Monday, 06 July 2015

If You've Seen One Old Person...

That's the first half of a maxim that is crucial to understanding what old age is like and if you've been hanging out at this blog for awhile, you've read it before:

If you seen one old person, you've seen one old person

Obviously it is a play on a common insult: If you've seen one [insert anything you want to disparage], you've seen them all.

It is doubtful that is true for anything but it is particularly not true for old people. Even so, every person past the age of 60 or so is too often lumped together as though we are all the same.

The baby boomers make a good example.

The oldest of that generation will be 70 next year, the majority retired – voluntarily or otherwise. But the youngest are just 51. They've still got kids in college and are hoping there is time to save a lot more money before they retire.

They don't have much in common but any time you see their name in print or hear it in any other media, they are assumed to be the same kind of people.

And the worst of those boomer references include everyone from age 60 to dead in the category. For too many media types, “boomer” has become a synonym for anyone older than about 50.

Yet, the variations among us are at least as wide and deep as with the youngest ages of humanity. No one expects a two-year-old to be anything like a five-year-old to be anything like a 10-year-old to be anything like a teen.

More, elders age at dramatically different rates. Absent health problems, pretty much all kids walk, talk, run, jump, etc. at the same age – as close as within a week or two of one another.

Some old people, however, are frail and infirm in their fifties while many 90-somethings are as physically active as people decades younger, driving cars, and living independently. The constraints of old age, dependent as they are on genes, health and dumb luck, diverge without much relationship to actual years.

Certainly, however, some generalizations can be made. The older we get, the more our bodies wear out, systems slow down, strength wanes and we become increasingly susceptible to the so-called “diseases of age” - diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, etc. Who gets these and survives them for a time or not, is largely a crapshoot, hard to predict.

Barring a big deal disease – or until one happens – life overall and our capabilities slow down little by little and that happens no matter how much the midlife people tell us that if we do this and not that they won't.

Those people are wrong - there are no miracle cures for old age.

For the decade I've been writing this blog, starting when I was a “youthful” 63, the people I've paid most attention to about “what it's really like to get old” are my friends, Millie Garfield and Darlene Costner.

Each of them has 16 years on me (we celebrated Darlene's 90th birthday a few weeks ago and it won't be long until we do the same for Millie), and they have both, over these many years, let me know – with great, good humor but serious about it too – that I don't know nothin' yet about getting old.

In fact, it was just those words that both women used in comments last week. Darlene:

”If I could give advice to the young writers I would say: Sometimes we can't plan what we will do in the future.

“...all of you under the age of 80 who are experiencing slowing down should know that 'you ain't seen 'nuttn' yet'.

“I couldn't move fast if the room was on fire. I couldn't think fast if I were to be paid a million dollars for the right answer if given in 60 seconds. There are times when I feel like an old clock that is losing more time every hour. Or maybe an old car whose parts are falling off one by one.

“And yet I am still enjoying these waning years. I can still indulge myself in the activities I am able to enjoy and I have the freedom to set my own time table, slow though it may be.

“So don't fight the aging process and make adjustments in your lifestyle and activities as necessary.”

Millie arrived at the comments that day a while later, after Darlene, and probably didn't see the point in exerting herself to explain old, old age:

”Darlene said it all! 'You ain't seen' nuttn' yet.' Pay attention to everything she said. Words of wisdom - What a lady!”

Through the years, I've listened carefully to both these women; they have much more experience than I. They are nearly a generation older, only 10 years older than my parents. They were kids during the Great Depression; teens during the War; just getting going as adults in the post-War boom and that gives them a different outlook on life – and, undoubtedly, on old age - than me and certainly to baby boomers.

Only a young person could believe that people 50 or 60 and older can be lumped together – either as individuals or collectively.

As several readers have noted on past posts about this topic, finding only one catgory, “65+,” for age when filling in forms or responding to surveys is annoying and it is more than that. It is misleading and can even be dangerous when drawing conclusions from questions related to caregiving and government health policy.

Life is as different between 65 and 85 or 90 and beyond as between infant and teenager. Our culture needs to understand that to be able to make wise or even just useful decisions.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (16) | Permalink | Email this post

Sunday, 05 July 2015


Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

When I was a whippersnapper here in Oz, chickens referred to those little fluffy yellow things that were only a few days old. Later the word evolved to mean the grown-up birds as well. Of course, we don’t like to call them that; here they are universally referred to here as chooks.

