Crying at something I’ve seen on the TV? Am I going soft? Probably. But I challenge anyone to watch Young at Heart, the documentary on More4 about a group of pensioners by the same name, and not be moved.
When I recorded this I was expecting a few laughs, if I’m honest, at the expense of some geriatrics attempting to remember the words to a Hendrix number. To an outsider, the premise looks amusing, first and foremost. A choir of OAPs singing contemporary numbers and a few classic rock tunes. What I wasn’t expecting was to be moved to tears by the poignancy of their performances and the dignity they bought to the music. When Dora Morrow and Stan Goldman sang James Brown’s ‘I Feel Good’, it’s impossible not to smile and also feel a tad ashamed of one’s own cynicism. Dora is in her 80s.
Fred Knittle can’t breathe unaccompanied, and despite the breathing apparatus that hangs around his neck and the audible sound of his sucking oxigen through a machine, his rendition of Coldplay’s (originally leaden) Fix You turns a workmanlike ballad into something of incredible emotional power. The lyrics are given added meaning when you consider it was due to be a duet, but his singing partner Joseph Benoit had died just days earlier. It’s a right royal tear-jerker, even for a bitter and cynical blogger like this one. Take a look at the youtube clip of the chorus singing Sonic Youth’s Schizophrenia at the bottom of this article. It’s better than the original.
The fact that these septua and octogenarians are fighting to perform and do something good with the remaining years of thier life lifts your spirit and makes you hope that maybe you will have that strength of spirit when you reach the twilight years.
Then you switch over to Channel 4 and Big Brother is on, and you realise that we’re all doomed, as the generation is made up of the most vacuous examples of humanity you could ever pray you wouldn’t run into. Young adults who can’t name more than one American President. An Englishman who doesn’t know who William Shakespeare is. A woman so self absorbed she completely loses track of what she’s saying every time she starts roaring orders at people, distracted by her own reflection. A graduate who, in matters of love, resembles an 8 year old only child. A vain ex-boyband failure who speaksin cliches. A ‘raver’ (in her 30s, no less) who has a limited capacity for conversation given that she only speaks in long-past-its-sell-by-date 80s Ravey Davey slang. And some other arseholes.
They can’t do anything. They have zero talent, and yet they assume they have something to offer the world, and the world continues to pay them attention.
It’s fascinating for all the wrong reasons.
When you hear the Young at Heart chorus singing ‘Forever Young’ to prisoners in an American penitentiary, your heart skips a beat. The advice in the song is perfectly apt for those with chequered pasts. It enables them a chance to take stock and start thinking about righting some wrongs. You can’t help but wish the inhabitants of the BB house were forced to have a similar moment of clarity and consider that the reason for their existence might be something other than self-promotion and meaningless celebrity.