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Ageism in music: the last taboo?

by John Maguire
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ageism in music the last taboo
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Grace Jones, Kate Bush, Deborah Harry, Madonna, Patti Smith, Annie Lennox. Undeniably all iconic musicians, yet before any talk of their craft, their artistry, the principal thing mentioned is their AGE! Thankfully, these ladies with an attitude will not be restrained by ageism in music or by the hypocrisies of society. One that celebrates the older male but shuns the older female. It is no different to the way in past ages an old lady who lived alone was known as the crone or the witch. I found this strikingly apparent in Prague, particularly visiting the puppet stores. Representations of the female were from the angelic to the vamp, the tramp to the crone.

It seems perfectly alright for old rockers to keep on rocking, the Stones, Bob Dylan and the like. For male artists age seems to add another layer, a respectable wisdom, yet this is never applied to female artists, especially those who have dared to articulate their sexuality. Take Madonna for example, the media are insistent on always mentioning how she should behave more appropriately.

Who sets this moral standard anyway, really? She is completely ridiculed for sleeping with twenty-something hunks of perfection. But if an older man takes up with a younger girl, this is celebrated and is heralded as some sort of trophy, a sign of his vitality. Even if the guy is completely showing the signs of excess, it is not commented on what a mess he looks. He is, after all, a wolf or a rogue. The songstress claims that the younger men are the only ones who can really keep up with her. I am all on side with the Material Girl, as what is the alternative? To sleep with some sourpuss thrice-married man with not just physical baggage, but also emotional baggage too. If I spent several hours a day training to maintain an Olympian-like physique, as she does, I would not be happy to make whoopee with an out-of-shape octogenarian who was unfit and needed to take a pill of Viagra to even begin to have tepid sexual relations.

As a friend of mine put it,

It’s OK for Nick Cave to sing No Pussy Blues in Grinderman yet it’s abhorrent for Madonna to express female sexual desire now she’s over 30. What a bizarre and misogynist world we live in.

Age is a state of mind. In the same way that people who bang on about how bad their day is going to be or how they always have misfortune, consistently uttering a mantra of ‘just my luck’ attracts negativity, I think those people who start to set boundaries about their age will age quicker.

Oh a nightclub, I am too old for that kind of thing now.

Really? I danced to the pop track Anaconda with a 71-year old Liverpudlian lady who has more energy than the majority of students I speak to. It’s a mindset!

You start to say, ‘I am too old for this and that,’ well then that’s it, go and buy the coffin, because you are going to age. Be careful what you wish for! The Universe has a mischievous sense of humour. Thankfully, the female artists that I admire are following in the heels of past icons that created their own rules, like Frida Kahlo, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Tallulah Bankhead, Marlene Dietrich, Katherine Hepburn, and Mae West.

There is still a glass ceiling for the female musicians but the Graces and the old girls, coupled with the current tribe of bohemian and intelligent examples of the female species, are taking off their stilettos, smashing the glass ceiling of ageism in music and dancing all over the broken glass.

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1 comment

J. C. Greenway 24 October 2015 - 12:42 am

I think I know who that friend is! Wise words as ever.


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