When Mick Jagger turned 70 on July 26, it seemed the entire population on the right side of 50 screamed, “Happy Birthday!” In unison. The “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” remains a compact, sexy ball of youth.
But not only were we toasting him, somehow it became about us. If he is living proof that playing in a rock ‘n’ roll band de-fertilizes the creeping, creepy vine called “Age,” we post-50-year-olds are a testament that being faithful listeners to rock ‘n’ roll keeps us springy in spine, and open in outlook. The message came over loud and clear to my high school class, or at least to those of us who are planning to attend the party commemorating our departure 40 years ago from the hallowed home of the Spartans.
The reunion e-mail chain erupted with anecdotes about the healing and restorative power of rock ‘n’ roll, and the days when it ruled our lives. One women recalled that after seeing Black Sabbath at Convention Hall in Asbury Park, she had no choice but to bring her favorite Black Sabbath record into typing class. Without a whimper from the teacher, it seems the class learned the keyboard listening to “Fairies Wear Boots.” The advice was non-negotiable: revisit the musical landscape of the 1970s, or be doomed to overripe maturity!
I felt despair. I never really cottoned to rock ‘n’ roll. Perhaps my downfall was not taking that typing class. I figured I was about 99 years old on the chronological youth chart. I did not even have one good rock concert up my sleeve. While everyone else was (and still is) drinking from the bottomless pit of the greatest guitar hits of 1973, all I have to rely on are memories of endless hours listening to Billie Holiday sing Gershwin tunes.
I was lamenting my old age dilemma to my friend Lucy “Jagger,” who happens to be on the right side of 60.
She said, “Fear not my friend. I can help you rehash some of the greatest moments in musical history, and thereby start you on the path to reach the fountain of youth.”
She promised me I could borrow her greatest rock ‘n’ roll moments if I promised to watch only Mick Jagger videos on YouTube, and give up Richard Burton. Only kidding. She adores Richard Burton as much as I do, but would never be caught watching a YouTube video. But she did treat me to the vicarious thrill of her:
• Watching Jimi Hendrix play guitar at a Syracuse University frat party circa 1966-67.
• Attending the concert where Bob Dylan played electric guitar for the first time.
• Screaming her head off at the 1965 Beatles’ concert in Shea Stadium.
• Showing up at practically every single Rolling Stones concert that hit the United States in the ’60s.
As a cribber of Lucy’s tales of rock ‘n’ roll, I felt younger already. Whew!
Victor Hellwege said:
Hi Julie, didn’t know that you liked some of the older stuff. Have you ever listened to “Amtrak Blues” by Alberta Hunter, or ” The Gershwin Collection ” by Dave Grusin? Both albums go great with a leisurely read of the Sunday NYT. Or, how about some Chet Baker? Super musician and vocal stylist who unfortunately died prematurely after years of drug and alcohol abuse.Finally, may I suggest an album by The Cheiftains entitled ” The Long Black Veil “. You can get to hear Mick Jagger as you probably have never heard him before singing the title track.Even if you don’t care for him, the song itself has a haunting and sad soul of its own.Hope there’s something in there for you to enjoy. Regards, Vic Hellwege,class of ’73.
Julie Seyler said:
Thanks for the musical tips. Billie did lead me to Alberta Hunter and Chet with stops along the way for Bessie Smith and Robert Johnson etc etc but never The Cheiftains and thank you for the tip. The funny thing is things I eschewed at 18, I am finding a new found enjoyment in these days. I have to admit watching Mick at 70 is mesmerizing and I do regret a little not jumping on his bandwagon in his days of prime…
Susan Abraham said:
I love reading these posts–great blog!– and can’t wait to see you at the reunion. I also love Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith and Gershwin,not to mention Ella singing Cole Porter, but then again, I still have a soft spot for Motown, blues and lots of rock’n roll. Music is one of the true pleasures in life–I wish I could play it. But both of my kids play, so there is always a lot of music around here. And I can always listen. See you soon.xx
Julie Seyler said:
Dennis Dubrow said:
If you indeed skipped the mindless incessence of teenage R&R there is a cure for that. Van Morrison. Start with his 1st record with Them, he wrote Gloria, and just go album by album, while he introduces you to every great lick line and thrust of R&R, he does it with the brilliance that fueled the soul of Billie Holiday and the genius of Gershwin. I don’t think anything could be cooler then to be listening to The Beatles for the first time.
Julie Seyler said:
I have always had a soft spot for Riders on the Storm, so I am sure I am capable of expanding my horizons and trust you will be cuing up some good music at the reunion. See you soon!