Old Age Blues


Old Age Blues - (2006/text from 2008)    

Gary Bachlund

for medium voice and piano


One old woman lived far too many years.
She smoked and drank and had too many fears.
She was dry as a leaf but she was sharp as a knife,
But then death paid a call and snuffed out her life.
That old woman lived far too many years.
She smoked and drank and had too many fears.

When I'm no younger than that old woman was,
I will drink to my fears as I smoke my cigars.
I'll look gaunt and peaked, maybe look even worse,
Because dying is nasty, while age ain't such a curse.
O God, let me live far too many years,
To smoke and drink and even have too many fears.

[ 3 pages, circa 1' 55" ]

One hundred years old with a cigar and scotch


A number of song settings which I have composed over the years were to settings by poets whom I very much admired, mostly deceased during the twentieth century. In looking to create a vocal anthology for publication, I wrote to some of the estate managers, prominently those for E. E. Cummings and Tennessee Williams, only to learn that either they expected sums which I was unwilling to pay for the rights, control over my work which I was unwilling to give, or outright rejection. No matter, for a text can be written; there are enough words.  [ 1 ]



This is a variation on a theme by one poet which speaks of age and death; there are many poems which deal with these unavoidable and very human subjects. The vocal line is written within the 6/8 time signature, but is meant to contravene the underlying triple feeling of the accompaniment, and an interpretive rubato is encouraged within the structure of the meter. The chord structures throughout are the so-called major-minor six and seven chords in the minor tonic, while the song form is simply a set of verses without following the harmonic conventions of the standard twelve-bar form of traditional blues.




It is wished herein, dear reader, that we all arrive at our old age with joy in living and a sense of humor, if not necessarily with a cigar and a bottle of scotch. Then again, at that age, why not?


The score for Old Age Blues is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano-vocal score.


Old Age Blues




[ 1 ]    Necessity, it is said, is the mother of invention. When told during these last months that some texts were not and would not be available, it was simply necessary to invent others.

          There is a fine story told of the Baal Shem Tov and his companions. When an illiterate man entered the synagogue, prays halted, and this poor man began simply reciting the Hebrew alphabet as best he could. The rabbis companions complained, but the great rabbi taught that this was the best the man could do. For his sincerity, God would take the letters of the alphabet and make the appropriate and correct prayers from them for him.

          A fine lesson to be reminded, and it is with this lesson I from time to time turn my hands to those things in which I am less expert but nonetheless earnest.