Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. ~Mark Twain
You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair. ~Douglas MacArthur
I have often wondered why older musicians can’t stay very popular. There are exceptions of course. Springsteen can fill a huge hall, I’m sure. And the comeback tours of The Who, The Stones and others, prove that a few of the old greats still have staying power. Clapton still brings down the house. But I’ll bet they only sell a fraction of the recordings they used to.
Bands who were kind of popular, like the Indigo Girls (Closer to Fine), Jackson Browne (Running on Empty), Jonathan Edwards (Sunshine), Shawn Colvin (Sunny Came Home), John Fogerty (of Creedence Clearwater Revival), etc. only play to small venues these days and hardly sell any records compared to what they once did.
I’m sure there are lots of reasons. *They are not as physically attractive as they once were. *The age group who followed them when they were youngsters are not as interested in music perhaps. *The age group who followed them are dying off. *They simply don’t get the radio play (cause or effect?). *Maybe they don’t write the high quality songs they once did. *Their voices may have diminished over the years.
It’s kind of sad to me that Paul Simon just put out a new album and I am certain that I’ll never hear a song from it on the radio. It probably won’t sell many CDs or have many downloads. Let me just say that it is awesome. These songs are as powerful as any he has written. Sure his voice is not what it once was, but you sure wouldn’t know he is 70 by listening to his guitar work. His rhymes are clever; the arrangements are distinctive and complex. His voice is great. But it will never sell anywhere close to his old hits (some of which were pretty dumb as in You Can Call Me Al)
On a related note, I had the weirdest feeling the other night. Heidi and I went to hear our son Colin play in his newish band – Set Ashore. It was a benefit for victims of the tsunami and earthquake that devastated Japan. We were really excited to hear them live. We hear Colin play acoustically all the time, and he has told us about how great his bandies are. It was their first gig together and, while Colin plays drums, bass and guitar in church regularly, this is his rock band and he was singing lead.
So when we got there, right away I noticed that we were the oldest. No problem. It was at our old church, in the small sanctuary where I myself have played dozens of times. I love that room. We were going to go to the small balcony to record, so we would not be hanging out right in front of the stage with the rest of the crowd, exclusively teens.
I am usually one who likes to be up close. In church, in class, at the movies – I am always in the first few rows if not in the very front. But we stayed in the back, up top so we could videotape. It was interesting to watch the crowd from up there. I still remember vividly being 17. First girlfriends, best neighborhood pals, my friends at school. I remember having our own lingo. Back then it was far out and cool and funky and some local expressions that were all our own. Now it is dude and WTF? and whatever and I know, right!? But it was the same thing.
And I was sitting up there remembering listening to live music at my high school and following my favorite local bands and singer/songwriters. I remembered learning to play guitar and singing on the beach around campfires and at my girlfriends’ house. I remembered playing at my first little festival in my little hometown just like Colin was doing. I remembered being nervous and forgetting some of the words and the feeling of exhilaration of having a whole bunch of people paying attention to a song that I wrote. I was feeling really close to Colin as he was preparing to get up there in front of about 75 or 100 of his friends and play at his very first concert. It was far out.
Before Colin and Set Ashore began to play I had to go to the bathroom. I ducked down the stairs and began to weave my way around the young crowd to get to the door to the hallway to the bathroom.
And it was weird.
I know I’m more than twice these kids age. I know that we don’t wear the same clothes or listen to the same music (although in about 5 minutes that’s exactly what we were going to do). My beard is turning white. I must seem ancient to them. I know we are different generations and all that, but I felt like such an outsider. I used to play in this church. For 7 years. I played and sang in the contemporary service and so I watched a lot of these kids grow up from about 7 years old to the age they are now.
But most of the people I passed and squeezed by wouldn’t look at me at all. When their eyes were up, generally looking in my direction, they would not look me in the eye. I was so much smoke for them to look right through. It was as though I was invisible. And when the few people I passed did happen to catch my eye they looked away very quickly. It was bizarre. I was a stranger in crowd of people from my hometown, a crowd of my son’s contemporaries.
At some point I was probably right there where they are. I’m sure that any adult who was pro-Vietnam-war was a fool to me. I had adopted my older sibling’s politics. But I don’t remember thinking that every older person was icky. My best friend Maurice Owens when I was growing up was older than both of my parents. And now, my best friend Chris at school is about 15 years younger than me. My guitar teacher is less than half my age at 26 (I will be 54 in a couple of days). My neighbor across the street is my best neighborhood pal and he is 8 or 9 years older than me. The kids in my class are 45 years younger than me.
I know I am overanalyzing it. They were with their homies and I wasn’t part of their intimate crowd. Still, it was an odd feeling.
I guess when we’re young, we never really think we’ll be older. We have this notion that the age we are is the age we’re all supposed to be. That anyone who is a few years older than us is just old. I used to think that 20 was old. Then 30. Then 40… Now that I’m in my mid 50’s old is… well… how you feel.
“I’m older than I once was and younger than I’ll be, that’s not unusual. “ Paul Simon.
"People my age have started looking gross."John Gorka