Benefits of Music for Seniors

It is generally acknowledged that musical activity can have beneficial results for seniors. These benefits come in different forms for different people depending on their circumstances.

“Music Therapy” is one well established method of helping people with physical and cognitive disabilities caused by conditions such as dementia. “MT” as it is referred to, often involves relatively passive activities like listening to music under controlled conditions. But it can also involve singing, drumming or tapping, and playing other simple instruments like the harmonica.

Research has shown that the soothing effect of music leads to better social interaction and often helps improve communication skills where they have been impaired by such things as stroke, or been the result of some other injury or sickness.

For what we might call “ordinary” seniors, music is often used in retirement communities and senior centers in the form of special musical entertainment, sing songs and even dancing classes.

Participants are encouraged to engage in singing, clapping, and dancing to old familiar standards. This type of musical experience provides pleasant and enjoyable social interaction, a valuable bit of physical activity, and a jolt of positive emotional stimulation.

Can seniors benefit from playing musical instruments?

Listening to music can be emotionally stimulating, but it is a relatively passive activity. Can seniors benefit from being more actively involved in making music – by, for instance, singing or playing a musical instrument?

Of course it depends a lot on the senior, and on the instrument. Many seniors have physical limitations that make fingering a violin or a guitar almost impossible. But those same people might benefit from participation in a drum circle.

Participants in activities like this quickly get involved in making music, having fun, even dancing, chanting, and singing.

As Shannon Rattigan of drumcircles.net says,

If a facilitated drum circle is presented properly, in a matter of 10 minutes everyone can be playing a drum rhythm together… The key to it is setting the right tone that this is going to be playful and fun. You can improvise, play around, and just have a good time. Like we did when we were kids.

Can this be done with other instruments?

Again, it depends a lot on the senior and on the instrument.

Many older people have played a musical instrument when they were younger, and stopped playing when family and work intervened. I often read on music instruction forums comments from older guys (most of them seem to be men) who have picked up the guitar after it sat in the closet for 40 years.

Yes, 40 years! That is not an exaggeration. I am an example. I played the guitar and trumpet in my teens and twenties, and didn’t actively pick them up again until I was in my 60s.

The incentive for me was the opportunity to teach some of my grandchildren a bit of what I knew. And that led to many opportunities to perform with them at family gatherings. And of course that has resulted in the joy that comes with watching the kids become talented musicians in their own right.

The point is, it is possible to dust off old talents if the circumstances are right. Reviving old talents and playing in a small, informal band with friends or family is one possibility.

A retirement community seems like the perfect place where a group of people might get together to make music together in a more structured way – say as a singing ensemble or a little band.

An enterprising social director in a seniors community might even form a larger band – using regular musical instruments or simple ones such as whistles, harmonicas, and a variety of percussion items (drums, tambourines, shakers, wooden blocks, etc.)

Playing traditional musical instruments

Is it realistic to think that a person who is 70 or 80 years old might continue to play a traditional musical instrument like a keyboard, guitar or trumpet? Or could he or she learn an entirely new instrument – a keyboard, for instance, or a banjo, harmonica or even a saxophone or guitar?

Again, it depends on the circumstances a person finds herself in – in particular, her physical limitations. Many aging people have lost flexibility in their hands. They may have a sore back or hips that make it difficult to sit in positions required by some instruments. And often an older person has difficulty seeing or hearing.

If none of these things are holding a person back then why not go for it!

But there is always the question of motivation

Learning to play an instrument like a piano – even in the most basic way – has real benefits. It provides enjoyment, mental stimulation, and a sense of accomplishment. And that may be enough incentive to get you to take on (and stick with) a project like teaching yourself a musical instrument.

But playing for your own enjoyment is often not enough of an incentive to keep you going. Playing a musical instrument, or even singing in a small ensemble, almost inevitably involves the opportunity to perform for others – usually friends, family or fellow community residents.

In other words it is often just the prospect of performing for others that keeps musicians going. Taking music lessons when you are a child almost always involves a “recital” every now and then to display what you have learned. Without the recital practicing starts to seem pointless.

There is no reason to think it should be any different for a senior. My father played his violin in church for at least 50 years, and it was those “performances” that kept him interested in playing. When his faculties started to deteriorate and the invitations to play dried up, so did his interest in playing at all.

It is performances like this that provide the incentive to become better and to learn new material, or for an older person, to hold on to the skills they developed earlier in life.

So I would answer “Yes” to the question “Can a senior like me learn a new instrument?” It will give you enjoyment as well as mental and spiritual stimulation. And it will give you something meaningful to do with your time.

But don’t keep it to yourself. Play for friends and family. Join a group or form a band. Have fun being a musician, and share the joy with others.

