In a culture where youth and high energy are seemingly revered as the most important criteria for success; growing old is not an attractive option. As kids we can’t wait to grow up. We look forward to the day we can drive and live by our own rules. Adults on the other hand often like to look back on life and reminisce about “the good old days” - the crazy antics they pulled off when they were young and free.
There is, of course, the inescapable fact that the elderly remind us of our own mortality and watching our parents slowly wither away is often emotionally difficult. Despite the cynicism in our society regarding age, there have been a few very beautiful poignant songs reflecting on the inevitablity of growing old. The Beatles "When I’m Sixty-Four", composed by Paul McCartney is of course the most famous song about aging - its a classic and will stand the test of time. Below are three others worthy of a collective listening—each a powerful testament to the sadness of aging yet—at the same time—a positive affirmation of the beauty of just being alive...
"September Song" is an American pop standard composed by Kurt Weill, with lyrics by Maxwell Anderson, introduced by Walter Huston in the 1938 Broadway musical Knickerbocker Holiday. It has since been recorded by numerous singers and instrumentalists from Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett to a nice version by Willie Nelson. Even Lou Reed recorded an unusual upbeat rock 'n' roll version of the song, featuring mostly his undistorted electric rhythm guitar.
I choose Stafford’s version of this song for it's touching simplicity and the purity of her voice. Jo Elizabeth Stafford’s,career spanned five decades from the late 1930s to the early 1980s. Tommy Dorsey hired The Pied Pipers in 1939 to perform back-up vocals for his orchestra when Stafford was the group's lead singer. When Frank Sinatra joined the Dorsey band, The Pied Pipers provided backing vocals for his recordings.
This song is from the third studio album by John Mayer, released September 12, 2006 on Columbia Records. The version presented here is John performing solo live at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, California on December 8, 2007, during the promotional tour for his 2006 third studio album Continuum.
Stop This Train deals with being overwhelmed by the speed and process of growing up. As the song unfolds, the singer wishes he could find life’s pause button and stop moving forward but realizes you cannot stop yourself from growing old, its a part of life. In talking with his father, who chooses to embrace the present and welcome the future, the singer inevitably accepts the uncontrollable passage of time in the last line of the song: “I know I can't ‘cause now I see I'll never stop this train”.
This is an incredibly poignant song about two old friends reminiscing on the years of their youth and wistfully pondering how strange it feels to be getting older. The vividly visual phrase of two old men who “sat on their park bench like bookends", provided the title of the album: “Bookends”.
Bookends was the fourth studio album by Simon & Garfunkel, released on April 3, 1968 by Columbia Records. The album followed a unified concept, exploring a life journey from childhood to old age. Side one of the album marks successive stages in life. Side two largely consists of unused material from soundtrack of the movie The Graduate. Simon's lyrics largely revolve around youth, disillusionment, relationships, old age, and mortality.
This live version was recorded in September 1981, from the live Concert In New York City’s Central Park, where the duo performed in front of more than 500,000 people. It was at a free benefit concert and proceeds went toward the redevelopment and maintenance of the run-down green space in the middle of Manhattan.