So, here are a bunch of songs about chooks.

Just in case you’re interested, the way I roast a chook is thus: I juice two or three lemons and stuff the chook with the lemon skins along with 6, 8, 10 cloves of garlic (peeled or not, it doesn’t matter. I slice them in half but it’s not necessary).

About a third to half way through cooking, I pour the juice over the bird. With it, I throw in some combination of potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips. Whatever takes your fancy.

I also throw in a whole bunch of garlic cloves (not peeled). Mash these on the potatoes when you eat them. Yum. They are mild and gentle cooked this way (they steam in their skins) and don’t exhibit that harsh garlic burn.

Takes an hour or so (depending on the size of the bird – mine usually only big enough for the two of us) at 200C (about 400F).

Anyway, back to the music. This column started as purely jump blues in content which I know that Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, would like.

When I showed it to her she suggested some others I had completely forgotten about.These were from other genres and makes for a more varied column. Well, slightly.

I’ll start with one of the jump blues tracks, and a particular favorite of the A.M., AMOS MILBURN.

Amos Milburn

Amos is renowned for his songs about partying and booze, often with double entendres all over the place. I don't know if this one counts in that way but it fits our category today. Chicken Shack Boogie.

♫ Amos Milburn - Chicken Shack Boogie

Here is the first of two contributions from LOUIS JORDAN.

Louis Jordan

What can I say about Louis Jordan that I haven't said a dozen times before? Well, nothing really especially as he turns again at the bottom of this column. I'll just say his song is A Chicken Ain't Nothin' But A Bird, written by Emmett Wallace that's been covered by many musicians.

♫ Louis Jordan - A Chicken Ain't Nothin' But A Bird

The band LITTLE FEAT was created by Lowell George and Billy Payne when Frank Zappa kicked them both out of the Mothers of Invention.

Little Feat

The band was only marginally successful but they were considered a "musicians' band" as they were held in high esteem by others in the business.

Quite a number of their songs have been covered by other artists, including this one. However, here is the original and best version of Dixie Chicken.

♫ Little Feat - Dixie Chicken

BIG MAMA THORNTON’s contribution is a song that was a hit for Howlin’ Wolf and an even bigger one for the Rolling Stones. Folks who have taken an interest in that sort of music will know immediately which song I’m talking about.

Big Mama Thornton

The song was written by that prolific writer of blues songs, Willie Dixon, and after Wolf recorded it, Sam Cooke had a go at it as well, closely followed by the Stones.

Many others performed it, including Big Mama Thornton. Little Red Rooster.

♫ Big Mama Thornton - Little Red Rooster

TOM RUSSELL wrote the best chook song ever.

Tom Russell

Here he is joined by his good friend IAN TYSON to perform it.

Ian Tyson

The song is about the nasty business of cock fighting and it’s a tribute to Tom that he can make such wonderful art from such a sordid enterprise. It tells of the journey of a rooster traveling north along the coast of California, fighting all the while, raising the stakes as he goes.

The song is Gallo del Cielo which in Oz parlance would be something like “Heavenly Chook” (there are probably shops called that). The backing certainly shows the huge influence Marty Robbins had on Tom.

♫ Tom Russell - Gallo del Cielo

THE DEEP RIVER BOYS started out as a gospel group but their song today is a far cry from standard gospel songs.

Deep River Boys

They got together at what is now Hampton University in Virginia where they won a talent contest. That led to radio and stage appearances. After the war, they toured with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and later appeared on TV (Ed Sullivan and so on).

They were very popular in Europe and toured that continent extensively. Their song is That Chick's Too Young to Fry, a song written and recorded by Tommy Edwards. Louis Jordan and The Prisonaires also had a go at it too.

♫ The Deep River Boys - That Chicks Too Young To Fry

The CRUEL SEA is an occasional Oz rock band fronted by the charismatic Tex Perkins (calm down, A.M.) who also has his own considerable solo career.

Cruel Sea

Here is the band with Momma Killed a Chicken. This was taken from an old blues song variously known as Bottle Up and Go or Borrow Love and Go. Probably other names as well.

