“Sex at age 90 is like trying to shoot pool with a rope.”
– George Burns
Let’s get right to our list of Top 11 Geezer Songs. There’s no telling how much time you’ve got left.
- Old Time Rock and Roll by Bob Seger
The lyric “I reminisce about the days of old with that old time rock and roll” explains the geezer appeal of Bob Seger‘s 1979 hit. Seger recorded Old Time Rock and Roll backed by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, also known as the Swampers. Old Time Rock and Roll was written by local songwriters George Jackson and Thomas E. Jones. Muscle Shoals recording engineer Jerry Masters told Songfacts how Seger, who usually sticks with his own compositions, came to record the song.
“We cut a demo on the writer of the song, George Jackson, there at the studio when we didn’t have anything else to do. It was a great demo, along with some others we cut that day. Seger liked the song so much he tried to cut it himself, but after numerous tries, with the Swampers and with his band, he finally gave up. He and [manager] Punch Andrews decided to buy the demo track from us and put his vocal on it, and that ended up being the record. It’s a classic.”
Old Time Rock and Roll reached millions of new fans when it appeared in the 1983 Tom Cruise film Risky Business. “I loved it. I absolutely loved it,” Seger told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “And it was a good movie, too, which is always nice, you know? I remember I saw him at a roller skating rink, and I wanted to go up and say hi, and I said, ‘Ah, he’s not gonna know who I am,’ and I probably should have, but I didn’t, but I’ve always been very grateful for that, and it’s been fun down through the years seeing Nicole Kidman do it, Ronald Reagan do it. It’s been fun.”
Old Time Rock and Roll by Bob Seger
Old Time Rock and Roll by Bob Seger from Risky Business
- Forever Young by Bob Dylan
The 1973 LP Planet Waves marked the return of Bob Dylan to recording after a three-year hiatus. In 1966 Dylan was injured in a motorcycle crash and moved to Woodstock, N.Y. to recover. It was a period when Dylan’s first son, Jesse, was born.
Fans continued to haunt Dylan at his new home, prompting him to move to an Arizona ranch where in 1972 he began to write new music. One of the highlights of Planet Waves is Forever Young, a lullaby written for Jesse. The BBC reported that “the girlfriend of a childhood pal heard him recording it as an acoustic benediction and yelped, ‘C’mon, Bob: What! Are you getting mushy in your old age?'”
To avoid appearing sentimental, Dylan included two versions of Forever Young on the album: one a sensitive lullaby and the other a rocker.
Forever Young by Bob Dylan (Slow version)
Forever Young by Bob Dylan (Fast version)
- When I’m Sixty-Four by the Beatles
Paul McCartney was 16 years old when he wrote one of the most famous geezer songs. “Back then I wasn’t necessarily looking to be a rock ‘n’ roller,” McCartney recalled in Anthology. “When I wrote When I’m Sixty-Four I thought I was writing a song for Sinatra. There were records other than rock ‘n’ roll that were important to me.”
When I’m Sixty-Four was the first song recorded for the 1967 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP. John Lennon explained that the Beatles often played the song during their early stints at Liverpool’s Cavern Club.
“When I’m Sixty-Four was something Paul wrote in the Cavern days. We just stuck a few more words on it like ‘grandchildren on your knee’ and ‘Vera, Chuck and Dave.’ It was just one of those ones that he’d had, that we’ve all got, really; half a song. And this was just one that was quite a hit with us. We used to do them when the amps broke down, just sing it on the piano.”
When I’m Sixty-Four by the Beatles
- And When I Die by Laura Nyro and Blood Sweat & Tears
Laura Nyro wrote And When I Die, an examination of death and new life, when she was just 17. “I was reading poetry from the time I was really young,” Nyro told Performing Songwriter. “And I really liked poetry. So by the time I started writing songs, I was in a poetic frame of mind. And musically, I guess I have just been passionately listening to music since I was so young.”
Peter Paul & Mary were the first to record And When I Die in 1966. The song became a No. 2 hit for Blood Sweat & Tears in 1969. “Laura Nyro was [bassist] Jimmy Fielder’s girlfriend,” lead singer David Clayton-Thomas recalled in Rock Cellar Magazine.