Ten Song Titles That Could Serve As Brief Weather Forecasts

For Midwestern folks like me no part of the local newscast is as anticipated as the weather forecast, but it usually ends up being the most unsatisfying segment as well. Even though they always greet us with smiling faces, seldom do the meteorologists offer us mild temperatures with clear skies.

Instead of the smiling weather experts, the forecast would be more palatable if the news stations chose music to represent the weather conditions. There are a multitude of songs that represent the different types of climates, such as “Mr. Blue Sky” by the Electric Light Orchestra for the beautiful days that are so rare in the Midwest.

Here are ten other popular songs that could be used to represent the weather forecasts.

Cloudy by Simon and Garfunkel

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme is the album that spawned this laid back classic, which leaves one with the feeling that Paul Simon wrote it while lying on his back in the middle of a big green field.

Stormy by the Classics IV

Its beautiful melody belies the adjective that serves as the title, undoubtedly the most recognizable in the pop band’s catalogue.

Sunny by Bobby Hebb

Back in 1966 this hit was ubiquitous, and amid that tumultuous time its message of gratitude and joy was likely most welcome.

Cold As Ice by Foreigner

One of many gems from the self-titled debut album, this monster hit describes a girl but could very well work for a January weather forecast.

Heat Wave by Martha and the Van Dells

Passion is the cause of the rising temperature in this doo-wop tune, which could also be the name of a mid-August trend in the atmosphere.

Misty by Johnny Mathis

Most likely, this pop standard would be used for a morning edition of the local news.

Windy by the Association

This hit might suffice for a breezy afternoon, yet it could also leave you with a craving for a double cheeseburger and a thick chocolate shake.

Rain by The Beatles

John Lennon penned this hit around the time of Revolver, only to see it carried on the compilation album called Hey Jude.

Snow by the Red Hot Chili Peppers

The alternate rockers scored a hit with this wintry track from Stadium Arcadium.

White Out Conditions by the New Pornographers

A.C. Newman and Neko Case share the vocals on this title track from the indie band’s latest album.

The Ten Best Bands Named After Fruits

Other than the refreshing summer drink to which it lends its name, the lemon has to be among the most disrespected fruits. Cars that frequently break down or do not run at all are called lemons, instead of tangerines or plums. An unhappy facial expression is often described as lemon-faced, based on the sourness it indicates.

Given its unappealing tradition, it is surprising to learn that popular bands have chosen that particular fruit for their names over more desirable ones such as bananas or pears. For example, the late Sixties and Seventies gave us the Lemon Pipers, who hit the charts with the single “Green Tambourine.”



A decade later fans of New Wave music took pleasure in a group that called themselves the Mighty Lemon Drops, whose sound was often compared to Echo and the Bunnymen. Then in the Nineties singer-songwriter Evan Dando fronted a post grunge band named the Lemon Heads, who attracted fans of Nirvana and the late Kurt Cobain.

Although the lemon has overwhelmingly beaten the rest of its juicy genus, other fruits have managed to appear in some popular band names. Here are ten of the best.

The Raspberries

Eric Carmen and his three young buddies made quite an impression in the early Seventies, scoring the huge hits “Go All the Way” and “I Wanna Be With You.”

Wild Cherry

One hit was all it took to jolt this group, a quintet of white boys who wanted to play funky music, into immortality.

Apples In Stereo

Among the pioneers of the genre called indie rock, this eclectic band has outlasted most of its early peers.

The Electric Prunes

Psychedelic rock combined with a clever play on words helped make these guys a household name for a while, as “I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)” climbed the charts back in 1966.

Moby Grape

Former members of Jefferson Airplane formed this band that fused rock with country and jazz, drawing comparisons to Buffalo Springfield mainly because of its three guitar player lineup.

The Raisins

National success for the most part eluded this talented late Seventies group who had a minor hit with “Fear Is Never Boring”, but they remain much revered in their hometown of Cincinnati.

Strawberry Alarm Clock

By mixing incense with some peppermints back in 1967 these guys could smell, and taste, a Top Ten single.

Blind Melon

“No Rain” became the group’s smash hit, partly because of its infectious melody and partly due to its bee-themed video.

The Cranberries

No Need To Argue was the 1994 album that allowed the Irish alt band to break through, mainly due to strong singles like “Zombies” and “Ode To My Family.”

Smashing Pumpkins

Billy Corgan led this Nineties alternative rock ensemble, who in addition to dozens of hits earned an appearance on an episode of The Simpsons.

Ten Songs About Paris That Could Help The French Celebrate The World Cup

The World Cup was the dominant topic of the sports world last week but, as not even a lukewarm fan of soccer, I saw only about ten minutes of the action. The only reason I happened to see that limited segment is because a game ran over the estimated time, which pre-empted the Judge Judy episode I had intended to watch.

