How to make George hipper, musically

Blue by Joni Mitchell

George, who I do not know, wrote:

hipperI was taking a shower this morning and “Old Roger draft-dodger” came into my head from outer space. That led me to your column on S and G and to your favorites. I am now 92 and should not have really paid much attention to the music of their era, but as a widower, I was dating younger women and listened to their music to seem hipper than I really was.

I started to really listen to lyrics, not Cole Porter’s masterful words, but to a new generation’s words. S and G knocked me out as did some Beatle lyrics (Eleanor Rigby). My God these kids are thinking! I collected a bunch of CDs.

A decade or so later I started to listen to the Eagles “she’s goin to the cheatin side of town”. That set me to wondering if my old hands are as cold as ice. Oh well, what the hell. Music (to me) nowadays doesn’t sound smart enough. That is why I am writing. What do you suggest? I still want to be hipper. My wife was born in 1952 so you can see where she’s at.

So many choices!

I find recommending music to be difficult unless I know people’s tastes quite well. I was recently listening to Living Colour’s Time’s Up album from 1990, which I don’t know would be your style sonically. But I think it’s strong lyrically.

I’m fond of an alt-country artist named Jason Isbell. In fact, there are a lot of country-related artists I like, such as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lyle Lovett, and Lucinda Williams.

Steely Dan may be to your liking. John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival may be underrated. Tom Waits is a grand songwriter, but his voice, to be kind, is an acquired taste. Leonard Cohen, who is often covered, is a fine scribe.

In fact, there’s a bit in Stages, more a chat than a song, that I think is hysterical. It’s a conversation he was having with some guys in his band:

And they were talking about the
Various stages that a man goes through
In relation to his allure to the opposite sex
It was not a scientific evaluation
Just something that arose over a cup of coffee.

It went something like this:

You start off irresistible
And, then you become resistible
And then you become transparent
Not exactly invisible but as if you are seen
through old plastic.
Then you actually do become invisible
And then, and this is the most amazing transformation,
You become repulsive.

But that’s not, that’s not the end of the story.
After repulsive then you become cute
And that’s where I am.

And more

If you haven’t discovered him, try John Prine, a songwriter who surely belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Kris Kristofferson is a great writer, often covered by people from Janis Joplin to Johnny Cash.

So many: Randy Newman, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, Neil Young, David Bowie, John Hiatt. Find Joni Mitchell’s Blue album, which I JUST finished playing again; her other stuff, too. Since you’ve already glommed onto Lennon and McCartney, I should note that solo McCartney can be hit or miss, but you might like his 2007 album, Memory Almost Full.

And of course, there’s a ton of songs written by Smokey Robinson and Bob Dylan, among others. Rolling Stone created a list of the 100 greatest songwriters that you should peruse. 

Hey, people out there, what would you recommend for George to make him hipper? Artists. Specific albums, if you’d like.