“She used to come to rehearsals and I had the honor of recording Laura Nyro songs before she recorded them! She hadn’t gotten her recording contract going at that point and she was just Jimmy’s girlfriend. She’d sit down at the piano and play us tunes like Stoney End and Stone Soul Picnic, And When I Die, He’s a Runner, Wedding Bell Blues. We all knew she was brilliantly talented as a writer. Within the band we had a great writer and we took advantage of it.”
“That song has a certain folk wisdom that teenagers have,” Nyro explained. “They have that certain folk wisdom, under it all. So I think it just came through the song.”
And When I Die by Laura Nyro
And When I Die by Blood Sweat & Tears
- Still Crazy After All These Years by Paul Simon
Still Crazy After All These Years is the title tune from Paul Simon‘s 1975 solo album. After meeting an “old lover on the street last night,” the song takes a nostalgic, bittersweet look back at the singer’s life. “In Still Crazy After All These Years, that title phrase came to me first,” Simon said in Song Talk. “And it didn’t come with melody, either. It just came as a line. And then I had to create a story.”
Simon revealed in Playboy that his ex-wife Peggy Harper served as his inspiration. “I was staying in a Manhattan hotel. I had left my marriage. I had a 16-month-old son. I was pretty depressed, just sitting and looking out the window. That’s all I used to do. Just sit and look out the window: ‘Now I sit by my window and I watch the cars …'”
Paul Simon’s appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1976 featured the singer’s performance of Still Crazy while wearing a turkey costume. The memorable version is unfortunately unavailable on YouTube.
Still Crazy After All These Years by Paul Simon
- Old Man by Neil Young
Neil Young said that he purchased his Broken Arrow Ranch in Northern California in 1970 as “a rich young hippie.” Young explained on stage that he was inspired to write Old Man when he met Louis Avila, the ranch’s caretaker. “When I bought the place there was this old man who was working there for the people I bought it from. He was about 70 years old. He was a cattleman and that’s like something that’s never going to happen again, so I wrote a song about it.”
Following a February 1971 appearance on the Johnny Cash TV show in Nashville, James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt joined Young in the studio where he was working on the Harvest album. Taylor contributed the tasty banjo licks of Old Man over the chorus. Producer Elliot Mazer told BMI that Ronstadt and Taylor then contributed background vocals.
“Neil, Linda, and James came into the control room, sat down on the couch, we put up the mics, and rolled the playback right through the big speakers we had in there. That’s how they cut those background vocals. Normally you’d put on the headphones and get in a separate room and do it that way. But this worked out great and kept the live feel intact.”
Old Man by Neil Young
- Dead Flowers by the Rolling Stones
Dead Flowers, written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, is a gloomy look back at a misspent life. And what better way to tell a sad story than with country music? “I love country music, but I find it very hard to take it seriously” Jagger revealed in Rolling Stone. “I also think a lot of country music is sung with the tongue in cheek, so I do it tongue in cheek. The harmonic thing is very different from the blues. It doesn’t bend notes in the same way, so I suppose it’s very English, really. Even though it’s been very Americanized, it feels very close to me, to my roots, so to speak.”
Dead Flowers was released in 1971 on the Stones‘ Sticky Fingers LP. Country star Brad Paisley accompanied Jagger on the song at a Nashville concert in 2015. “The country songs, like Factory Girl or Dear Doctor on Beggars Banquet were really pastiche,” Jagger explained in According to the Rolling Stones. “There’s a sense of humor in country music anyway, a way of looking at life in a humorous kind of way – and I think we were just acknowledging that element of the music. The ‘country’ songs we recorded later, like Dead Flowers on Sticky Fingers or Far Away Eyes on Some Girls, are slightly different. The actual music is played completely straight, but it’s me who’s not going legit with the whole thing, because I think I’m a blues singer not a country singer – I think it’s more suited to Keith’s voice than mine.”
