Book Trailer The Noble Train

Sunday, November 19, 2017

;Hope I die Before I get Old

So says The Who Pete Townsend who has not died.  Pete Moon did die before he was old. John Enwhistle died and he was old. Tom Petty might be considered old. Prince probably not. AC DC guitarist and founding brother was oldish. Keith Richards is old but still around. Mick Jagger the same. David Bowie died and was old. And these are just the big ones. How many mid level one hit wonder rockers have died but there was no coverage. Davy Jones of The Monkees was old and died. It sounds like David Cassidy is just hanging on.

And yet each time one of the rockers go you feel your own mortality. It is the music a lot of us listened to and it is definitely dying. Dementia. Heart attacks. So un-rock and roll. Better the drug overdoses with the Philip Seymour Hoffman type of deaths. These we accept. These are a byproduct of youthful excess although Hoffman was in his forties. Janis and Jimmy were the prototype of rocker deaths. But these deaths from old age are in fact more terrifying. There is no statement here and there is no armor. These were people who have more in common with the retirement homes and the shuffling old men and women with their walkers. The very vanguard of youth of "hope I die before I get old" are in fact now getting old or are old and they are dying.

Pete Townsend wrote that line of course when he was very young. It was out of My Generation and it said that there could be nothing worse than being over thirty and it was far better to flame out from drugs than to succumb to the fossilized thinking and physical destruciton of aging. And of course no one would get old. No one did in the youth culture spawned in the sixties. Only the unhip, the squares, the bourgeoisie became old and died. Youth and drugs was a protection against all that. But of course like the limited art form that rock and roll is we see how silly and fatuous that all is.

Great art encompasses living and dying. Rock came out of youth and really only embraces being young which is just a part of life. Is Springsteen, the Stones, or U2 relevant today? Not really. They are relevant with their songs of youth and this why the oldies are our favorites. But even Paul McCartney's song When I'm Sixty Four has a tone of this will never really happen to me. People get old and die from the diseases of age even if they played in front of stadiums of adoring people who truly believed they would not get old either.

There is a famous line in an F. Scott Fitzgerald story At Your Age. A man who wanted to marry a younger girl realizes it will never work because he was just too old. The final line is brilliant. "He had only committed the unpardonable sin of aging after all; refusing to die."  The truth is nobody wants to die before they get old or when they are old. Even rockers who write songs in their twenties that are sung to people in their sixties or seventies.

Just ask Pete Townsend, 72.

Books by William Hazelgrove