♫ Cruel Sea - Momma Killed A Chicken

At last, I get to include LITTLE RICHARD. Okay, I have had him before but I haven't included him as often as I'd expect.

Little Richard

Richard is, of course, one of the half dozen most important people in the development of rock & roll. That's all that needs to be said except that his song is Chicken Little Baby. The song rather fades out at the end.

♫ Little Richard - Chicken Little Baby

Several really fine artists made their professional debut singing with BILLY WARD AND THE DOMINOES.

Billy Ward & the Dominoes

One such is Clyde McPhatter who later went on to front The Drifters and later than that had a solo career. Alas, he was a bit too fond of the bottle for his own good which led to his premature death.

Here he is way back singing lead for The Dominoes and Chicken Blues.

♫ Billy Ward - Chicken Blues

There are a lot more chook songs but I'll finish with someone we have already heard, LOUIS JORDAN. There are others I could have used but Louis is the chicken man so I think he deserves a couple of tracks. The A.M. certainly agrees with that.

Louis Jordan

Louis performs one of his most famous songs, Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens.

♫ Louis Jordan - Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (6) | Permalink | Email this post

Saturday, 04 July 2015



There have long been pendants for elders to wear around our necks to make it one-touch easy to call for help in an emergency. Now there are at least two companies making these devices more stylish.

Lively has been selling its Apple watch lookalike alert system since January.


It seems fairly pricey to me ranging from $34.95 to $27.95 per month depending on the length of contract you choose. Me? I don't sign up for anything for longer than a year now since from here on out, every year is a gift.

You can read more about it at the Lively website.

Unaliwear's Kanega watch it still in development. The website explains that in addition to emergency assistance, it includes medication alerts, fall detection, guide-me-home instructions and can be voice activated.


This one has been funded with a Kickstarter campaign (now closed) and will cost $299 with a $30 per month fee.

You can read more about both these systems in a recent Time magazine story.


John Oliver's video essays on his HBO program, Last Week Tonight, flow so smoothly, intelligently and with such great humor that it is tempting to think they must fall together with great ease.

Take it from me, someone who produced hundreds of television shows and segments of various kinds over many years, none are easy and few are as excellent as these. There is a reason it takes a week to produce each one.

Here is the latest fantastically good work from Oliver and his crew about transgender rights.


Last Monday, you and I and everyone else on Earth got his/her life extended by one second. Huh? you might ask. Here's an expanation from

”Every now and then a leap second is added to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) in order to synchronize atomic clocks with the Earth's ever slowing rotation.

“Before the first leap second was added in 1972, UTC was 10 seconds behind Atomic Time. So far, a total of 26 leap seconds have been added. This means that the Earth has slowed down an additional 26 seconds compared to atomic time since then.

“However, this does NOT mean that the days are 25 seconds longer nowadays. The only difference is that the days a leap second was added had 86,401 seconds instead of the usual 86,400 seconds.”

Got that now? I'm not sure I do.


It's a nightclub magic act in France. Its from our blog friend, Darlene Costner, and it's charming. It takes a minute to get going but I promise, it's worth it.


Is there any better food smell that bacon? I'm a whole lot like that dog in the bacon pet food commercial - “bacon, bacon, bacon.” Now, however, it has been years since I've eaten any - for all the reasons in this short video.

But I sure do miss it.


This is a wonderful story of a cat who saved a train company. She died at age 16 a couple of weeks ago and is mourned throughout Japan. Thank doctafil of Jive Chalkin' for this.

You can read more here.


This is about the 10,000th piece I've seen “proving” that nature is better for you than – what? Non-nature, I guess.

This latest divided a small group of people in two – half walked in nature for 90 minutes, the other half in a city.

”The nature walkers reported having fewer negative thoughts about themselves after the walk than before the walk, while the urban walkers reported no change.

“What's more, fMRI brain scans revealed less activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex (sgPFC), a brain region that may play a key role in some mood disorders...” [and blah, blah, blah].

I don't buy it. Never have. I have always found that walking, walking, walking in a big city, New York in my case, is exciting, stimulating, thought- and idea-provoking, energizing and load of good fun.

Nothing wrong with a nature walk now and then, but for me (and I don't believe I am the only person in the world), it's big, loud, exciting cities that get my mind going and make me feel good.

