Saturday, June 28, 2014

How Old Are You Now? 2014 Music Edition

In The Sound of Music, set in 1938, Liesl von Trapp, the oldest child, is said to be "Sixteen Going On Seventeen." This would make her 92 years old today. (She was based on Agethe von Trapp, who was actually a fully-grown 25 at the time, and lived until 2010, age 97.)

Andrew Gold's "Lonely Boy" was born on a summer's day in 1951. This would make him 63 today, and his baby sister 61.

Paul Anka also had a song titled "Lonely Boy," in 1959. Two years earlier, he began his breakout hit "Diana" with "I'm so young and you're so old. This, my darling, I've been told." Apparently, he had a crush on his babysitter (why would he still need a babysitter as a teenager?), but it never got that far; in the song, it did. Paul was 16 in 1957; he's about to turn 73. How old would the babysitter be now, if she's still alive? Probably pushing 80, at least.

In 1955, Boyd Bennett & the Rockets had a hit with "Seventeen." This would make her 76 years old today.

In 1958, Chuck Berry had a hit with "Sweet Little Sixteen." That same year, Johnny Maestro & the Crests had "Sixteen Candles." This would make both girls now 72.

In 1959, Sam Cooke sang "Only Sixteen," in which he played a kid who said that he and his then-girlfriend were that age a year ago (1958). This would make both of those characters 72 as well.

In 1960, Johnny Burnette had a hit with "You're Sixteen." ("You're sixteen, you're beautiful, and you're mine.") This would make her 70. In 1973, Ringo Starr covered the song -- his version's girl would now be 57.

In 1961, Neil Sedaka sang "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen." This would make her now 69.

In 1963, Chuck Berry wrote "Memphis," in which a man tells a long-distance phone operator to "get in touch with my Marie." At the end of the song, we find out that "Marie is only six years old" and is his daughter, taken away by his estranged wife -- or perhaps his sister, and the singer is a little boy now living with "my uncle"; either way, Marie is not his girlfriend. Johnny Rivers had a much bigger hit with the song the next year. If Marie was 6 in 1963, she's 57 now.

In 1963, in the Beatles' song "I Saw Her Standing There," Paul McCartney sang, "Well, she was just 17, you know what I mean!" Assuming that this had just happened, she would now be 68.

The Who's rock opera Quadrophenia takes place (according to the film version) in 1965. Presuming that Jimmy Cooper was then 17, making him a few years younger than the bandmembers, he'd be 66 now.

In 1967, the Beatles recorded "She's Leaving Home," after seeing a newspaper story about a 17-year-old girl that had gone missing. A lot of rock and roll legends, particularly the weirder ones, are made up or at least exaggerated. Not only is this story true, but it has an amazing backstory that Paul McCartney had completely forgotten. She went on to have quite an interesting life: She's practically a female British version of Forrest Gump (but with intelligence, if not a whole lot of sense). Anyway, she's now 64 -- the same age that, on another Sgt. Pepper song, Paul asks his fictional girlfriend if, at that point, she would still need him and feed him. (Paul himself is 72, Ringo is about to turn 74, and, of course, John Lennon and George Harrison are dead, but, were they still alive, would be 73 and 71, respectively.)

In 1970, Alice Cooper had a hit with "I'm Eighteen." Which means the character he played in the song is now 62. Alice, real name Vincent Furnier, is 66.

In 1971, in her song "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves," Cher sang, "I was 16, he was 21." Assuming that the events in the song had just happened (they probably hadn't), she's now 59, he's 64.

In 1973, Billy Joel released "Captain Jack," delivered in a second-person narration: "Well, you're 21, and still, your mother makes your bed, and that's too long." Assuming the song takes place in the present day (which is certainly possible, as "you go to the Village in your tie-dyed jeans"), and assuming Captain Jack did not "make you die tonight," "you" are now 62.

In 1975, Harry Chapin released a song titled "She Is Always Seventeen." The song begins with John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address in 1961. If she was 17 then, that means she's 70 now.

In 1976, in his song "Rock and Roll Never Forgets," Bob Seger sang, "Well, now Sweet Sixteen's turning 31." Which means she's now 69. This would match Seger's actual age.

In 1977, in his song "Running On Empty," Jackson Browne sang, "In '65, I was 17" and, "In '69, I was 21." This matches Browne's actual age: He was born in 1948. Which means he's now 66.

In 1977, KISS had a hit song titled "Christine Sixteen." Which means she's now 53.
In 1980, Steely Dan had a hit with "Hey Nineteen." She would also now be 53.

In 1982, Stevie Nicks had a hit song titled "Edge of 17." If the character was about to turn 17 then, she's 49 now, approaching the edge of 50.

In 1983, the Stray Cats had a hit song titled "She's Sexy & 17." Which means she's now 48.
In 1983, Prince released a song titled "Sister." "I was 16, but that's no excuse. My sister was 32, lovely and loose." If you don't know this song, yes, it's about what that line is suggesting it's about. The little brother would now be 47, and the sister 63.

In 1985, Bryan Adams had a hit with "Summer of '69." That's how it's listed, with the apostrophe. So if the number was actually referring to a particular sex act, and he thought he could sneak it under the censors' radar, then it could have taken place at almost any time. He was actually 9 years old in the Summer of 1969, but if the character was actually 16 then, he'd now be 64.


Probably the best-known song in which a character's age is mentioned in the lyrics, but not the title, is "It Was a Very Good Year," first recorded by the Kingston Trio in 1961, with the best-known version being the one in 1965 by Frank Sinatra.

In the song, the singer remembers the very good years he had when he was 17, 21 and 35. But the singer does not specifically say how old he is now, only that, "Now, the days are short. I'm in the autumn of the year." (Sinatra titled the album for which he recorded it September of My Years.)

Frank Sinatra was born on December 12, 1915. So if he was playing himself in the song...

* He was 17 for nearly all of 1933. I seriously doubt that Depression year was a good year for an Italian teenage boy in Hoboken, New Jersey.

* He was 21 for nearly all of 1937. It might have been better, but he didn't become famous as a singer until 1940 or so.

* He was 35 for nearly all of 1951. That was actually a horrible year for Sinatra: His 2nd wife, the fabulous (in more ways than one) actress Ava Gardner, left him, and his own career was going badly. He began to lose his voice due to psychosomatic stress.

But the days did not turn out to be short for him, at least not at that point. September of My Years actually boosted his career, and at 50 he became bigger than ever before. He continued to perform before adoring crowds until 1994, when it became clear to the public that his health had started to fail. He died on May 14, 1998, age 82.

If you were 13 and screaming over Sinatra outside the Paramount Theater in Times Square in 1944, you're now 83.

If you were 13 and screaming over Elvis Presley when he went national in 1956, you're now 71.

If you were 13 when the Beatles arrived in America in early 1964 (if so, surely, you were screaming over them), you're now 63.

And, if, like me, you were 13 in 1983 when Michael Jackson changed from Motown kid to an Elvis-sized phenomenon in his own right, you're now 44.

Sometime in the next few days, I'll do this for some legendary TV characters, too.

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