Age is a universal part of the human experience. Even so, we don’t respond to it the same way. Some of us fear it and fight it. In contrast, others have been known to make peace with it sullenly or wholeheartedly.
As a result, it makes sense that songs about aging are just as varied as our responses to the phenomenon.
Here are 20 of the best songs about getting older ever released:
20. “Veronica” – Elvis Costello
Aging is terrifying. After all, it increases someone’s chances of serious medical issues such as dementia, which destroys our fundamental ability to make sense of the world around us.
Elvis Costello was inspired to write “Veronica” because his grandmother had Alzheimer’s. The song is particularly moving because the lyrics make it clear that the titular character still has fleeting moments of clarity.
19. “I Don’t Want to Grow Up” – Ramones
Ramones pioneered punk in the mid-1970s. However, interested individuals should know they lasted long enough to make fourteen studio albums. The last was the aptly-named Adios Amigos in 1995, followed by the band members going their separate ways in 1996.
It contained a Ramones cover of Tom Waits’s “I Don’t Want to Grow Up,” which was a fitting denouement to their storied career. Their time has passed, but the spirit behind their music remains as strong as ever.
18. “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair” – George Jones
Older individuals are often perceived as being less capable than their younger counterparts. Unsurprisingly, they don’t like that very much.
It is easy to sympathize with George Jones in “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair” because it is a statement of full-hearted defiance directed against the notion that he is past his prime.
17. “As Good As I Once Was” – Toby Keith
Of course, people don’t necessarily have to approach aging with such a strong sense of spite. Toby Keith’s “As Good As I Once Was” is a wry acknowledgment that he isn’t in the same physical condition as when he was young.
The funny thing is that he doesn’t necessarily like admitting that to himself, which is why the music video ends with him getting knocked off his feet during a bar brawl in which he shouldn’t have gotten involved.
16. “Ghost” – Coheed and Cambria
Parenthood is a time of enormous transition for most people. As a result, it encourages them to think about the future, which is why it has inspired so much music over the decades.
Claudio Sanchez, the lead singer of Coheed and Cambria, is no exception to this rule. That is why “Ghost” is acoustic, which artists often use to evoke a more thoughtful mood.
Furthermore, that is why the lyrics see the viewpoint character wondering whether he will raise his child like his parents raised him. Something that a lot of new parents have thought about long and hard.
15. “Can’t Forget About You” – Nas
“Can’t Forget About You” is the kind of song that comes from a position of experience. In it, Nas reflects on the past that made him into who he is.
The references make the song more meaningful for those who recognize them. Still, it seems safe to say that most people would recognize it for what it is. Contexts change, but the sentiments stay the same.
14. “September Song” – Willie Nelson
A calendar marks the passage of time. As a result, it makes sense that people would use the months as stand-ins for different stages in someone’s life. In “September Song,” Willie Nelson sings about how days start feeling shorter because their limited number has made them more precious.
This is connected to the widespread phenomenon of older individuals feeling as though time is passing faster than their younger counterparts.
13. “Stay With You” – John Legend
People are constantly changing. As a result, time can wear down relationships because a couple that gets along well at one point won’t necessarily stay that way forever.
Due to this, there are numerous songs in which artists affirm their enduring love for their significant others. John Legend’s “Stay With You” is more-or-less what one would expect based on the theme. Even so, it has earned a position on this list for being one of the best of its kind.
12. “When I’m Sixty-Four” – The Beatles
“When I’m Sixty-Four” is another song on a similar theme. The funny thing is that Paul McCartney wrote it when he was still 14, which isn’t an age when most people put much thought that far into the future.
Regardless, “When I’m Sixty-Four” is one of the Beatles’ better-known love songs, so it shouldn’t be a mystery why it earned a position on this list.
11. “We’ll Meet Again” – Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash has several songs that could fit on this list. One excellent example is “We’ll Meet Again,” which comes from his last studio album released during his lifetime.
That context gives the song a different meaning from the original version. For those unfamiliar, “We’ll Meet Again” was an iconic song of the Second World War because its lyrics won favor with the soldiers and their loved ones, hoping to be reunited once everything was settled.
Here, Cash seems to have been expressing his belief that he will reunite with his loved ones in the afterlife. Something easy to sympathize with.
10. “Forever Young” – Rod Stewart
“Forever Young” is a bit more complicated than the title makes it sound. The song isn’t about physical immortality, even though people have been dreaming about that one since time immemorial.
