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Songs about Old Age - Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Cat Stevens, Kevin Ayers, Kurt Cobain and Dexys sing about being old

Updated on April 27, 2015

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen, during the Geneva concert of the 2008 tour.
Leonard Cohen, during the Geneva concert of the 2008 tour. | Source

Songs about old age

Perhaps you wouldn't think that songs about being old would be a good idea in popular music today because the subject of becoming elderly can be a depressing one, but several very famous singer-songwriters have written about what it is like not being young any more.

One of Neil Young's most popular songs is entitled "Old Man," and fellow Canadian songwriter and poet, Leonard Cohen, reflects on age in his song "Tower of Song."

Kevin Rowland who formed and fronted Dexys Midnight Runners (now simply "Dexys"), had a track entitled "Old" on one of the band's most successful albums.

And the late Kevin Ayers, who is regarded as a very influential and talented singer-songwriter and musician, wrote about old age in "Cold Shoulder" in his last album "The Unfairground."

Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, penned a classic song entitled "Father and Son." And the rock legend Kurt Cobain wrote and recorded a demo of a song with the title "Old Age."

Old Man


Old Man with lyrics - Neil Young

Neil Young's "Old Man"

"Old Man" by Neil Young was a single on Reprise Records back in 1972. It was taken from Young's very successful album "Harvest."

The song's lyrics reflect on the similarities between an old and young man's outlook on life. Young sings, "Old Man, take a look at my life, I'm a lot like you," and goes on to point out that they both need someone to love them.

James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt are both featured backing Young on this track.

In the film "Heart of Gold", Young explains that he wrote the song after being inspired by the caretaker of his ranch: '"Well, tell me, how does a young man like yourself have enough money to buy a place like this?" And I said, "Well, just lucky, Louie, just real lucky." And he said, "Well, that's the darndest thing I ever heard." And I wrote this song for him.'

Tower of Song - Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen's Tower of Song

"Tower of Song" is a track from Leonard Cohen's 1988 album "I'm Your Man." Cohen laments his lost youth with the words:

"Well, my friends are gone and my hair is grey
I ache in the places where I used to play
And I'm crazy for love but I'm not comin' on
I'm just payin' my rent every day in the Tower of Song."

Cohen has continued writing, singing, touring at the age of 80. He is still producing top quality songs and drawing the crowds long after many a singer and musician would have retired from the stage..

Father and Son by Cat Stevens

Father and Son by Cat Stevens

"Father and Son" is one of the most popular songs ever by Cat Stevens who is now known as Yusuf islam following his conversion to the Muslim faith.

It is a song that has a son talking to his father and the old man's replies. Like Neil Young's "Old Man", it looks at the viewpoints of a young and an old man and compares their thoughts on life. The son wants to go out into the world and seek his destiny away from the parental control and way of life. Stevens sang the song with two voices to represent the two speakers and has a deeper voice for the father.

"Father and Son" was included on the 1970 album "Tea For The Tillerman." Many years later in 2007, Yusuf Islam, resurrected his old song and performed it in concerts. It has a timeless quality to its lyrics that could apply to any generation.

Old by Dexys Midnight Runners

Old by Kevin Rowland and Dexys

Kevin Rowland co-wrote a song with James Paterson simply entitled "Old" and it was included on the hit album "Too-Rye-Aye", recorded with his band Dexys Midnight Runners, who later became known as the much shorter Dexys.

One of the lines from the song asks "Old, are you ridiculed and turned away?"

Cold Shoulder by Kevin Ayers

Kevin Ayers last album The Unfairground

Kevin Ayers is perhaps a singer-songwriter you have not heard of and yet despite no real commercial success he remains a very influential and well-respected musician. He is regarded as a pioneer of British psychedelic rock and got his break in the music industry as part of Soft Machine back in the late 1960s. This was followed by Kevin Ayers and the Whole World, a band that included a young Mike Oldfield.

Kevin went on from there with a mainly solo career but never had any hit singles. His songs were too quirky and too varied in style and he never wanted to "play the game" needed to be a chart success and household name.

His last solo album was released in 2007 and entitled "The Unfairground", which in many ways is a comment on the unfairness of the modern world and how we are living.

"Cold Shoulder" is clearly commenting on what it is like growing older. The lyrics contain the lines "Old shoulders become cold shoulders, Nothing left to dream on."

Kevin Ayers died in his sleep at the age of 68 in 2013.

Old Age by Kurt Cobain

"Old Age" is a song originally written by the late Kurt Cobain, the legendary former singer and guitarist for the Grunge-rock band Nirvana.

He gave the song to his wife Courtney Love who rewrote the words and recorded it with her band Hole.

There are several versions of "Old Age," because Cobain recorded a rough demo and later the song was recorded with Nirvana.

Tragically Cobain never made it to old age because he died in April 1994 from a shotgun wound to his head. His death at the age of only 27, was officially recorded as a suicide but this has been debated since.

Nirvana - Old Age [Kurt Solo Acoustic Demo]

© 2015 Steve Andrews


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    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 2 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks for bringing to mind one I forgot! Another great singer-songwriter!

    • adagio4639 profile image

      adagio4639 2 years ago from Brattleboro Vermont

      My Favorite is Paul Simons Old Friends Bookends Theme.