“I’m still learning.” – Michaelangelo, at age 87
Songwriting is a craft that you can begin working on at any stage in your life. Unlike recording artists, who often have pressure to look and dress a certain way or to be a certain age, songwriters never have to “look the part.” Even in Nashville where it’s common for a songwriter to become “famous” among the locals, nobody cares how old they are, if their vocals are perfectly pitched, or what size dress they fit in. They can show up to play a gig at the famous Bluebird Cafe in a t-shirt and old jeans (not even black ones) and their songs speak for themselves.
Great Nashville songwriters like Harlan Howard, Richard Leigh, Bobby Braddock, Tom Shapiro, Jeffrey Steele, Al Anderson and Gretchen Peters were, or still are, cranking out hits for young recording artists in their 50’s and 60’s (and that list is just off the top of my head). Singer songwriters like Elton John, Sting, Dylan, Springsteen, Billy Joel, and Cyndi Lauper all continue to write new material and reinvent themselves well into their prime. So, if you’re reading this and have a desire to write songs, nothing is stopping you. I would only add as a caveat that you have to be willing to continue to learn, to grow, and to be open to your surroundings…but that’s not rocket science.
For a little more inspiration, here’s a short list of diverse folks who accomplished great things at a more “mature” age. I culled this list from Goodreads.com and a couple of Google searches and admittedly haven’t fact-checked it, but it seems right to me!
- J.K. Rowling was 30 years old when she finished the first manuscript of Harry Potter.
- Mark Twain was 40 when he wrote “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, and 49 years old when he wrote “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
- Rosa Parks was 42 when she refused to obey the bus driver’s order to give up her seat to make room for a white passenger.
- Suzanne Collins was 46 when she wrote “The Hunger Games.”
- Charles Darwin was 50 years old when his book On the Origin of Species came out.
- Leonardo Da Vinci was 51 years old when he painted the Mona Lisa.
- Ray Kroc Was 53 when he bought the McDonalds franchise and took it to unprecedented levels.
- Dr. Seuss was 54 when he wrote “The Cat in the Hat.”
- Colonel Harland Sanders was 61 when he started the KFC Franchise.
- Ronald Regan entered politics at age 55 and eventually became the oldest person to ever become President, at the age of 69.
- Artist Paul Cézanne was 56 years old when he was given his first art exhibition.
- J.R.R Tolkien was 62 when the Lord of the Ring books came out.
- Peter Roget invented the Thesaurus at age 73.
- George R.R. Martin was 63 when HBO purchased the television rights for his A Song of Ice and Fire series and launched the mega-hit “Game of Thrones” for which Martin actively writes and produces.
- Grandma Moses started painting at age 76. Three years later her art was hanging at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City! Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Write on, friends!