Aging Themed Songs

Topic: Aging Themed Songs

You will select a song with lyrics that suggest an aging theme. Provide a complete citation for the song and a copy of the lyrics. Then you will write a short paper (3-5 pages) (Times New Roman 12 point, one inch margins on all sides, double spaced) in addition to a cover sheet. answering the following questions:
What do the lyrics have to do with aging?
In whose voice is the song? (For example, an aged person reminiscing or a younger person looking ahead or “pre-reminiscing”)
What is the lyrical Message (moral message, dedication, etc)
What is the image of Aging (frail, wise one, experienced, etc.)
How, if at all, are elements of the “life course perspective” treated?
a) Personal attributes (personality traits, genes, adaptive resources)
b) Birth cohort
c) Period effects
d) Stratification
An aging theme in songs have always existed in other musical genres especially pop, blues and soul music even before the hyped rock and roll, hip-hop among other kinds of music. These songs depicted themes of saintly old women, dirty old men, mortality and aging painting these themes in different light. Rock and roll that later popularized the Byronic cult of blazing youth and beautiful corpses now has turned to the ironies of the indignities and the glories that come with old age. The songs about the sunset years are songs which sing praises to beloved patriarchs, the metaphysical musing on time passage and anxious songs concerning diminished potency as a result of age (Aday, 2000).

Songs about aging process are an important measure about the perceptions and the various manners in which old age and aging are depicted in various cultural forms in both the society. Social scientists have tried to investigate the ways in which informal agents of socialization support the current stereotypes and attitudes toward the elderly people and about aging itself (Lena, n.d). The different types of songs have been found to portray aging in both positive and negative images. These songs carry basic attitudes, feelings and thoughts being communicated that are underlying the song.  Music plays a very important role in the society as it deals with real issues and concerns of people of any country. It conveys sociological information concerning human values and may provide valuable insights into the social structures of the American society and its social dynamics (Aday, 2000). Many songs have themes about growing old together, romance while others fear aging and want to stay young forever. They depict old age as lonely and sad being as the major theme used by musicians in most of their songs. Other themes used are about mortality and the emphasis of positive memories of loved ones, reminiscence of the past years or memories, mental health of the aged in terms of diminished mental capacities, mobility and the reaction time as it diminishes with time, physical attributes in terms of attractiveness or appearance among other themes (Barton, 2004).

The song by Bill Withers about Grandma’s hands falls in the category of aged song. The song is Bill’s paean to his grandmother and he terms her as having gnarled, arthritic hands that not only scolds but also soothes and points the way as she gives pearls of wisdom. The lyrics give an insight to the loving, caring, correction when doing something wrong, wisdom of the special elderly people in our lives and the void they live when they die. The song is reminiscence and Bill sings the song in a wishful tone that expresses how much he misses his grandmother but also looks ahead that when he dies and gets to heaven, he will look forward to meet his grandmother’s hands. He dedicates the song to his grandmother and sings praises to her about how she cared for her and her un-married mother consoling her mother when she cried advising her to give her life over to Jesus and everything would be alright (Withers, n.d.).

The song although showing the frailty of aging, Bill goes on to show us how active her grandmother was when playing tambourine in the church. Also it shows how the elderly become active in religious matters depicted by participation in church and the advice given to the unwed mother about Jesus (Withers, n.d.).

Aday, R. S. (2000). Images of Aging in the Lyrics of American Country Music. Educational Gerontology, 26(2), 135-154.

Barton, R. (2004). The Aging Musician. Work, 22(2), 131-138.

Lena, J. (n.d). Classification as Culture: Types and Trajectories of Music Genres. vol. 73, no. 5 (Oct 2008), p. 697-718

Withers, B. (n.d.). Bill Withers – Grandma’s Hands Lyrics. Retrieved from’s%20Hands%20Lyrics.html



Lyrics to the song Grandma’s hands by Bill Withers

Grandma’s hands
Clapped in church on Sunday morning
Grandma’s hands
Played a tambourine so well
Grandma’s hands
Used to issue out a warning
She’d say, “Billy don’t you run so fast
Might fall on a piece of glass
“Might be snakes there in that grass”
Grandma’s hands

Grandma’s hands
Soothed a local unwed mother
Grandma’s hands
Used to ache sometimes and swell
Grandma’s hands
Used to lift her face and tell her,
“Baby, Grandma understands
That you really love that man
Put yourself in Jesus hands”
Grandma’s hands

Grandma’s hands
Used to hand me piece of candy
Grandma’s hands
Picked me up each time I fell
Grandma’s hands
Boy, they really came in handy
She’d say, “Matty don’ you whip that boy
What you want to spank him for?
He didn’t drop no apple core”
But I don’t have Grandma anymore

If I get to Heaven I’ll look for
Grandma’s hands


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