I’m a firm believer in the idea that we should tailor our behavior to situation and circumstance. Just ask my daughter. She learned at an early age that it’s fine with Mom to yell to your friends on the playground, but use your inside voice at the library. There’s a time and a place for everything.
I subscribe to this belief as a volunteer pianist as well. Some songs seem plainly wrong to me in certain contexts. For example, I don’t play “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You” in nursing homes, where deep loss is part of every day. The song has been covered by dozens of artists since big band leader Russ Morgan wrote and recorded it in 1944. Dean Martin’s 1965 version reached #1 on the easy listening charts. Still, I find “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You” unsuitable for some audiences, so I leave it out.
I also steer clear of the tune “Enjoy Yourself, It’s Later Than You Think.” Most of my listeners know exactly how late it is. Lyricist Herb Magidson (who wrote the words to “The Continental” too) offers a fairly unimaginative take on aging:
Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink,
The years go by as quickly as a wink,
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.
Criticized by some as endorsing hedonism, it nonetheless became a hit for Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians in 1949.
Now I’m considering whether the song “Are You Havin’ Any Fun?” falls into the “inappropriate for older audiences” category. Again, the lyrics aren’t especially inventive:
Better have a little fun,
You ain’t gonna live forever.
Before you’re old and grey,
Have a little fun, have your little fun.
The song was originally featured in the 1939 Broadway revue George White’s Scandals. I first heard it in the movie Quartet, a comedy-drama released last year, directed by 76-year-old Dustin Hoffman and filmed in Buckinghamshire, England. It’s an entertaining story about four former opera singers living in a musicians’ retirement home.
In a nursing facility, where my listeners have few choices about how they spend their time, playing “Are You Havin’ Any Fun?” seems like rubbing it in. But seniors in retirement centers, who retain a modicum of independence, would probably accept the song in the spirit it was offered in Quartet: a lighthearted reminder to live in the moment. If the moment is a good one, that’s a message I can get behind.
Copyright © 2013 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.