You can read more about this study here.


As you probably know, after Brian Williams' fall from grace, Lester Holt took over NBC Nightly News and then, recently, he was named permanent anchor of the program.

A week or so later, a young news reader at WMAQ TV in Chicago was subbing for the regular newsman at that station when it came time for him to “throw” to the national news desk in New York. That young news guy is named Stefan Holt and take a look at what happened.

Yup, father and son. Nice.


Amazing footage of - well, an eagle's eye view of an eagle's flight from atop the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai. We can thank Darlene Costner for bringing it to us.

You can view the full five-minute flight here.

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (13) | Permalink | Email this post

Friday, 03 July 2015

Happy Holiday Weekend – Independence Day 2015

American Independence Day is a great, dramatic story. Here are its bare bones.

Thomas Jefferson, just 33 years old in the year of 1776, resisted writing the Declaration of Independence. He was John Adams' choice and Adams prevailed.

Quoting Adams' later recollection, John Meacham, in his Pulitzer Prize-winning 2013 biography, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, includes this exchange between the two men:

“You should do it,” Jefferson said.

“Oh! no.”

“”Why will you not? You ought to do it.”

“I will not.”


“Reasons enough.”

“What can be your reason?”

“Reason first,” [said Adams] you are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second, I am obnoxious, suspected and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third, you can write ten times better than I can.”

“Well, if you are decided. I will do as well as I can.”

“Very well. When you have drawn it up, we will have a meeting.”

Not that it was Jefferson's document alone. Among his influences were Locke, Montesquieu, philosophers of the Scottish Enlightenment, Adams, of course, and Benjamin Franklin took on some editing, contributing the phrase, “self-evident.”

According to Adams, says Meacham, delegates to that Continental Congress in Philadelphia, cut large passages including those condemning the people of England and a denunciation of the slave trade – all in all about one-sixth of Jefferson's document was removed.

The Declaration was ratified by the Congress on 2 July and when, six days later it was read aloud in front of the statehouse in Philadelphia, the crowds cheered, “God bless the free states of North America.”

Meacham tells us that the men in that muggy statehouse room with horse flies “bedeviling...the silk-stockinged legs of honorable members” knew, of course, that with their signatures, they had committed themselves to a treasonous course of action and what its consequences might be:

”Jefferson loved the story of an exchange between the fat Benjamin Harrison of Virginia and the wispy Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. 'Gerry, when the hanging comes, I shall have the advantage; you'll kick in the air half an hour after it is all over with me.'”

As we know, after a bloody awful war, things turned out differently and here we are celebrating this great, important document again, this beacon of personal freedom (even if we do not quite live up to it these days), on its 239th birthday. Meacham again:

”...the author of the document saw his words as sacred. Describing the desk on which he wrote the declaration, Jefferson later said: 'Politics as well as religion has its superstitions.

“'These gaining strength with time may one day give imaginary value to this relic for its association with the birth of the Great Charter of our Independence.'”

Here is that desk which lives nowadays in the Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution:


Most American schoolchildren in my day were required to memorize the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

You can read the rest of it here.

It is fitting that on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1826, Thomas Jefferson died at his home in Virginia at 12:50PM. For me, it is an astounding and pitch-perfect coincidence that John Adams died on the very same day in Massachusetts at 6:20PM.

Adams's last words were recorded at his bedside as “Jefferson survives.” He died not knowing his old friend and rival had preceded him by just a few hours.

* * *

Now. Because backyard barbecues on the Fourth of July are as traditional as parades and fireworks, here, for some fun and silliness, are those Tiny Hamsters again, this time having a Tiny BBQ for Independence Day.

Enjoy the holiday weekend, everyone.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (15) | Permalink | Email this post

Wednesday, 01 July 2015

60 is Not the New 40

Nor 70 the new 50 but people are still trying to sell that to us.

If you pay too much attention to media chatter, you can easily be convinced that old age is a nice, smooth continuation of midlife. If you do it right – that is.

Drink gallons of protein liquid, spend three hours a day at the gym, drop hundreds of dollars on brain games, stand on one leg while washing dishes and you too can climb Mt. Everest.