Dead Flowers by the Rolling Stones
- Veronica by Elvis Costello
Veronica, co-written by Elvis Costello and Paul McCartney, became Costello’s most successful single in the U.S. in 1989. The song is a tribute to Costello’s grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s.
“I wanted to write a song about this old person sitting there and appearing to be completely gone, as we say, but really coming and going and sometimes being completely lucid – but not making it a sentimental song,” Costello told the BBC. “I wanted it to be sort of defiant and happy, as if it was about a very young girl who was just starting out her life. I really took a lot of it from when I was talking with my grandmother, when I went to visit her during the last few years of her life. It’s like a love song in a way for her, but written as if it’s about a young girl. The pop music thing bears that up – people will hear the song and maybe say, ‘Oh yeah, it’s about this young girl Veronica,’ and then maybe listen a little bit more. I’m not making any big point, it’s just a little bit of hope and a love song from me.”
Veronica by Elvis Costello
- Too Old to Rock and Roll, Too Young to Die by Jethro Tull
Too Old to Rock and Roll, Too Young to Die was a 1975 concept album by Jethro Tull envisioned by frontman Ian Anderson as a rock musical. “The album presents an aging rock and roll rebel who finds his career being undone by the latest breed of rock musician,” said Anderson in Guitar World.”That theme became the subject matter of Too Old to Rock and Roll.”
“It does have the saving grace of having a very good title track that has become the anthemic staple of a Jethro Tull set list from time to time,” Anderson said in Figure8. “And it speaks for a lot of people who identify with the protagonist in the song, who is in a bit of a time warp and stuck in the culture and tradition and the societal context of his youth and doesn’t really recognize the modern age and comfortably sit with it. So that slightly Luddite approach to the world is probably served by some Jethro Tull fans, who can clench their fist and wave with obvious support to the anthemic ‘You’re never too old to rock and roll if you’re too young to die,” which becomes that brave voice of perhaps denial [laughs].”
Too Old to Rock and Roll, Too Young to Die by Jethro Tull
- Glory Days by Bruce Springsteen
Glory Days tells the tale of two buddies who meet outside a New Jersey bar after many years have passed. They spend the night drinking and reminiscing about the days when they were high school baseball players. Glory Days became a No. 5 hit for Bruce Springsteen in 1985 but has always kept fans guessing if the song was based on a real episode.
The New York Times solved the riddle in 2011. At a high school reunion attended by Springsteen in 1997, classmate Dick Enderly asked the Boss point blank. Springsteen’s answer: the song was about Joe DePugh, a former teammate and star Little League pitcher. DePugh explained how he and Springsteen drifted apart.
“He lost interest in baseball, and I was nothing but sports,” said DePugh, who was talented enough to be invited to try out for the Los Angeles Dodgers. “I was like: ‘I’m going to be a pitcher for the Dodgers. No, I’m going to college. No, I’m going to be a pitcher for the Dodgers.’ Well, the tryout cleared all that up.”
Glory Days by Bruce Springsteen
- Touch of Grey by the Grateful Dead
Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter began work on Touch of Grey in 1980 while living in England. “A friend brought over a hunk of very good cocaine,” Hunter admitted in Rolling Stone. “I stayed up all night. And at dawn I wrote that song. That was the last time I ever used cocaine. Nor had I used it for many years before that. Now I listen to it and it’s that attitude you get when you’ve been up all night speeding and you’re absolutely the dregs. I think I got it down in that song.”
Jerry Garcia also worked on the song, intended for a solo album by Hunter that was never completed. “Jerry said, ‘Would you mind if I reset the music to Touch of Grey and use it for the band?’ And I said, ‘No, go ahead.'”
But five years would pass before the band released a studio album. In the summer of 1986, Garcia almost died after his collapse from an undetected diabetic condition. After his recovery, Garcia rejoined the band. One of the songs they recorded for the 1987 LP In the Dark was Touch of Grey, a song of survival despite the problems of growing old. Garcia and the Dead resumed performing with a concert at the Oakland Auditorium in December 1986.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” Garcia said in the Philadelphia Inquirer “It was great to be able to play again. And the Grateful Dead is like nothing else.”
Touch of Grey by the Grateful Dead