Nevertheless, a snippet of the post championship game caught my eye and, more importantly my ear. As the video played the Croatians, after a heartbreaking loss in the final round were heard singing a song I immediately recognized.

It was the Oasis hit “Don’t Look Back In Anger” from the British band’s most popular album, What’s the Story Morning Glory. It is the second most famous song from that record, trailing only the classic single “Wonder Wall.”

I found it somewhat of an odd tune for the runner-up in the World Cup, but it made me contemplate what song their victorious opponents would choose. Those in the winner’s circle could celebrate by playing some well-known song the mention the capitol of their country, the European nation of France.

Here are ten songs that mention that very city in their titles.

Let’s Tango In Paris by the Stranglers

This is one of the acoustic numbers from Feline, the 1980 album that marked the punk rock band’s definitive transformation into a more accessible sound.

Free Man In Paris by Joni Mitchell

“Help Me” and “Chelsea Morning” combined with this classic to make Court and Spark the most commercially successful album of the folk songstress.

Crimes of Paris by Elvis Costello

French landmarks like the Eiffel Tower are mentioned in this fine track from the Nick Lowe produced Blood and Chocolate.

Une Nuit A Paris by 10cc

A three part musical epic, this opener sets the stage for the group’s breakthrough album The Original Soundtrack.

Paris 1919 by John Cale

After leaving the Velvet Underground Cale made many solo records, none better than the one from which this title track comes.me

I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris by Morrissey

The city of love would not appear to be a likely destination for the frequently melancholy singer of the Smiths, but here he figuratively embraces it.

Dreaming of Paris by Van Dyke Parks

In addition to producing great discs by Phil Ochs, Harry Nilsson and Biff Rose, Parks demonstrated here and on other tracks from Songs Cycled that he could make great records of his own.

Going To Paris by the Waterboys

It was not as big a hit as “The Whole of the Moon”, but it is more representative of the typical sound of the alternative British band.

I Love Paris by Frank Sinatra

Ella Fitzgerald made the song a standard, but Old Blue Eyes is responsible for my favorite rendition.

Leaving For Paris by Rufus Wainwright

The son of Loudon and sister of Martha has made many good records of his own, as this track proves.

Best Ten Artists Who Became Famous Using Pseudonyms

Elvis Costello will release a new album in October, his first with the Imposters since the Momofuko record from back in 2008. Two singles are already streaming from Look Now, one called “Under Lime” and the other dubbed “Unwanted Number.”

Its release will almost coincide with the fortieth anniversary of his very first album, the sensational My Aim Is True. Hits like “Allison” and “Watching the Detectives” helped insure that the man who was born Declan McManus would become a legend almost as big as that of the singer who shares his first name.

Here are ten other recording artists who adopted pseudonyms that they have immortalized.

Fred Bulsara

He became one of the most flamboyant lead singers in rock history, forever known as Freddie Mercury of Queen.

Vincent Furnier

Early on the entire band was referred to as Alice Cooper, but very soon that name was used solely for its lead singer.

Robert Zimmerman

Of course the Hibbing, Minnesota native would take on the name of a poet, for Bob Dylan himself would eventually win the Nobel Prize for Literature on the strength of his remarkable verses set to music.

David Jones

Since the Monkees and their lead singer had been around for several years, this aspiring young folk rock artist would go on to “fame-fame-fame” as David Bowie.

Reginald Dwight

Like his original identity, his new surname was a common first name like John. His adopted first name, Elton, is now the only one he needs.

Gordon Sumner

One can only suppose that his pseudonym did not hurt much, since Sting went on to lead the quite popular rock band called the Police.

Steven Tallorico

He cut the syllables in half while keeping the same initial, making Aerosmith’s lead singer forever known as Steven Tyler.

Richard Starkey

Anyone even faintly aware of rock history knows that this influential drummer became Ringo Starr just before finding immortality with a group known as The Beatles.

William Michael Albert Broad

Four names were shortened to a mere nine letters after he became Billy Idol, who scored huge hits with “White Wedding”, “Dancing with Myself”, “Eyes Without a Face” and a cover version of “Mony Mony” first made famous by Tommy James and the Shondells.

John Richard Baldwin

He can be heard playing organ on “Stairway To Heaven” but he mostly kept the rhythm as bassist John Paul Jones of the legendary rock band Led Zeppelin.

Ten Great Albums That Turn Twenty Five This Year

Toronto can this season celebrate the twenty fifth anniversary of its last World Series Championship, the second of its back to back titles coming at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies. That 1993 event was very important because of what happened the following season, when the officials at Major League Baseball canceled the World Series because of a work stoppage.