More: if that 91-year-old can finish a marathon, so can you. Or start a business; everyone's an entrepreneur these days even if they don't know what Six Sigma is. Oh, and if you pump yourself full of enough Botox, no one will know you're a day over 40.

Of course, all this is twaddle, hogwash and most of all, wishful thinking. Old age has been stigmatized for so long that the young people who write all that advice for old people refuse to believe there isn't something they can do to prevent it and they want us to be their guinea pigs.

Perhaps, they must think, if they goad us hard enough and long enough into continuing to live – or try to - as we did 20 or 30 years ago, they will learn how they can live forever.

When my professional life came to an end 11 years ago, nothing changed. I had already begun this blog so I just segued from 15-hour days (including the four-hour commute) to – oh, 10- to 12-hour days doing all that was needed to churn out these pages.

That sentence makes it sound like this is chore. It is not. I enjoy this as much as most of the paying jobs I had over more than four decades and because none of them were nine-to-five jobs, for these past 11 years, long hours have been nothing different from what I had always done.

Until recently.

As healthy as I am (and I do not take that lightly), I'm slowing down. These days I notice the hiccups in my brain, the nanoseconds it takes sometimes to get to the next thought when I'm writing. That's new.

Nor is my focus as pointed as it once was. My fingers can be flying across the keyboard as they always have translating thoughts and ideas in my head onto the page, when I suddenly “come to” realizing I've spent three or four minutes wondering if there might be a better synonym for one of the words I just typed.

By then I've lost my train of thought and I have finally learned that I might as well go do something else for awhile before I can get back to it.

I am more easily distracted these days and distraction is, of course, the enemy of focus and concentration. All of this is due to age – I'm 74 now, compared to 63 when I started Time Goes By.

It takes longer for me to clean the house nowadays and it also takes longer to think. For quite awhile, I had been spending more hours to get the same amount of work done on the blog, always scrambling for time, always behind, always dropping something I wanted to do which is why, a few weeks ago, I cut back publishing days to four instead of six.

After about two months on this new schedule, I almost feel reborn. The biggest difference is time, time to read at my leisure, time to write without rushing, time to choose topics more carefully.

Most of all, there is time to sit quietly with myself; time to let thoughts drift by while I watch them come and go; time to think about if and how all this information about ageing I've been collecting for 20 years applies to me; time to reflect on some of the big life questions.

While I wasn't looking, my life has become simpler. I take care of my daily needs – food, exercise, sleep, laundry, etc. I pursue my curiosity about how we age, enjoy writing something about that in these pages and I have returned to some other intellectual interests I had let slide for too long.

Although I miss living in a big city, New York specifically, I have arranged the details of my home so that it pleases my sensibilities to be here. Aside from New York, I've lost interest in travel but for a drive to the Oregon coast now and then.

Small as it sounds, a big pleasure during the season is shopping the weekly farmers' market and how agreeable it is each week having a short visit with some of the vendors who have become a certain kind of friend over our mutual enjoyment of good food.

Compared to the hustle and bustle of my 40 mid-years, it is a quiet life and from the outside it undoubtedly looks boring. But it is far from that on the inside and I like my life – particularly now that I have created this new breathing space.

I don't see how old age could possibly be intended as an extension of midlife. Even though, as I described above, my thoughts are a little slower, my mind is exploding with them.

I am gaining insights into myself, my life, relationships, beliefs and more, with a depth and detail I never had when I was younger – nourishing my soul you might say. I'm peeling away layers that for a long time kept me from even trying to understand some of the events and people in my life.

Except that I arranged for the time, I don't know why all this activity is happening right now but surely it is more important than skydiving at my age or trying to prove how young I can appear to be so that others might be more comfortable with the idea of ageing.

Old age is an excellent time to make sense of ourselves and the world around us. Don't let anyone pressure you out of it.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (45) | Permalink | Email this post

Monday, 29 June 2015

Does Hollywood Ageism Have Anything To Do with You and Me?

In recent weeks there has been a minor flurry of media information – tidbits, mostly – about age and work in relation to female movie stars. I had been sitting on a quotation from actor Maggie Gyllenhaal, wondering what I might do with it until TGB reader Jim Hood mentioned it in an email:

“I’m 37,” Gyllenhaal said in an interview with The Wrap, “and I was told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55. It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad, and then it made feel angry, and then it made me laugh.”

