video helped introduce the Grateful Dead to a new group of fans, resulting in the band gaining additional mainstream attention.
The song, about the band aging gracefully, contains the line, “I will get by, I will survive,” which became a mantra of resilience in the Dead community. When Jerry Garcia fell into a diabetic coma in July 1986, it looked like the group could be finished; when he returned to action in December, the group opened with “Touch Of Grey,” reassuring fans that they would indeed get by.
Arthritis Blues by Ramblin’ Jack Elliot (2006) – Ramblin’ Jack Elliot is an American folk singer and performer. This song is from his 2006 album I Stand Alone. The album was nominated for Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album in the 49th Annual Grammy Awards.
Writing for Allmusic, music critic Thom Jurek wrote about the album: “Elliott hasn’t recorded an album in seven years, but I Stand Alone ranks among his very best efforts. His voice is richer now that it’s aged; it’s full of authority, wisdom, and a certain kind of madness — the kind that one witnesses during his live shows… It’s a fantastic introduction to Elliott for newbies, and authoritative proof that he’s not only still got it, but he just keeps getting better.”
As for “Arthritis Blues”: I can relate! The osteo-arthritis is slowly killing me. Okay, maybe that’s a bit overly dramatic but it sure feels like it sometimes!
Too Old to Cut the Mustard by Buck Owens & Buddy Alan (Buddy is the son of Buck Owens and stepson of Merle Haggard). There isn’t much written about the song per se, but we can infer one thing: the meaning of the song is clear in its use of the idiom “cut the mustard”, expressing that the subject in the song is too old and simply doesn’t have what it takes to do whatever. Here are the lyrics:
Too old, too old, he’s too old to cut the mustard anymore
He’s getting’ too old, he’s done, got too old
He’s too old to cut the mustard anymore
When I was young, I had a lotta pep
I could get around, didn’t need no help
But now you’re old and a gettin’ gray
The people all look at you and say
Too old, too old, he’s too old to cut the mustard anymore
He’s getting’ too old, he’s done, got too old
He’s too old to cut the mustard anymore
I used to, could jump just like a deer
But now you need a new landing gear
I used to, could jump a picket fence
But now you’re lucky if you jump an inch
When I was young I had an automobile
Now they push you around in a chair with wheels
I had to fight the gals off with a stick
But now they say he makes me sick
When I was young and in my prime
The gals all used to stand in line
But now they go the other way
And as they leave I hear them say
All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down by Hank Williams Jr. (1981) – from his album The Pressure is On, this song itself is told from the point of view of a disillusioned singer who, along with his friends, had lived a wild lifestyle. Although admitting he himself has mellowed with age, the singer is depressed that his one-time “rowdy” friends have settled down and, in abandoning their high-living ways, want no part of their old lifestyle. References are made to Williams’ contemporaries, such as George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson, as well as his father, Hank Williams.
This was Hank Jr’s fifth Number One on the Country charts.
As Good As I Once Was by Toby Keith (2005) – “As Good as I Once Was” is a song co-written and recorded by American country music singer Toby Keith that reached the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. This song and his 2003 single “Beer for My Horses” are both his longest-running Number One hits, each having spent six weeks at Number One. “As Good As I Once Was” was released in May 2005 as the second single from Keith’s album Honkytonk University. Keith wrote the song with Scotty Emerick.
The song was named BMI’s song of the Year for 2006. It has since become one of Keith’s signature songs, as well as one of his most successful.
The title of this song is a phrase that Toby Keith grew up with. According to his good friend and songwriting partner Scotty Emerick, it was a phrase that was coined by Burt Reynolds on a TV show, and Toby’s dad used it often. Scotty saw the episode after the song had become a hit while watching Nick At Night. He told Songfacts:
“Burt Reynolds came and he sat down and said, ‘You know, I’m not as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.’ That was on a rerun of a show from the ’80s or something. I think that saying has been around a little bit. Which is cool, because we had never heard of it as a country song. But I had never heard of it that way, so that was Toby’s idea.”
Toby Keith said on his website that this song is “Probably my favorite song on the album. If I hadn’t come out of the box with ‘Honkytonk U’ I’d have come with this one. It didn’t matter what order, they were going to be singles one and two. I can always tell when I’ve got a special one as soon as I get done. My dad used to say this line some. The first verse is about being with a woman, two is about fighting, and three is saying don’t sell me short because I’ll surprise you.”
Old Folks Boogie by Little Feat (1977) – This fun song, written by Little Feat’s Paul Barrere, is from their sixth album Time Loves a Hero. Getting old sucks and these guys explore some of the issues that may befall even the best of us as we age. The song contains lyrics about pacemakers, wheelchairs, financial troubles, and erectile dysfunction.
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Well that wraps up Part 3 of my Songs on Aging and Getting Old(er) series. I hope you’ve enjoyed some of my favorite songs about the realities of aging. Which songs here did you like? What are your favorite songs about aging?
Be sure to come back for Part 4, the final installment of this series, on Monday, October 29th.
Monday’s Music Moves Me (4M) is a blog hop hosted by Marie of X-Mas Dolly, and co-hosted by Cathy of Curious as a Cathy and Stacy of Stacy Uncorked Two other co-hosts recently joined the fun: Alana of Ramlin’ with AM and Naila Moon of Musings & Merriment with Michelle. Be sure to stop by and visit the hosts and the other participants listed below: