In 1965, Frank Sinatra released an album called September of My Years. It was a set of songs about the autumn of life: looking in the mirror, in the past and life ahead. Frank wasn’t a writer but he was able to pick and stylize some marvelous songs. The release of the album coincided with Frank’s 50th birthday. As someone in the autumn of life, I am a few years past when Frank released his album, but I can appreciate the reflection.
In 1965, Frank’s style of music was on the way out as the British Invasion had landed and along with groups like the Beach Boys, rock was pretty much the main music vocabulary. Fast-forward 50 years and rock, in the format I am familiar with, is being replaced by other styles of popular music. I’m wondering, isn’t this where I came in?
And I find, that I’m smiling gently as I near
September, the warm September of my years
In 1975, during the springtime of my life, I was a freshman at the University of Kansas. A quirky, musical-comedy show premiered by the name of NBC’s Saturday Night. Re-christened a year later as Saturday Night Live, the show took the traditional musical variety format and filtered it through post-Watergate cynicism and a hipster view of America. The host and opening comedienne for that firs show was none other than George Carlin. Say no more. By the way, two months earlier, a little known album, Born to Run, made its debut. More than a revved up song, it captured the energy of a generation. I’m not sure what happened to that guy from New Jersey. If you know, drop me a line.
And strap your hands ‘cross my engines
Together we could break this trap
We’ll run till we drop, baby we’ll never go back
In 1985, I started by career in government, a career that continues today. I’ll spare you the hyperbole on why I was drawn to public service, but local government, despite what the Tea Party and the Koch brothers would have you believe, is not the enemy. That’s for a separate blog. I’d like to believe that over the course of 30 years, I’ve been able to make a difference in the lives of people in the communities where I have worked. This same year premiered a show called Miami Vice, with a pounding theme by Jan Hammer. Glitz, pastels, synthesizer music. I won’t say that music was empty and unmemorable, but I could.
In 2000, I began working and living in Overland Park, Kansas. SNL was still going strong but with an ever-changing cast but original cast members John Belushi died in 1982 and Gilda Radner in 1989. I looked at the Billboard Music chart for the 2000 year and I barely recognize any of these songs. For the first time, I began noticing not just younger workers but the impact of younger generations in the workplace. I was also working around some folks who had been with the same organization for 25, 30 and 35 years. It was an interesting mix of generations. During this period I moved from the summer to the autumn of my life, passing 50 years, when Frank stared into that mixture of water and two fingers of Jack Daniels. Now I look at my own reflection in the mirror.
It is now 2015 and September has morphed into the fire of the October foliage. I feel a burst of creative energy and a desire to start some new adventures. As a kid, I looked at my grandparents, who were probably close to the same age that I am now, and I thought how old these folks seemed. That is the genius of youth with all the answers and great wisdom. My grandparents were very typical of their generation, they worked hard all of their lives, saw meteoric and puzzling changes in technology and society late in life, and died at relatively young ages. I’m sure they thought they had good lives but felt like it ended too soon.
These days I seem to think a lot
About the things that I forgot to do
And all the times I had the chance to
Jackson Browne wrote this song when he was in his 20s. Somehow he captured the regret and contemplation that comes with age. The mature voices of Gregg Allman and Glen Campbell infused these lyrics with wisdom and hard-living.
I’ve toyed with retirement, or taking retirement and moving on to another job. I’m too young and the circumstances aren’t right not to work, but the challenges and the yearning have changed. Instead of sitting at a bar enjoying my gentleman’s whiskey drink I’d rather fire up my engines and run, baby run.