A couple of weeks later, the same website asked 69-year-old actor, Helen Mirren, about Gyllenhaal's experience:

No, you're not imagining it. Mirren did say, “fucking” outrageous. And so it is.

At the same time, however, I am a bit queasy about well-off movie stars complaining about the kind of roles they get. Especially Mirren who continues to make three or four films a year, more than most actors get at any age.

Is it wrong that 50- and 60-something male movie stars are most frequently paired romantically with ingenues? About the only time we see old male actors in movies with age-appropriate love interests are when one of the two is dying. Of recent vintage, Amour comes to mind along with Still Mine.

Okay, maybe The Second Best Marigold Hotel but what a disappointment that movie was with Richard Gere shoehorned in for no apparent reason than his good looks.

Maybe I should mention the most famous reverse age movie, Harold and Maude. But I've always thought there was something mildly creepy about it – the movie, not their age difference - and anyway, one movie in 45 years with an old woman and young man does not balance hundreds of the opposite.

This isn't a new problem for older women in Hollywood. They have been complaining forever about lack of roles in general, let alone not being cast as a romantic interest when they have passed an imaginary use-by date.

In 1972, I produced a television interview with Bette Davis (of “old age ain't for sissies” fame) in which she lamented that back then, no one was writing movies for women actors of a certain age. It hasn't changed much since then, certainly not in the realm of romance.

So is this important? Does it matter that female movie actors - especially stars who make zillions of dollars compared to most of the rest of us - don't get to kiss the leading man after age 35 or 40?

I'm only half convinced that it does – in the sense that celebrities are role models for the rest of us, especially young people who emulate their hair styles, fashion, even behavior. (Cosmetics, automobile and fashion companies don't pay movie stars to shill for their products for no reason.)

If we, the public, repeatedly see movies and TV shows in which old men only pursue 20-something women, I'm pretty sure that has at least as much effect on beliefs about who is attractive and worthy of attention as the commercials starring those same actors enhance the bottom line of the products.

And that in turn may have a great deal to do with your and my lives. If we hardly ever see, in our entertainment, older women as worthy – whether as sex objects or responsible adults – might not we, for example, be refused jobs after age 50 or 60 like those female actors are?

And if I buy this idea, I think it affects men too because for at least the past decade, more than half the movies released in the United States are about bionic, humanoid, Borg-like heroes more suited to video games than real life and against which no human male – of any age - can compete.

Based on all that, Maggie Gyllenhaal's lost movie role with a 55-year-old man might not be as funny as she thinks.

Or maybe it is. I'm not sure. What I'm trying to work out is whether the fact that Maggie Gyllenhaal, Helen Mirren and Bette Davis don't get to make love to an actor their own age on screen has anything to do with the fact that I couldn't get anyone to hire me after age 62.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (23) | Permalink | Email this post

Sunday, 28 June 2015

ELDER MUSIC: They Wrote the Songs

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

Today I'm devoting a whole column to a topic I occasionally rabbit on about, and that is the original writer of songs made famous by others.

I'm sure that you'll know all of the selections today but perhaps you won't be quite as familiar with the original versions by the people who created them in the first place.

In my not too humble opinion, the versions by these folks are superior to the famous covers. You may disagree with that - after all, the first version of a song is usually the one that gets implanted in the brain. That happens to me all the time.

However, I think it's always instructive to hear how the writer intended the song to sound.

Let's get started with a sadly neglected singer and songwriter, TOM JANS, and the song that really inspired me to write the column.

Tom Jans

Tom made a bit of a name for himself in the seventies in singer/songwriter circles as a performer and writer of fine songs. Not only as a solo artist, but he teamed up for a while with Mimi Fariña, Joan Baez's sister.

Alas, he had a serious motorcycle accident and died not too long afterwards, almost certainly due to serious injuries sustained to his kidneys.

His most famous song would have to be Loving Arms, covered really well by Dobie Gray and also recorded by Elvis and a whole bunch of others. Here is Tom with his song.

♫ Tom Jans - Loving Arms

What annoys me is those people who claim to be knowledgeable about music and then claim that, because he's a songwriter himself, Harry Nilsson wrote Everybody's Talkin'. No he didn't.


