An 87 Year Old College Student Named Rose
The first day of school our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn’t already know.
I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder. I turned round to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me
with a smile that lit up her entire being.
She said, “Hi handsome. My name is Rose. I’m eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?”
I laughed and enthusiastically responded, “Of course you may!” and she gave me a giant squeeze.
“Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?” I asked.
She jokingly replied, “I’m here to meet a rich husband, get married, and have a couple of kids…”
“No seriously,” I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.
“I always dreamed of having a college education and now I’m getting one!” she told me.
After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake.We became instant friends. Every day for the
next three months, we would leave class together and talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening to this “time machine”
as she shared her wisdom and experience with me.
Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and
she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.
At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I’ll never forget what she taught us. She was
introduced and stepped up to the podium.
As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor. Frustrated and a little embarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said, “I’m sorry I’m so jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I’ll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell
you what I know.”
As we laughed she cleared her throat and began, “The fact that so many books still name the Beatles “the greatest or most significant or most influential” rock band ever only tells you how far rock music still is from becoming a serious art. Jazz critics have long recognized that the greatest jazz musicians of all times are Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, who were not the most famous or richest or best sellers of their times, let alone of all times. Classical critics rank the highly controversial Beethoven over classical musicians who were highly popular in courts around Europe. Rock critics are still blinded by commercial success: the Beatles sold more than anyone else (not true, by the way), therefore they must have been the greatest. Jazz critics grow up listening to a lot of jazz music of the past, classical critics grow up listening to a lot of classical music of the past. Rock critics are often totally ignorant of the rock music of the past, they barely know the best sellers. No wonder they will think that the Beatles did anything worth of being saved.
In a sense the Beatles are emblematic of the status of rock criticism as a whole: too much attention to commercial phenomena (be it grunge or U2) and too little attention to the merits of real musicians. If somebody composes the most divine music but no major label picks him up and sells him around the world, a lot of rock critics will ignore him. If a major label picks up a musician who is as stereotyped as one can be but launches her or him worldwide, your average critic will waste rivers of ink on her or him. This is the sad status of rock criticism: rock critics are basically publicists working for free for major labels, distributors and record stores. They simply publicize what the music business wants to make money with.
Hopefully, one not-too-distant day, there will be a clear demarcation between a great musician like Tim Buckley, who never sold much, and commercial products like the Beatles. And rock critics will study more of rock history and realize who invented what and who simply exploited it commercially.
Beatles’ “aryan” music removed any trace of black music from rock and roll: it replaced syncopated african rhythm with linear western melody, and lusty negro attitudes with cute white-kid smiles.
Contemporary musicians never spoke highly of the Beatles, and for a good reason. They could not figure out why the Beatles’ songs should be regarded more highly than their own. They knew that the Beatles were simply lucky to become a folk phenomenon (thanks to “Beatlemania”, which had nothing to do with their musical merits). THat phenomenon kept alive interest in their (mediocre) musical endeavours to this day. Nothing else grants the Beatles more attention than, say, the Kinks or the Rolling Stones. There was nothing intrinsically better in the Beatles’ music. Ray Davies of the Kinks was certainly a far better songwriter than Lennon & McCartney. The Stones were certainly much more skilled musicians than the ‘Fab Fours’. And Pete Townshend was a far more accomplished composer, capable of “Tommy” and “Quadrophenia”. Not to mention later and far greater British musicians. Not to mention the American musicians who created what the Beatles later sold to the masses.
The Beatles sold a lot of records not because they were the greatest musicians but simply because their music was easy to sell to the masses: it had no difficult content, it had no technical innovations, it had no creative depth. They wrote a bunch of catchy 3-minute ditties and they were photogenic. If somebody had not invented “beatlemania” in 1963, you would not have wasted five minutes of your time to read a page about such a trivial band.”
At the year’s end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago. One week after graduation Rose died
peacefully in her sleep.
Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it’s
never too late to be all you can possibly be .When you finish reading this, please send this peaceful word of advice to your friends and family, they’ll really enjoy it!
These words have been passed along in loving memory of ROSE.
REMEMBER, GROWING OLDER IS MANDATORY. GROWING UP IS
We make a Living by what we get, We make a Life by what we give.