Old people. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever consider that I might become one of those people some day but alas, now I am one. The music I enjoyed in my glory years was a lot more than just bluegrass but I took it for granted that no matter what kind of music I happened to be listening to, it was written for people like me in the prime of life.
She goes with a crowd,
I’ll pass her always bitter and cold
Just another boy grown weary
Just another boy grown old (Carter Family)
The songs we are all love are mostly about life, love, conflict, energy. Those are the things we give importance to even when we are old like me and past our prime.
You know that old trees just grow strongerAnd old rivers grow wilder every day Old people just grow lonesome Waiting for someone to say, “Hello in there, hello” (John Prine)
I worry a little bit that the music genre I love might one of these days become simply old people’s music. I should know better. Our bluegrass music is full of old tropes that don’t make a lot of sense to many people outside my generation of adult fossils. But I still hear some of those very tunes played enthusiastically by youngsters inspired in part by the recently deceased Frank Solivan and the cadre of supporters he inspired who still keep the engine fueled.
In case you’d like to donate, here’s a link to a charity in honor of Frank’s legacy of inspiring kids to play music:
Well, I wonder how the old folks are at home Well,
I wonder if they miss me when I’m gone
I wonder if they pray For the boy who went away
And left his dear old parents all alone
You could hear the cattle lowing in the lane
You could almost see the fields of bluegrass green
You could almost hear them cry As they kissed their boy goodbye
I wonder how the old folks are at home (Flatt & Scruggs)
In that old song Flatt & Scruggs recorded, the main character worries about his dear old parents back at home. They might be very far away indeed.
Last night while I lay sleeping Last night while in a dream
I saw my dear old mother Down by a rippling stream
Don’t ask me why I’m weeping / Don’t ask me why I pray
For I’ve an aged mother / 10,000 miles away (Carter Family)
Aging parents don’t want to be a burden to their children but sometimes that’s how it happens. These days medical advances have made it common for many people to survive well past their prime and we struggle with long term care solutions.
I took a walk Sunday evening alone
And passed by the gate of an old ladies home
I thought I heard one old lady say
It seems that the postman’s stopped coming this way (Carter Family)
Aging couples can have relationship problems.
Now I’m old and feeble And I cannot see my way
Mama says I’m old and gray And only in the way
Mama says she don’t want me Because I’m getting old
Scared that I might freeze to death The weather is so cold (Carter Family)
But those problems usually start much earlier.
Oh, why do you treat me as if I were only a friend
What have I done that makes you so different and cold
Sometimes I wonder if you’ll be contented again
Will you still love me when I am withered and old?
Extended families are smaller these days than in the days of the Carter family but the same old people issues are still there, even amplified. I wish every old person had someone to look out for them as they navigate their “golden years” but at least most do.
My mother’s old and feeble
My father’s getting gray
I’m going back to Virginia And I expect to stay
At my old Clinch Mountain home