Sorry, I've calmed down now that I've got that off my chest. It, of course, came from FRED NEIL who did a far superior version of the song some years earlier.

Fred Neil

♫ Fred Neil - Everybody's Talkin

HANK BALLARD, along with his band mate Cal Green, were inspired by a gospel song by The Sensational Nightingales. They put new words to the tune and came up with a song that rather inspired a new dance craze. They called it The Twist.

Hank Ballard

Hank and his band The Midnighters recorded the song and it was moderately successful. It came to the ears of Dick Clark who wanted to feature them on American Bandstand but the group was unavailable at the time.

Dick loved the song and got his friend Earnest Evans to record it. Earnest was a great admirer of Fats Domino and changed his name to Chubby Checker as an homage. As you know, this new version went through the roof.

Today, though, I'm playing Hank and The Midnighters' original. I think Chubby studied this one very closely.

♫ Hank Ballard - The Twist

JOHN STEWART was a fine singer and songwriter who first came to prominence writing songs for, and then eventually joining, the Kingston Trio.

John Stewart

Later, as a solo performer, when he wasn't on the road, he'd spend time writing songs. Well, that was his job after all.

One day he wrote Daydream Believer and he thought the day a total failure as that's all he produced and he didn't think much of it. His good friend Chip Douglas heard the song and thought it would be good for The Monkees. Chip was a producer on their TV program.

The Monkees really loved the song and wanted to record it but the record company demanded that they change the word "funky" to "happy.” John replied that meant that the song made no sense at all and he wouldn't let them.

Well, came the reply, they won't be able record it. John decided that "happy" was really growing on him. He said that the song set him up for the rest of his life. Here it is.

♫ John Stewart - Daydream Believer

Pretty much everyone featured today are known to some degree but we come to someone who isn't, at least not by me. He was certainly a writer of famous songs, but I imagine few people who listen to music know his name. He is MARK JAMES (or Francis Zambon to his mum and dad).

Mark James

The person who covered his song, in complete contrast, was the most famous person on the planet, Elvis. As you'll hear, Elvis not only listened to the song but the arrangement as well and copied it pretty much exactly. Suspicious Minds.

♫ Mark James - Suspicious Minds

BRENDA HOLLOWAY had the help of her sister Patrice, Frank Wilson and Berry Gordy in writing her song.

Brenda Holloway

Brenda was going to be the next big thing at Motown after a couple of well-charting singles. However, The Supremes, who had done nothing much at all before, suddenly had a worldwide number one hit and Berry concentrated on them from then on.

Back to Brenda and the song she co-wrote, You've Made Me so Very Happy, a big hit for Blood Sweat and Tears a couple of years later.

♫ Brenda Holloway - You've Made Me So Very Happy

Okay, I'll admit that Ray Charles did a wonderful cover of I Can't Stop Loving You, even better than the one by DON GIBSON whose version is pretty good.

Don Gibson

Don was a writer and singer of the saddest, lonesome-est songs ever recorded. Here's his take on his own song.

♫ Don Gibson - I Can't Stop Loving You

DAN PENN was another who had someone cover one of his songs better than he did it.

Dan Penn

Not just better than his but better than anyone else who has tackled the song and there have been quite a few of them. I'm talking about James Carr who did the terrific version of one of the great soul songs, The Dark End of the Street.

However, here is Dan.

♫ Dan Penn - The Dark End of the Street

BOBBY CHARLES wrote a number of songs you'd recognise immediately.

Bobby Charles

He was a New Orleans native and wrote songs for various musicians from that city but most notably for his friend, Fats Domino. This is one of Fats' biggest hits but it's Bobby's take we're interested in today: Walking to New Orleans.

He has a little help from the great man himself on this version.

♫ Bobby Charles - Walking to New Orleans

JIMMY WEBB has written songs for a whole bunch of people but he's probably most associated with Glenn Campbell.

Jimmy Webb

I could have chosen a dozen (or more) from Glenn's repertoire, however, I have a previous column devoted to Jimmy so I've decided on one I didn't include in that one. Well, not Jimmy's version anyway.

Here is Wichita Lineman.

♫ Jimmy Webb - Wichita Lineman

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (3) | Permalink | Email this post