That 1994 fiasco involving the national pastime is just one of the reasons the preceding year was better, even beyond the realm of sports. Some great music came out in 1993, including dozens of influential albums from various genres of rock.

Here are ten of those records which should be celebrated on their twenty fifth anniversary this year.

Come on Feel the Lemonheads

Evan Dando and his group hit their peak with this disk, which included gems such as “Into Your Arms” and “Great Big No.”

Modern Life Is Rubbish by Blur

Followed by Parklife and The Great Escape, this record was the first of the trio of life albums that showcased Britpop at its peak, helped along by singles such as “Sunday Sunday” and ” Chemical World. ”

Unplugged by Neil Young

Most of the acoustic episodes organized by MTV were forgettable, but Young’s was so sharp that it helped rejuvenate his career.

Anodyne by Uncle Tupelo

As always Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar split the songs on the alt country band’s third album, but it is the former’s “New Madrid” that has endured as the best track.

Thirteen by Teenage Fan Club

These Scottish alternative rockers were just coming into their own in this record, highlighted by Gerard Love’s tribute to legendary songwriter Gene Clark.

Alapalooza by Weird Al Yankovic

Rather than visit the place Richard Harris called MacArthur where the cake was left out in the rain, Weird Al changed it to “Jurassic Park” here and even threw in a tribute to the home town of the Flintstones on “Bedrock Anthem.”

Dreamland by Aztec Camera

Fans desiring to hear Toddy Frame return to the sound of the debut album had to be pleased when their ears beheld “Spanish Horses”, “Black Lucia” and “Vertigo” on this record.

Transmissions from the Satellite Heart by the Flaming Lips

After five out of the mainstream releases, Wayne Coyne somehow scored a single with “She Don’t Use Jelly” from this album.

Where You Been by Dinosaur Jr.

As soon as J Mascis told us to start choppin’ he nabbed his band’s first big hit.

Tuesday Night Music Club by Cheryl Crow

She became a star with this debut by admitting that all she wanted to do was have some fun.

Best Ten I Want You Back Songs

Once again my mental discography has been ignited by the hosts of Sound Advice, the popular music discussion show on National Public Radio. On a recent their topic was what they called I Want You Back songs, and each host presented his six favorites.

Among the half dozen of Jim DeRogatis was “If I Can’t Have You” by Yvonne Elliman, her first single after a successful tenure as the backing vocalist for Eric Clapton. Its lyrics lay bare the pleading to get her old!over back, Boeing that no one else could ever replace him.

Co-just Greg Kot offered a different six pack, highlighted by “Working My Way Back To You” by the Spinners. The legendary pop group songs about a guy who has grown to regret his infidelity, now that the girl he had taken for granted has left him.

Here are ten other songs that could have been mentioned in a program centered on songs about someone wishing to get his former lover back.

Baby Come Back by Player

In the chorus he owns up to the fact that he was wrong and cannot live her, a confession that is gorgeously backed up by a beat that would make peers Hall and Oates proud.

I’ve Returned by Squeeze

After calling her friends a bunch of Muppets as well as insulting her sister, the apologetic male has come back intending to win her heart again.

Bad Boy by Ray Parker Jr.

As a sequel to a previous hit on which he confessed to having fallen for another woman, the Raydio front man is now expressing his desire to return to the one he jilted.

Come Back To Me by the Bongos

His girl left him in the old heartless way by leaving a Dear John letter, but nevertheless he is now begging her to return to his arms.

Can’t You Hear Me Calling? by Bill Monroe

This timeless bluegrass classic centers on a man filled with regret after misusing his former woman, who he hopes will return to him.

Band of Gold by Freda Payne

In most cases the ring has to go back to the man, but on this Sixties smash hit the jilted girl would much prefer to have the liver than the piece of jewelry.

Boy With a Problem by Elvis Costello

Squeeze lyricist Chris Difford provided the words for this Imperial Bedroom track, which has Elvis willing to roll over and play dead now that he is in her doghouse.

Don’t Pull Your Love by Hamilton, Joe Frank, and Reynolds

Because his former girl is leaving him, the guy swears that he will cry for a hundred years and drown in his tears.

Big Mouth Strikes Again by the Smiths

On this great side two opener from The Queen Is Dead, Morrissey bemoans the recent occasion on which he threatened his now ex by bludgeoning her in her bed and smashing every tooth in her head.

I Threw It All Away by Bob Dylan

One of the five singles from Nashville Skyline, the regret here in obvious in lyrics like “I once held the mountains in the palm of my hands, and rivers ran through every day.”

Go Top