I had an untimely awakening this morning about 6:15, before first light, and while out on the porch with my after-breakfast see-gar (and bundled up against the +4F, -12C cold) a song that I heard maybe 44 years ago popped back into my head. The song was "It Was a Very Good Year" and the lyrics were:
When I was seventeen, it was a very good year,
It was a very good year for village girls and soft summer nights,
We'd hide from the lights on the village green,
When I was seventeen.
When I was twenty-one, it was a very good year,
It was a very good year for city girls who lived up the stair,
With perfumed hair that came undone,
When I was twenty-one.
When I was thirty-five, it was a very good year,
It was a very good year for blue-blooded girls of independent means,
We'd ride in limousines their chauffeurs would drive,
When I was thirty-five.
And now the days are short, I'm in the autumn of the year,
And I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs,
From the brim to the dregs, it poured sweet and clear,
It was a very good year.
(The search engine says it was first recorded about 1965 and made a hit by Frank Sinatra. The search engine also turned up variations in the wording that are different from what I remember.)
The tune is romantic and haunting, and you see the rhyme scheme is a bit unusual. It has a pre-World-War-One air about it. It was a romantic song for a 21-year-old to listen to.
The 65-year-old thinking of the song says:
Hmm. How old is this guy? -- fifty? His "autumn" stops somewhere after thirty-five; he must have worn himself out seducing all those women. So okay, the song hints that maybe the "girls" didn't mind being seduced. All the same, I see precious little respect for the women. Admiration and fond memories, maybe; but really, the song's all about him and the fun he had. The guy is a hedonist, a rake, a roué, a Don Juan . . . in short a "bad hat" I wouldn't want any sister or daughter of mine being around.
I think it became a hit because of the temper of the times. It was 1965, and the antiwar and "flower power" movements were just getting going. And got stronger: the late sixties were a soap opera and a crazy quilt, and unbridled (I almost said un-bra-ed) hedonism was rampant: "If it feels good, do it."
And now a lot of the idiot kids who fell for all that crap are middle-aged hippie retreads, and a lot of them are in positions of power and influence. And that, friends, is one of the reasons this country is in such a mess today.
(Photo of protestors at the Democratic convention in Chicago, 1968)