While we all try to stay current and “with it”, listening to Katy Perry, Rihanna, Eminem or Lady Gaga is just not suitable for a 45+ man in public (even using an iPod with airtight headphones). Google the term “music appropriate for middle-aged men” and you will see the screen filled with many recommendations and streams –  obviously it is an extremely critical subject!  While the classics – AC DC, The Cars, B52s, Talking Heads etcetera – will still raise a nostalgic smile, and result in the odd head bob or Carlton Banks dance move (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKlxjbhB9HE ), if you have kids in their teens, it is time to man-up and show the world that your music is like you – weathered, wise, tough and savvy.  So for you, my adventurous colleague, there is only one choice: the rugged and man-friendly blues.

If it is not obvious, I love the Blues. Ever since I first heard Howling Wolf croaking his way through Ol’ Smokestack Lightning (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiExHrVXmtE&feature=related) I realised how much the Blues has been a part of my life, even though I may not have known it.  All my musical heroes were either inspired by the old slide guitarists, or were just shameless copycats and plagiarists (Don’t believe me? Check out the Wiki at  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smokestack_Lightning).  Even my teen-hood heroes – Robert, Jimmy, John Paul and Bonzo – were avid “borrowers” of old-school blues; just compare Led Zeppelin’s  Lemon Song to Killer Floor or Travellin’ Riverside Blues. (See http://www.warr.org/zep.html for more.)

Oh no….Sorry, sorry…before you tell me to “Whoa, whoa there little doggy…you’re scaring me,” I will exit the “Blues Geek Zone” and get back to the issue at hand.  Why do the Blues fit your age?

So, middle-aged man, if you don’t believe me that you are now the right age for the blues, ask yourself at what other stage in life would you have gained enough life experience to understand The Blues?  When, before now, were you so worldly, battered, jaded, weary or patient? Still not persuaded? Then ask yourself, at what age do you think a person could write or sing a legit Blues song?

Now, there are some youngsters who might argue a teen could do it. My counter: only if that teen is in the Rainman range – the kind of person who can play chess without a board, or master the violin after hearing three bars of Beethoven’s Fifth.  I will admit though, that with all the hormones, confusion, angst, worry, and high school mean-ness, there may be enough raw material for a teen to write a good song.  But it takes longer than 15 years to reach Maslow’s sixth or seventh level and stop worrying about the next sandwich or getting laid (wait, on second thought it takes longer that 45+ years to do that).  I mean, it takes many years to gain the experience needed to makes sense of all the teenage bullshit. Everything in High School was just so serious, how could we find time between the tears, rage and the horninesss to analyse it all?  Though not a classic 12 or 16 bar blues tune, Rough Trade captured all that angst in the song High School Confidential –  which has the best product endorsemnt ever conceived!( Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsJHtzdvfKg ) But,  I don’t remember seeing anyone of Carol Pope’s vintage in High School…unless it was Night School.  It took her until her 50s to write that song (I think that is how old she is, but that may have been the 80s look.)

Some might argue that you can sing the blues when you are in your twenties…after all you have likely moved away from home, you are just coming to grips with making it on your own, and you may be balancing between credit cards to bankroll your partying, internet downloads, designer coffee, rent, utilities and food (most likely in that order).  But seriously, what wisdom can you share on any subject? I do not think that there would be much interest in a song called “The I-Know-It-All and My-Parents-Know-Less-Than-Nothing Blues”, (though I might be tempted by a hemp-head version of “My Cheatin’ Kraft Dinner Jus’ Plain Gawn”. Then again that would probably better fit into the genre of Acid Country AND Western).

How about your thirties? Toddlers, onset of the receding hairline, start of the muffin top, Fred Penner, Barney (or whatever their present incarnations are)…all good things to moan about if we weren’t having so much “fun”.  But really, “The Honda Odyssey Blues” or “The Full Pampers Shuffle”.  Pass…

So that leaves us old timers (for me, defined as anyone who is close to, or over, a half-century old) as the only practical group left – a reverse battle of attrition.  By 45 we have likely seen most of it and survived –  we can put it all into perspective! Love – unrequited or departed, debt, jealousy, cheatin’, sadness, rage, missed opportunities…universal constants that are all good fodder for the blues artist.  We get it, We can appreciate it.  And what will the blues do for you? Aside from letting you groove to great rhythms, licks, vocals and lyrics, the music serves as a reminder you are not the only to have it tough. People long before you have suffered and have had moments of sadness. Life is not meant to be easy, that everyone feels pain – but gets through it. And it shows you that despite the hurt, there are really cool and clever ways to bitch about it!  Most importantly, you will find that in even the most bleak blues ditty, there is always a silver lining or glimmer of light that will give you hope.  What more could you ask for from your music?

So if you think your life has been battered enough to start a career as a blues artist, check out this primer for a giggle:  http://www.greatstoryteller.com/1/post/2010/4/how-to-write-a-blues-song-funny.html .

And, if you’re just interested in expanding your music library with age-appropriate stuff, check out the following PBS sites that will point you at some classic, contemporary, and modern blues artists and their music. They’ll nudge you gently into the world of the sliding steel guitar.

http://www.pbs.org/theblues/songsartists/songsbioalpha.html

http://www.pbs.org/theblues/classroom/cd.html#null

Hope you enjoy!  Later…

ASF

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