Instead, the song is about how people can remain young in spirit by adopting the right attitude. That isn’t easy to pull off. Even so, that is one of the healthier approaches people can take toward aging.
9. “When We Were Young” – Adele
Adele has earned an enviable reputation for being able to imbue her music with palpable emotion. There is a heavy sense of nostalgia running throughout “When We Were Young,” which makes sense because it is the perspective of someone meeting old acquaintances at a much later time than they last met.
As such, much of the one-time emotions that dominated these relationships have washed away. What remains is a momentary surge of reminiscence and recollection that is no less powerful for its brief nature.
8. “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)” – Garth Brooks
We don’t experience the same things. Due to that, it is very much possible for people to age at different rates even though they have the same chronological starting point.
Experiences can be good, bad, and everything in-between. Unfortunately, there are times when they can weigh heavily upon us, as shown by Garth Brooks in “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old).”
7. “100 Years” – Five For Fighting
Five For Fighting released “100 Years” back in 2004. It was very successful in those days. After all, “100 Years” managed 12 weeks at the top of the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.
Moreover, it reached the number 28 position on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is more-or-less what it sounds like, which is to say, a summary of the major moments in a person’s life.
Sometimes, it feels too short for what it tries to encapsulate, but those work in its favor by emphasizing just how quickly a human lifespan passes.
6. “When You Are Old and Gray” – Tom Lehrer
As mentioned earlier, there are countless songs in which artists pledge undying love for a lifetime. This isn’t a new thing. It was already a cliche when Tom Lehrer started performing “When You Are Old and Gray” back in the 1950s.
This song is a cynical rebuttal to the notion that these relationships can stand the test of time. It isn’t as cruel as some of its counterparts. Moreover, it has a certain nonchalance that blunts some of the cruelty inherent in the words. Even so, it is refreshingly sharp and to the point.
5. “Turn! Turn! Turn!” – The Byrds
“Turn! Turn! Turn!” is about as straightforward as these things get. It says nothing about how people should approach the topic of our mortality. Instead, it just says there is a time for everything.
One could interpret that in a negative sense. After all, the song makes it clear that death will come for everyone. However, one could also see something comforting in that sense of transience.
All things pass. That is true for the good things. Similarly, that is true for the bad things. As such, there is something equitable to it.
4. “Yo Vivire (I Will Survive) – Celia Cruz
“Yo Vivire (I Will Survive)” is a reminder that physical survival isn’t the only kind of survival. A person can die. However, they will live on through the impact they have had on others.
Due to this, it is common to hear people talking about how there are two kinds of death. One would be the death of the body, while the other would be the death of memory.
Of course, artists can continue impacting others much longer than most people can hope for. So long as their works continue to receive play, they continue to live on in a meaningful sense.
3. “Glory Days” – Bruce Springsteen
Sometimes, people are lucky in that they never pass their peak. Other times, people are all too aware that the best part of their life is behind them.
Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” does a remarkable job of capturing the sense of mingled sorrow and sweetness people can feel when they look back on the times lost to them forever.
2. “Landslide” – Fleetwood Mac
Stevie Nicks wrote “Landslide” at a turning point in her life. As the story goes, she was giving her attempt at establishing a singing career a few more months before looking into alternatives.
A short while later, Nicks was on Fleetwood Mac, which was set to enter a tumultuous but successful period in the mid-1970s. “Landslide” remains a moving meditation on relationships and how time can change relationships.
For proof, look no further than the artists who have covered it in the years since. One example came from the Smashing Pumpkins in the 1990s, while another example came from the Dixie Chicks in the 2000s.
Each version has its appeal. Still, none of them could have existed without Nicks’s original.
1. “Grandma’s Hands” – Bill Withers
This song saw Bill Withers reminiscing on his grandmother’s hands. She was old. As a result, it makes sense that the lyrics describe her hands as sometimes troubling her by aching and swelling.
However, what matters more is that Withers’s grandmother played a very important role in his childhood. Oftentimes, this was in a direct sense.
The singer spends a fair amount of time describing how his grandmother taught him, supported him, and otherwise raised him.
That said, the lyrics also describe how she used her hands in other activities, thus painting a richer picture of who she was than otherwise possible.
Ultimately, “Grandma’s Hands” is an emotionally powerful reminder of the effect people can have on others, which is one of the great consolations that will see us through our lives.
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