Fornatale: Rockers of ages

Aging rockers, left from rear, Pete Townshend and

Aging rockers, left from rear, Pete Townshend and Ian Anderson; front, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel (Credit: Randy Jones illustration)

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Pete Fornatale, a longtime New York radio personality, is author of "Back to the Garden: The Story of Woodstock."

Rock 'n' roll music is littered with larger than life pronouncements about youth, aging and mortality. Here's a roll call and an update on some of the most famous:

 


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

Paul McCartney wrote that for the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album back in 1967. Well, Sir Paul passed that significant birthday more than five years ago and still basks in the warm glow of love, respect and admiration from his international fan base. He filled Yankee Stadium twice in July, and just wed for a third time on Sunday.

 

"Let's live for today!"

This was the song sung so passionately by The Grass Roots, becoming a Top 10 single, also in 1967. Lead singer Rob Grill died this past July from complications caused by two strokes and a head injury, at the age of 67.

 

"Too old to rock 'n' roll, too young to die."

Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull turned 64 in August and has tour dates listed on his website that will carry him and the group through 2012, performing their "Thick as a Brick" album in its entirety for the first time in 40 years.

 

"All things must pass."

George Harrison exploded as a solo performer post-Beatles with his 1970 three-record set "All Things Must Pass." Harrison succumbed to cancer in 2001 at the age of 58.

Then there's the oldest, boldest, prematurest proclamation of them all: "I hope I die before I get old!"

Pete Townshend is far beyond fulfilling the arrogance-of-youth declaration he wrote in 1965 at age 20. He turned 66 in May and is still productive in rock 'n' roll. To paraphrase the kind affirmation by septuagenarian Bob Dylan, in his timeless "My Back Pages": "Pete was so much older then, he's younger than that now."

 

Finally, there's this one: "Can you imagine us years from today sharing a park bench quietly? How terribly strange to be 70."

Twenty-something songwriter Paul Simon penned those words for the song "Old Friends" on Simon & Garfunkel's classic "Bookends" album back in 1968. Well, hold on to your AARP card, everybody: Simon turns 70 on Thursday. (You may have heard him whining about it to Brian Williams recently on "NBC Nightly News.") And Art Garfunkel reaches that same milestone on Nov. 5.

 

What are we aging baby boomers to make of all this? A litany of cliches comes immediately to mind:

"Youth is wasted on the young," or "Time flies when you're having fun," or "You're only as old as you feel."

"Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow . . . "

Enough already. How about: "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana."

That quote from Groucho Marx should lighten up this subject, which furrows the brow of many soon-to-be or already-are seniors. Let's face it. Any self-respecting boomer who isn't thinking about mortality is just fooling himself or herself.

The clock is ticking. The days are dwindling down to a precious few. And the conveyor belt to the dustbin of eternity is picking up speed. But I still say our collective generational response to all of this should be a loud and clear: "Carpe diem!" Or in the more recent, equivalent, phrase of a dying Warren Zevon, in his last interview on "The Late Show with David Letterman": "Enjoy every sandwich."

The best antidote to age anxiety can be found in the writings of Viktor Frankl, the late Holocaust survivor and originator of the school of psychotherapy known as logotherapy. In his ageless book "Man's Search for Meaning," he included a passage describing why young people should envy their elders: "Instead of possibilities in the future, they have realities in the past -- the potentialities they have actualized, the meanings they have fulfilled, the value they have realized -- and nothing and nobody can ever remove these assets from the past."

Amen to that.

 

Remember the million-dollar quartet? Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis gathered to record together at Sun Records in Memphis on a December day in 1956 -- a session that inspired the recent Broadway musical.

Only Lewis is still alive, so he called the album he released 50 years later "Last Man Standing." One of his best songs is "Rockin' My Life Away." Those are words to live by. And, by the way, when Lewis (aka "The Killer") made an appearance on "American Bandstand" on Thanksgiving Day 1957, the other guests on the show were a couple of kids from Queens who called themselves Tom and Jerry, promoting their teen hit "Hey Schoolgirl." Their real names? Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.

How terribly strange to be 70? Not so much. Writing this has made me hungry. I think I'll turn on Dylan's "My Back Pages" and make myself a sandwich.

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