Pop songs are derogatory towards older people 2



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British researchers have studied popular music from the 1930s until today, and determined that pop songs are often derogatory towards older people. Not only that – but musicians seem to stereotype the experiences we have growing older.

Out of 76 songs that were studied, 55 focused on the negative aspects of ageing. Works from The Beatles, The Who and Elton John all stereotyped ageing poorly. Although artists like Bob Dylan and John Lennon did celebrate the joys of growing older, and a little wiser.

According to lead researcher Jacinta Kelly, who is a senior lecturer in nursing at Anglia Ruskin University, music can be a powerful tool that influences mainstream attitudes. Ms Kelly has reminded musicians to use their creativity in positive ways.

Ms Kelly determined that music normally stereotypes ageing in three main ways: Either ‘contented and celebrated aged’, ‘pitiful and petulant pensioners’ or ‘frail and flagging old folks’. She says these messages are very powerful and can shape popular opinions.

“The message coming out of the negative songs is that the elderly are frail and a burden. It’s confidence-lowering”, Ms Kelly explained. “For example, The Beatles’ When I’m Sixty Four, is generally thought of as an upbeat tune that is quite light-hearted”.

“But the lyrics ‘when I get older, losing my hair, many years from now, will you still be sending me a Valentine, birthday greeting, bottle of wine’ are actually questioning whether someone who is old is still loveable – and that’s concerning”.

“While it may prove an impossible task, as well as an infringement on the freedom of expression, to censor negative portrayals of old age, it is important that awareness is raised and some efforts are made to reduce these negative stereotypes”, Ms Kelly added.

Do you think musicians stereotype the experience of growing older? Would you like to hear music which focuses on the positive aspects of ageing?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I think that this article is way off line, as a 75 year old I find no offensive stuff in pop songs, that is, when I can understand the lyrics. Who would deem “When I’m 64” offensive, certainly not me !

  2. What about “My Ding A Ling” Chuck Berry ?
    When I was a little bitty boy my grandmother bought me a cute little toy
    Silver bells hangin’ on a string she told me it was my ding a ling
    My ding a ling, my ding a ling I want to play with my ding a ling
    My ding a ling, my ding a ling I want to play with my ding a ling.

    Flying back to Glasgow airport 1972 from USA, my copy was confiscated at customs. Apparently it was banned in Scotland.

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