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Music for the Ages: The Wheel That Makes Life Transitions Bearable

By Stephanie Raffelock February 14, 2024 Lifestyle

The music of my youth was more than melody and words. It was a kind of guidance into adult life, a soundtrack for thoughts and feelings that I didn’t know how to reach on my own but were given to me by the likes of Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, and James Taylor.

Music helped to usher my generation over the bridge, from untethered youth to the constraints of being a grown up. It’s what made the transition bearable.

Music’s Unexpected Gifts

Recently, my husband recorded the Hyde Park concert of Carole King performing Tapestry, one of the all-time great albums ever. As we watched it together, I was surprised that the concert moved me to tears.

Was it the music that made me nostalgic, conjuring up memories of a younger self, a wanna-be songwriter who never quite got her career off the ground?

Was it how the camera panned the crowd of thousands and thousands of people who knew every word to every song and sang along in a kind of ecstatic celebration of Tapestry’s musical masterpiece?

The Teachings of Poetry and Performance

What got me going was when a large picture of a young Carole King appeared on the enormous screen behind her. A film of a 30-year-old Carole, singing (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman while the 74-year-old Carole harmonized with her younger self.

The old woman gazing into the face of her youth, while she sang along was a profound moment. That’s what brought me to tears – that larger than life visual metaphor.

As I grow old, I realize that I long for moments that allow me to sing along and harmonize with acknowledging the past, hoping for the future, and loving the right here, right now of being alive.

The Big Changes

Mid-life is a time of working and focusing on goals and ambition. Most of us got lost in the identification of our work, only to discover that age had inched up on us anyway.

It confronted us with questions as to failure and success, usefulness and significance. It’s a slippery slope to contemplate those questions, lest we give ourselves the wrong answer. But here was the right answer in the form of an old Carole King singing with her younger self.

The Circle Turns

Our lives are a series of turnings; circles that we experience as seasons and years. “Look at how long I’ve lived,” this cycle implores. The past pulls on us to make peace with it, so that we can live life more fully. The present asks us to sing in harmony.

Seeing Carole King perform at age 74 was an amazing experience, one that underscored how far I’ve come – how far we’ve all come. Ms. King inspired me to be the old woman, gazing into the face of youth with appreciation in her heart and a song of love on her lips.

Though my musical tastes have changed and expanded over the years, some music will forever be etched on my soul, always compelling, still informing, wonderfully inspiring. Music, in my life, will forever be a bridge making the transitions more bearable.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Which artists are your favorite, and which ones continue to inspire you to sing along? What was the last concert you attended and what was the experience like? Please share in the comments below.

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Viktoria Vidali

Stephanie, really enjoyed your article. Recently heard a comment by Rick Beato about how things were different for our generation from those following, musically speaking, because we all experienced the same music; in other words, it was not curated for a particular taste (as it is today) and everyone in the culture could participate simultaneously with a new release, bringing us together. When you write about Carole King as an older woman singing along with her younger self, it made me think of how beautiful the tapestry of life is and how perfect.

Lisa Stege

Seeing Joni Mitchell at the recent awards ceremony was very touching for me, especially knowing the health challenges that she’s been through. I still love to sing with the radio or my CDs, and Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie Raitt have always been my favorite female singers. I’m still a rock&roller at my advanced age, although I do like other types of music. Perhaps never having had children, I still am most at home with the 60s & 70s music of my youth.


Contemporary Christian music touches my heart & soul also.


Barry Manilow , Chicago, Earth, Wind & Fire. Their music is so wonderful, & I enjoy their concerts.


Great article! It’s suprising how we can bring up every word to the songs of our lives!

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The Author

Stephanie Raffelock is a journalist, a blogger and an aspiring novelist. In her Sixty and Me column, she explores aging dynamically, living fully and loving well.

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