Roger Watson, Editor-in-Chief
I have to declare an interest here; in addition to being well beyond middle age and ever-increasingly interested in all things ageing, I am also a co-author of the article which is the focus of this entry.
The representation of ageing in literature and the media has been investigated before but I had not read anything about the representation of ageing in music. I am an unashamed rock music fan - pop, indie...oldie! However, I must say that is it the focus of most of the music I have listened to: youth; love; sex; pain, that continues to attract. I am taken back to my youth, to former friends, girlfriends, the birth of my children and to various pivotal times in my life. Sometimes the memory comes back with pleasure, sometimes with pain. Whatever, it reminds me I have lived and am still alive.
Such is the power of music to transport and inspire; but what about ageing in music? This was the focus of a study by Kelly et al, (2016) and reported in an article titled 'Representation of age and ageing identities in popular music texts' and published in JAN. The aim of the study was: 'To critically examine the representation of ageing identities in popular music texts.' In the process of the study I was introduced to the music lyric databases: The Music Lyric Database, Songfacts, The Macronium and Absolute lyrics. Seventy-six relevant songs were found and it will come as little surprise that they were mainly negative in their portrayal of ageing.
We concluded: 'From this study, it is evident that mainly negative representations of age and ageing are available in popular music texts. It is imagined that the negative representations of age and ageing can be dispiriting and confidence and esteem lowering for older people and that more scrutiny of these texts by censorship boards should be exercised.' This may seem unnecessary and unlikely but musicians must not forget the power of the 'grey pound' and the 'grey dollar'. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the limitations of the study as follows: 'It is also important to point up in the limitations of this study the fact that music lyrics presented in this study addressing age and ageing have been written mainly by young people or at least by people who were not classified as older people, and from young people’s perspective and their imaginings of old age.' I have to admit that if I wrote a song now, it would probably reflect my younger self but don't worry...I'm not a songwriter.
You can listen to this as a podcast.
KELLY J., WATSON R., PANKRATOVA M. & PEDZENI A.-M . ( 2016) Representation of age and ageing identities in popular music texts. Journal of Advanced Nursing doi: 10.1111/jan.12916