One of the most famous lines in rock history is Pete Townshend, in “My Generation,” proclaiming “Hope I die before I get old.” No one, even a fast-approaching-70 Townshend, can deny the bright and burning romanticism of that statement, of avoiding old age, with its pains, its capitulations, and more importantly its compromises with reality. Youth is about love and possibilities and ideals–aging about forsaking all that. At least, that’s what culture leads us to believe. Rock music is the purest expression of that.
This doesn’t have to be the case, though. While it is undeniable that being older is much different than being young, different isn’t a value judgment. Getting old isn’t bad. It’s just a different phase, with its own attendant joys. One of the most important of these joys, as Global Glue promotes, is staying together and in love, finding someone to share those triumphs and tragedies, those moments both quiet and loud. There are songs about that experience–songs we share with you now. What are some of your favorite songs about growing old in a relationship?
The Beatles: “When I’m 64”
“When I’m 64” is an anomaly, both in terms of this list and its album–the ground-breaking genre-bending Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It’s a sweet, old-fashioned melody about aspirational love, with an English bar-hall tune that you can imagine being sung in the 1920s. It’s odd on this list, because it is about before growing old–anticipating that the spark will fade, but not the love. It hopes for something beautiful and lasting and quiet. It imagines and has hope for the small moments. That it is, like all of Paul’s songs, an unimpeachable bit of pop perfection hides what, for 1967, was a truly subversive message: it’s not just about the now. The future matters.
Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four?
The Beach Boys: “God Only Knows”
Pet Sounds, another soaring and sonically-radical album, also contains within it a perfect song about lifetime love. It can, of course, be listened to as a young person’s lament, but it also somehow captures that moment many years on, when your life is perfectly joined with someone else’s. The heart of a relationship is not dependency, but growing together, changing as individuals, but individuals who reflect each other, and help each other grow. You are as separate as tree branches, but intertwined through the roots and trunk of your love. That’s a beautiful thing.
If you should ever leave me
Though life would still go on believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me
God only knows what I’d be without you
Iron and Wine: “Someday the Waves”
This is a sadder song, a song full of aching longing about something that has passed. It’s about a love that has existed for years, but has faded and cooled. It seems an odd song to put on this list, for sure. But one of the lines, “you pick a place, that’s where I’ll be,” shows the depth of his longing. He wants his love back, and he knows that there is a way to get it back. That can happen–life and burdens can get in the way, but there can still be the ember. Things may have changed, but it’s important not to let how you feel at any given moment erase the passion that was felt. As long as time remains, so does hope and love.
Waking before you
I’m like the lord who sees his love though we don’t know
Seems like a long, long time
Since I’ve been above you seen and loved you so
You pick a place that’s where I’ll be
Time like your cheek has turned for me
Leonard Cohen: Dance Me Til The End Of Love
Leonard Cohen is the Canadian mystic explorer of love and lust, whose brilliance is outstripped perhaps only by his modesty, and who may just be the greatest poet in music. Most of his songs are about the ends of relationships, filled with nostalgia and pain and broken longing. Even his aged ones are sardonic about aging (“Well my friends are gone, and my hair is grey/I ache in the places I used to play”). But “Dance Me To The End of Love,” is about a relationship that lasts, that is more than the moment, that waltzes throughout the years, that waits in an embrace until the floor is darkened and the revelers have gone home, and that dances well past when the music stops.
Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love
Tom Waits: Take It With Me When I Go
Tom Waits is the eternal troubadour–the gravel-and-whiskey voiced poet of shambling street dwellers and hitch-hiking dreamers. But more than that, and especially on his finest album, Mule Variations, he turns his formidable gifts to nostalgia. In the album’s penultimate song, he sings a song to his wife, a song of reminiscing, of a tough life, but one that he doesn’t regret. He collects these memories and will bring them with him. But there is one thing–his love for her–that means the most (“There’s got to be more than flesh and bone/all that you love is all that you own”). It’s his sweetest and most joyful memory. This love, in its essence, is what makes him. And if real love, worn through the years, is all you take when you go, well, one has to admit that is considerably more than nothing. It’s everything.
In a land there’s a town
And in that town there’s
And in that house
There’s a woman
And in that woman
There’s a heart I love
I’m gonna take it
With me when I go