Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?

When I decide on my set list for a volunteer gig, I stick mostly to American standards from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. I might add a couple of Doris Day or Tony Bennett favorites from the 1950s, or toss in a Broadway show tune or something from the movies now and then. As a rule, I don’t venture much beyond that in my timeline, because songs written since 1960 seem to hold little appeal for my audiences. I can think of a few exceptions: “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” (from My Fair Lady) and “Till There Was You” (The Music Man) usually get a good reception. So do “Moon River” (from Breakfast at Tiffany’s) and “Somewhere My Love” (Doctor Zhivago).

But in general, there’s a musical line in the sand right around the middle of the 20th century. When I play “You’ll Never Know” (1943) or “Don’t Fence Me In” (1944), my senior listeners feel a sense of connection and ownership. This is “their” music in a way that a song from say, 1965, isn’t. More recent tunes don’t pack the emotional punch that my audiences want – and expect – from the music I play.

It makes me wonder: When baby boomers like me are living in nursing homes and retirement centers, what music will we want to hear?

I’m a little behind the curve on this, because baby boomers already are starting to move into these facilities. The reasons vary. Some want to downsize, simplify their lives, let someone else do the cooking, so they choose an independent-living arrangement in a retirement community. Others, like Deb, have health issues and can no longer live on their own.

Deb relocated from Florida to Michigan a couple of years ago after a stroke, to be closer to her adult children. She’s about my age, making her the youngest person I’ve seen in her assisted-living home. She only attends my performances once in a while, but when she does, I can be sure she’ll ask for something well outside the range of my usual offerings: The Beatles, Gilbert and Sullivan, “something by Marvin Hamlisch” a few days after he died in August of 2012 (I managed to come up with “The Way We Were”). I always get the feeling that her requests have less to do with wanting to hear what she’s asked for, and more with making a statement to her fellow residents: I don’t belong here. I’m not like you. I know her adjustment has been difficult.

Maybe there are other baby boomers who stay in their rooms rather than coming out to listen to music they find irrelevant. Perhaps it’s time for me to sprinkle in some Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell.

What songs do you want to hear when you’re old(er) and grey?

Copyright © 2014 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.

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This entry was posted in Music and emotion, Music programming, Piano performance, Volunteering and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?

  1. Sandy Shores says:

    Ha, ha, ha……I’ve never thought about this. But I do know that when my contemporaries were listening to Elvis and the Beatles, I was listening to Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett, etc. Although I did enjoy the Four Freshman, The McGuire Sisters, Frankie Avalon, etc. But to me they don’t write the songs like they used to in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. Disco was OK at the time and Jazz is always welcome. I like a lot of different music including classical. But you can keep the old fashioned hillbilly (i.e. country music). I find that almost offensive. LOL Besides, if you find me living in an assisted facility, I’d be so near death it wouldn’t matter WHAT music you play! Keep up your blogs, Paulette. I look forward to them every week!!!

  2. Judie says:

    I will always want to hear Mo-Town and the Beatles. Jim Croce and Cat Stevens would also be on my list. Ross definitely would want Dylan and Joni Mitchell. Joan Baez is also someone I like a lot. Then there is always R-E-S-P-E-C-T by the great Aretha. Stevie Wonder is another one. We have music playing almost all day every day. Can’t imagine live without it. About the only thing I wouldn’t want is Rap and Country.

    • Motown really takes me back, too, but I guess that would be true of any Detroit (area) native who was a teenager in the 60s! I especially loved the backup singers and their dance moves. So, Motown for fun, but Joan Baez for emotional connection. I still think often of the four of us going to hear her at Interlochen a couple of years ago. Though age had stolen some of her high notes, her sound still soared.

  3. Mary Bochnig says:

    I remember being at Aunt Judie and Uncle Ross’ apartment (when they lived behind Gino’s Restaurant) one Christmas Eve.I was allowed to listen to Seals and Croft’s album, “Summer Breeze” (1972?) wearing a pair of state of the art headphones. They had a great stereo system, I always thought they were the coolest aunt and uncle anyone could have in a family. This post made me think of that memory, and I thought for sure Aunt Judie would mention a Seals and Croft tune! I also remember listening to Carole King’s “Tapestry”. I think every single song from that album is a hit.

    • Ah, Seals and Crofts really takes me back, too. I can imagine how incredible “Summer Breeze” sounded on state-of-the-art headphones! I can also relate to Carole King’s music – her Tapestry album was released in 1971, the year I graduated from high school. I have a book of sheet music that covers the entire album. I haven’t look at it in years! The songs are good solo piano pieces – they don’t require a whole band to sound decent — so they might appeal to some of the baby boomers in my audiences.

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