Paul Simon – How terribly strange to be seventy

Paul Simon

Yesterday was Paul Simon’s seventieth birthday, and he’s still going strong. Nonetheless, I can’t help remembering his lyrics from “Old Men,” released on the Simon & Garfunkel album “Bookends” in 1968:
Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a park bench quietly.
How terribly strange to be seventy.
These days, he’s not sitting sedately on a park bench – this year he released a beautiful new album, “So Beautiful or So What,” and he’s about to embark on a fall tour.

Bob Dylan turned 70 last May 14, and John Lennon would have been 71 this past Sunday, October 9. Perhaps not so coincidentally, Sir Paul McCartney chose to marry his third wife, Nancy Shevell, that same day. At 69, he doesn’t fit the “When I get old and losing my hair” image of “When I’m Sixty-Four,” and

Paul McCartney

he’s still taking on new challenges, like writing a musical score for a new ballet, “Ocean’s Kingdom,” for the New York City Ballet. This maiden voyage was almost unanimously panned – critic Tobi Tobias said the score “runs the gamut from movie music to faux-Broadway” – but you’ve got to give the “cute Beatle” credit for trying, even though he’s not as cute as he used to be. I can’t help wondering what marvelous music John and George would have created had they lived this long. I’ve heard all these artists live in concert more than once, including the Beatles’ famed Shea Stadium concerts in the Sixties.

Then there are the Rolling Stones, arguably the world’s greatest rock band. Their peerless drummer Charlie Watts turned 70 this past June 2nd, and Mick and Keith will hit that milestone in 2013. Despite all the hard-won wrinkles in their faces and the ribbing they’ve taken from late-night comedians who claim they’re geriatric, they still put on a fabulous show, or at least they did when I caught their “Bigger Bang” tour in Albany in 2005. The music sounded better than ever.

Why all this concern over a mere number? It’s because I turned 70 on July 31 – a milestone I’d been dreading. But when I woke that morning, I felt strangely relieved. I took a stab at blogging about it, but I was still suffering from depression and writer’s block, and the words refused to come. Perhaps I was still ambivalent about revealing my true age, but if rock superstars come clean about their advancing years, why shouldn’t I? Maybe because I’m a woman, and when it comes to looks, the sexist double standard still reigns supreme.

Physically I’m feeling as healthy as ever, though no doubt I’m losing a fair number of brain cells every day. I’ve been calling myself a crone for about a decade now, ever since I turned 60. I’ve used the term in various computer passwords. (One of them, long obsolete now, was NorseKrone. I changed the spelling in honor of the famous woman jockey, Julie Krone.) But I’m still taken aback when I tell people my age and they don’t seem surprised. Part of me longs to hear those unbelieving protests, along the lines of “I don’t believe it – you don’t look a day over 60.”

More and more people are calling me “Ma’am” and offering to carry my luggage or help me up from an awkward seated position. I’m okay with that, but less okay with looking in mirrors. Currently we’re remodeling our bathroom, which for years has been forgivingly dim, and I cringe at the idea of installing those theatrical strips of multiple bulbs, but I suppose I’ll adapt in time.

Maybe eventually I’ll learn to joke about my age. Stephen Stills managed to pull that off at a concert on Tuesday night, making cracks about his less than acute hearing and the gaps in his memory, but he’s still only 66. And he has some valid explanations – all those years of playing rock and roll in front of banks of amplifiers and blunting his brain with drugs.

That reminds me of the wild party where I met Stephen Stills and gave him some unsolicited advice – hard to believe that was 40 years ago! But I’ll save that for the next blog post. In the meantime, rock on, all you oldies but goodies!

Charlie, Mick and Keith

4 thoughts on “Paul Simon – How terribly strange to be seventy

  1. Hi Julie, It is all a matter of attitude! At 70 I do NOT feel old or that I qualify as a crone! Yes, I go for the senior discounts where available but I don’t think of myself as old and many people are surprised if I tell them I am 70 and say I don’t look it. Betsy.

  2. It’s incomprehensible to me that Paul Simon could be seventy. It’s just nuts. This summer, I attended concerts for both Judy Collins and Buffy Sainte-Marie in the same week. They are both over seventy. One was beautifully old and one was beautifully young. Two different styles of aging. I wrote about them in my post “How to Be Old.”
    I’m sixty, but it’s so hard to see myself as even “mature.”

  3. 70 is the new Sixties, Julie – I mean the 60’s with tie-dye, Afros and hummus. Embrace it. It’s an excuse to do what you want – “What officer, I drove on the sidewalk? I’m old; I’m seventy! Would you give your Grandma a ticket??” I do this shtick all the time.

  4. Might as well play it both ways and get all the mileage you can of being 70. Get the senior discounts and do as M.E. Kemp with the cops who stop her and at the same time think of yourself as young.

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