I was 15 years old when I saw this rendering of the Beatles as old men for the first time.* For me the concept of aging was unfathomable. In my world, everyone was young and everyone would always be young. But most of all, The Beatles, our idols and mentors, prophets of our time, would never age, could never age. They were immortal. That’s why the rendering was so shocking. I remember laughing nervously sitting there with my friends and band mates gazing at the picture. We simply couldn’t comprehend what we were looking at. Old was something reserved for our parents and grandparents. Not us and certainly NOT the Beatles.
A Heavy Dose of Reality
Sadly, old age was not meant for John Lennon. He was tragically murdered on December 8, 1980 at age 40. And depending on how you define “old”, it can be argued that George Harrison, who died of cancer on November 29, 2001 at age 58, never got to grow old either. But Paul and Ringo, mortals after all, are growing old along with the rest of us. What a comfort to this old Beatles fan. Indeed it was the occasion of Paul’s 70th birthday last June 18 that started me thinking about writing this post. (Ringo turned 72 two weeks ago, July 7).
What Does Old Look Like?
Paul McCartney turns 70. If you’re a Beatles fan, you must buy the special edition Time Magazine book by James Kaplan.
A few years back, while searching the magazines in the waiting room at my doctor’s office, I recoiled slightly when I saw Paul McCartney’s face gracing the cover of AARP Magazine. Shock number two. Certainly not as violent a shock as the 1965 version but a shock nonetheless. It’s official now, I thought. McCartney’s old and I’m old. But he didn’t “look” old. At age 70, he’s certainly not the puffy faced, double chinned cherub imagined by the artist back in 1965. Even more impressive – he doesn’t act 70 either, or maybe he’s actually redefining how a 70 year old is supposed to act. I like to think that. In the last few years he has played more concerts and toured more extensively than at any other time in his career, including the Beatle years. I’ve been to one of his recent concerts. Admittedly I was skeptical. I thought I was going to hear a tired rehash of old songs played by a guy who should have quit years ago. Instead, I was blown away by Sir Paul’s energy, enthusiasm and sheer joy. As he told “TIME” in 2005, when asked if he would still indulge audiences with oldies like “Hey Jude”: “They’ll get that too, but you have to move forward as well as go back. As they say, the show must go on!” You gotta love this guy.
And it’s not just Paul who seems to be defying the aging process (or is it redefining the aging process?) Take a look at the 72 year old Ringo on the left. Now take another look at the rendering at the top of the page. See what I mean?
A friend once poignantly characterized aging as a cruelty. Indeed in many ways it is. But watching Paul McCartney age shows us that it doesn’t have to be that way. Since 1964, when I first saw his boyish smile and his big round eyes light up my black and white television set, he has been a sort of role model. Well, Paul my old friend, if this is how you plan to get old, I’m still happy to follow your lead.
And Now Back to You
I’d love to hear from other Beatle fans out there. What do you think about Paul turning 70? About Ringo turning 72? Does it make you feel old? Does it make you feel something else? Talk to me.
*Disclaimer: I am more than happy to credit the artist whose rendering appears at the top of this page. However, I can’t find any information on who may have drawn it. If anybody knows the answer, please let me know and I will give the proper credit.