Monday, November 11, 2013

Musical Wheelchairs

What kind of music will I be listening to when I'm in the nursing home?

This question has been on my mind for a while now. In fact, I've pretty much been obsessing over it since attending the nursing home's November group birthday party with the Queen Mother. (In case you were wondering, no, I wasn't included as an honoree. Age discrimination.) The entertainment at the party was a Name That Tune activity, and I am happy (?) to say I did, in fact, name those tunes.

“Oh, You Beautiful Doll,” “The Tennessee Waltz,” “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue (Has Anybody Seen My Gal),” and “An Irish Lullaby (Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra).” I've heard them all, and I can sing – well, hum – them all.

I try to avoid visiting the Queen during the afternoon activity time, because we don't actually get to visit when there's a performer. But sometimes schedules collide and I end up staying for their musical guest. Maybe the Queen and I get just as much out of holding hands and listening to the music as we do from talking.

“The Blue Skirt Waltz.” “A Bushel and a Peck.” “Till There Was You.” "Mr. Sandman."

These songs are the musical equivalent of comfort food for me. I remember hearing them on the radio in my Grandparents' kitchen. “The Lawrence Welk Show” was the original Must See TV for Sunday nights when I was growing up. In fact, I still like to tune in to WMT AM and listen to Leo Greco's Variety Time and Musical Memories with Jim Doyne. I'm quite familiar with a range of old Broadway Musical tunes, and songs from the 1930's, 40's and 50's, otherwise known as “Adult Standards.”

I admire the folks who are willing to share their talents by performing at nursing homes. I envy their ability not just to sing, but also to play guitar, accordion or keyboard (or even the musical spoons and washboard). Does anyone under the age of 60 still know how to play accordion – other than my friend, Queen Martha?

These musical visits always give me the urge to polish up my piano skills. The last time this happened I went so far as to look for sheet music during the Little Prince's drum lesson at West Music. He asked if they had a section labeled “Music for Old Farts in Nursing Homes.” Surprisingly, they didn't.

No worries, I need to look to the future. I need to find music that will be playing, not necessarily what is being played now. Using the Queen Mother as a statistical representative for current nursing home residents, I have concluded that the music being performed was popular during their childhood or when they were young adults. But when I used that criteria to extrapolate results for myself, my brain exploded. I just can't imagine sitting around in a wheelchair listening to Prince, Bon Jovi, Guns 'N Roses, or Michael Jackson.

In fact, some of the songs that were hits during my “target years” may not be so popular when played for a bunch of Seasoned Citizens. Will we still be able to bust a move to “Footloose”? We may need more than “Ice, Ice Baby” for our aching muscles if we do. I'm not sure the “Simply Irresistible” back up singers will look quite as irresistible when they're 90. Billy Squire's “The Stroke” and Olivia Newton John's “Heart Attack” will have a whole different meaning, as will “Don't You (Forget About Me)”, “Who Can It Be Now”, “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Every Breath You Take.”

On the up-side, West Music did have sheet music books featuring hits of the 1970's, 80's and beyond, as well as the music of Queen, The Beatles (Paul McCartney is 71), Led Zepplin (Jimmy Page is 69), Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger is 70) and Madonna (a mere 55).

I'm just not sure how they're going to sound on the accordion.

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