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Elderly Rock Singers Put on a Good Show


The Rolling Stones are not the only senior citizens out there singing rock and roll. And to prove it, a new documentary film opens today. It's called "Young at Heart." Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan says it's a great show.

KENNETH TURAN: The Young at Heart Chorus is a 24-member singing group from Northampton, Massachusetts - average age, 80.

(Soundbite of song, "I Feel Good")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Whoo! I feel good.

TURAN: Under the direction of Bob Cilman, these folks spend their golden years singing songs from groups like the Talking Heads, The Clash and Coldplay. They even take a crack at a James Brown classic.

(Soundbite of song, "I Feel Good")

Mr. BOB CILMAN (Conductor, Young at Heart Chorus): (Singing) …I would. And use it just like I knew that I would.

Unidentified Man #1: Okay.

Mr. CILMAN: Can you do that? (Singing) Like I knew that I would.

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Like I knew that I would.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CILMAN: You know what? All right. But you know what? Dan…

TURAN: This may sound like a glib musical gimmick, but the reality is surprising. For what the members of this chorus lack in pure ability, they make up for in irrepressible spirits and a desire to simply have fun. When, for instance, 92-year-old Eileen Hall rips into The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" age hardly matters. The frame of Young at Heart is a seven-week pre-concert rehearsal period, during which the chorus is expected to learn some quite difficult stuff, including Sonic Youth's unsettling "Schizophrenia," and Allen Toussaint's "Yes We Can Can," which uses the word can a memory-challenging 71 times. In an organization with members this old, the question of mortality inevitably comes up.

(Soundbite of song, "Forever Young")

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) May your hands be always busy, may your feet be always swift.

TURAN: When the chorus sings Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" to an audience at Hampshire Jail at a particularly emotional moment, many of the inmates are literally moved to tears.

(Soundbite of song, "Forever Young")

YOUNG AT HEART (Choral Group): (Singing) Forever young, forever young.

TURAN: The age of these singers is not some contrivance, but the heart of the matter. In a culture that venerates youth, these people having the time of their lives near the end of their lives couldn't be more refreshing. We want them to go on singing forever, most of all perhaps because we know there's no way they can.


The movie is "Young at Heart." Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.