Not a milestone of any kind, just a random year. You know, the kind that we acknowledge with a shrug and gracious thanks to proffered good wishes.
I don’t normally broadcast my birthday, but then there is no “normal” this year.
I suspect that, like me, the past eight-ish months forced you to spend time more time than usual in your head. Is happiness still in your life? Have dreams been realized?
All of those niggling thoughts that keep you staring at the ceiling at 5 a.m. were hugely amplified this year — as was a sense of gratefulness for health and jobs and anything else that allowed your life to roll on virtually unscathed during a raging pandemic.
But even though another year is flipping by on the calendar, I’m still able to lean into the sentiments of one of my favorite songs about aging, Bon Jovi’s “Just Older,” an album track from 2000′s “Crush.”
“I like the bed I’m sleeping in/it’s just like me, it’s broken in/it’s not old – just older,” Jon Bon Jovi sings convincingly. And then, “Like a favorite pair of torn blue jeans/the skin I’m in is all right with me/it’s not old — just older.”
Of course, once thoughts get locked into the premise of getting older, so do a flood of other songs. Some are wistful (hi, Carly Simon), others celebratory (Jimmy Durante’s inimitable gruffness always makes me smile) and a few always guarantee a Kleenex (thanks, Joni Mitchell).
So, while I’m off to celebrate at my favorite restaurant in the world - Chef Vola’s in Atlantic City - with masks and gloves in suitcase, here’s to getting a little slower, a bit grayer and a lot more thankful with some songs to reflect on our fleeting youth.
The Beatles, Ringo Starr (from left), John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, released their pop masterpiece “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” in 1967. The album is being reissued in several formats and editions on May 26. MICHAEL COOPER MANDATORY /APPLE CORPS LTD.
The Beatles, “When I’m Sixty-Four”: What remains most magnificent about this bauble from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” is that Paul McCartney wrote it when he was 16 (!). And if you want to talk about time flying, the songwriting master is now 78.
The Faces, “Ooh La La”: Ronnie Wood sings lead on the original (a rarity for the eventual Rolling Stone), but I’m partial to Rod Stewart’s 1998 rendition on his “When We Were the New Boys” album with its overlay of penny whistle and other Celtic touches. And yes, “I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger.” We all do. But only these guys put it out there so starkly.
Bowling for Soup, “1985”: An ode to anyone who grew up in the 1980s and is still wondering when Motley Crue became classic rock.
Carly Simon, “Coming Around Again”: Though not specifically about aging, this underrated gem written for the 1986 movie “Heartburn” (Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, watch it) is not only musically sumptuous but filled with lyrics of aching hopefulness.
Diana Ross, “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)”: A No. 1 hit that was also nominated for an Oscar (for “Mahogany”), the orchestral ballad hits deep thanks to Ross' probing intonation.
Neil Young, “Old Man”: Though it was written for the caretaker of the northern California ranch Young purchased in 1970 (when Young was all of 24), the song focuses on the realization that regardless of age, love is all you need.
Bruce Springsteen, “Glory Days”: Its purpose is not only nostalgia but reflection. And, like so many other Springsteen songs, a peppy background delivered by the E Street Band belies lyrics awash in introspection.
Fleetwood Mac, “Landslide”: Stevie Nicks has said the ballad was inspired as she wrestled with the decision to return to school or remain in music. Whether it’s the classic Mac version or covers by The Chicks and Smashing Pumpkins, the wistful song is validation that she chose the latter.
Rob Thomas, “One Less Day (Dying Young)”: A modest hit for the Matchbox Twenty frontman in 2019, the upbeat-yet-poignant anthem will make you smile and weep for those taken from us too soon.
Joni Mitchell, “Both Sides Now”: Who among us can listen to this aural poetry and not be moved? Who among us could even attempt to craft lyrics as dazzling as “Moons and Junes and ferries wheels/the dizzy dancing way that you feel”? No. One. So take this song sentiment with you, too: “Well something’s lost, but something’s gained/in living every day.”
Jimmy Durante, “Young at Heart”: The pop standard was popularized by Frank Sinatra and covered by everyone from Perry Como to Gloria Estefan. But for some reason, it’s Durante’s staccato delivery — at the age of 70 when he recorded it in 1963 — that lingers.
Other songs to make you think about aging: Rush, “Time Stand Still"; Grateful Dead, “Touch of Grey”; Squeeze, “Electric Trains”; Alan Parsons Project, “Time”; John Mellencamp, “Cherry Bomb”; LCD Soundsystem “Losing My Edge”; Frank Sinatra, “It Was a Very Good Year”; Five for Fighting, “100 Years”; Billy Joel, “This Is the Time.”
About the Author
Melissa Ruggieri has covered music and entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2010 and created the Atlanta Music Scene blog. She's kept vampire hours for more than two decades and remembers when MTV was awesome.