Music on TV This Week

I had to admit I was initially skeptical of the prospect of 70- and 80-year-old senior citizens singing rock songs from the likes of Sonic Youth, The Clash and the Ramones. But in the hands of The Young@Heart Chorus -- and with the arrangements of 54-year-old director Bob Cilman -- the songs take on new meaning. Given the ages and circumstances of the songs' interpreters, it's hard to hear them the same way again. This week, the nearly two dozen retirees from Northampton, Mass., appear on both Leno (Wednesday) and Ellen (Thursday), doing their part to help promote the documentary they're featured in, Young@Heart, out Friday, April 18.

The film is billed by its director Stephen Walker as a rock musical about getting old, but I'd say that shortchanges the subject manner a bit, a tendency that's also apparent in his over-use of narration -- the only issue I have with an otherwise perfect documentary. (Why couldn't he just shut up and let the movie tell the story?) At the center of the film is our own mortality -- and mortality is more than just some elephant in the room for folks near the end of their lives. Over the years, the chorus has lost more than 70 of its members to the inevitability of time, even losing a couple during the making of the film. One of those deaths leads to the incredible, touching moment of a duet that's forced to become a solo, as the remaining singing partner, Fred, lends some gravity to Coldplay's "Fix You" (video.)

The film challenges not only our perceptions of age and getting old, but also our initial perceptions of the songs themselves. When the chorus takes on Sonic Youth's "Schizophrenia" (video) or David Bowie's "Golden Years" (video) both the lyrics and the music are lifted to a place you wouldn't think they would go. What this brings to mind is the outsider music of The Langley Schools Music Project, a recording of Canadian elementary school children singing rock songs of the time (1976-1977). Where the octogenarians take Bowie is not that different from where the nine-year-old voices in the suburbs of Vancouver take "Space Oddity." They're just at different ends of life.

Playlist: Picks for the week

Monday, April 14

CBS: Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson: Daniel Lanois

FUSE: The Sauce: Gnarls Barkley

NBC: Late Night With Conan O'Brien: Spoon (REPEAT)

NBC: Last Call With Carson Daly: Morrissey (REPEAT)

Tuesday, April 15

CBS: Late Show With David Letterman: Rogue Wave

FUEL: The Daily Habit: Perry Farrell

FUSE: The Sauce: G. Love

NBC: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Ingrid Michaelson

NBC: Late Night With Conan O'Brien: Brother Ali (REPEAT)

NBC: Last Call With Carson Daly: Tristan Prettyman (REPEAT)

Wednesday, April 16

CBS: Late Show With David Letterman: The Gossip

CBS: Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson: Bell X1

NBC: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Young@Heart Chorus

Thursday, April 17

CBS: Late Show With David Letterman: The Black Keys

OVATION: Afro-Cuban All Stars: At the Salon of Dreams: Afro-Cuban All Stars

PBS: Tavis Smiley: Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige

SYNDICATION: The Ellen Degeneres Show: Young@Heart Chorus

Friday, April 18

ABC: Jimmy Kimmel Live: Lyrics Born

CBS: Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson: Liam Finn

NBC: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Flogging Molly

NBC: Late Night With Conan O'Brien: The Kooks (REPEAT)

RAVEHD: Later with Jools Holland: Reverend and the Makers, Stephanie Dosen, Josh Ritter, Larry Harlow's Latin Legends of Fania, Bela Fleck, The Who

Saturday, April 19

NBC: Saturday Night Live: Vampire Weekend (REPEAT)

OVATION: Beat Route - Seville: Vicente Amigo (REPEAT)

PBS: Austin City Limits: Ray Davies (REPEAT)

drake lelane
curator of the music/soundtrack blog thus spake drake