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Songs About Youthfulness

by Marco den Ouden 10 days ago in humanity · updated 4 days ago

Being young is a state of mind!

Songs About Youthfulness
Photo by Jade Masri on Unsplash

There is a Youtube Playlist of all the songs in this list at the end of the article.

What is youthfulness? Pedants may say it is the quality of being young and tie it in with a particular stage of our life. We start as infants, go through childhood, teenage years, adolescence, young adulthood, adulthood, middle age, and so on. One’s youth might range from adolescence through young adulthood, those years pivotal in laying out the path into mature adulthood.

For me, and for the purposes of this playlist, youthfulness is a state of mind rather than a specific age. We have such expressions as “old before his time”, “an old soul” and “young at heart” which reflect mental states, and not age as such. And our youth – whenever we experience is – is a time for exploring, learning, testing limits, and growth. It can be a time of optimism or regret. A time looked back on in later years with longing or loathing. It can also be a time of contradictions.

We start our list with a song that captures both the optimism and the craziness of youth. We Are Young by Fun. is a story of drunken carousers carrying each other home, but the chorus line is a rousing paean to future hopes and dreams: “We are young! / So let’s set the world on fire / We can burn brighter / Than the sun!”

Maybe the toughest years are the In Between years. Sixteen is often thought of as the year that transforms us from childhood into adolescence. But 15 is a tough year, as Judy Garland tells us: “Too old for toys / too young for boys.”

It’s not surprising there are many songs about being 16. Teen romance was a staple of the music of the 50s and 60s, but let’s go for something less sugary to capture this time of life. The Smoking Popes record the sense of “deep connection, undeniable and real” in Diary of a Teenage Tragedy. “No one has ever felt this way,” its lyrics suggest – but of course, everyone has.

Some young lovers just can’t wait to grow up, longing to be together forever. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” ask the Beach Boys, if “we could be married and then we’d be happy.” The reality is often much more tragic. Bruce Springsteen brings us down to earth with a song inspired by his sister’s experience in The River. “Then I got Mary pregnant and that was all she wrote.”

We in the west often take our good fortune for granted. But in some parts of the world violence destroys what should be every child’s birthright, to grow up in peace and safety. The lightness of the music belies the seriousness of Kirsty MacColl’s Children of the Revolution. “Bombers ripped the night apart and blew the school away,” she sings. “See the soldiers come smiling at the widows as they take away the sons.”

Some may say today’s youth are shallow, their faces glued to their smartphones. Style of Eye gives us this put-down of modern Kids: “Everyone’s special the exact same way / You live your life on a Facebook page.” Is this a fair assessment? Certainly shallowness abounds, but most young people I meet have hopes and dreams that go beyond today’s pleasures. Debbie Gibson conveys this optimism: “Don’t underestimate the power of a lifetime ahead.” The future belongs to Electric Youth!

So we’re out of school and trying to make our way in the world. Sometimes we need a hand up, maybe a place to stay. There’s always the YMCA, the Village People tell us! In our world travels, my wife and I have found this to be the one song that is truly universal – popular everywhere we go, from Puerto Vallarta to Sint Maarten to Phuket.

We’re young adults now. Sometimes we marry, find temporary work, even embark on a career. Through it all we have experienced being “happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time / It’s miserable and magical.” But we’re feeling 22, and Taylor Swift tells us everything will be all right because “we’re happy, free, confused and lonely in the best way”.

Youthfulness is a universal experience. It matters not whether we are the “sons of tycoons or sons of the farms”. Scott Walker tells us “all were children like your own, the same sweet smiles, the same sad tears.”

I chose this topic because my youth is behind me. Or is it? In January I went back to university to finish the degree I never finished 40 years ago. Immersing myself in the word of young people eagerly carving out their path in life is exhilarating. I identify with the words of Alphaville: “I don’t want to perish like a fading horse / I want to be forever young.”

Modern technology has improved our life expectancy so much I can actually see myself starting a second career in my 70s – not working at the local shop, but writing books, maybe even getting a doctorate and teaching at the university level. Clint Eastwood is still directing movies in his 80s.

Despite being on three prescription medications, I feel young. Maybe a bit slower physically, but as Ol’ Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra puts it: “Fairytales can come true if you’re Young at Heart.” Professor den Ouden – it has a nice ring to it! My name is Marco and I am 69 years young.

Note: This feature was originally published at The Guardian website in 2018. I am now 72 and will likely get my Bachelor of Integrated Studies degree in 2022.

Here are previous topical playlists I have posted at Vocal.


Marco den Ouden

Since retiring in 2014 after forty years in broadcast journalism, Marco has become an avid blogger on politics and philosophy (The Jolly Libertarian), travel (The Destinations Guru) and a contributor to a music blog (The Song Bar).

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