John Darnielle (better known as The Mountain Goats) started his band in 1991 at the ripe old age of 24, but didn’t find cult success for nearly a decade later. He continues to record and perform today at 44. Photo by Lauren of Ann Arbor, MI.
There is no shame and no hiding it; I am the oldest in-house writer at BreakThru Radio. So when the article came down the line to write about fathers who pursue music passions after they have celebrated their 40th birthday, who do you think got the assignment?
This isn’t to say I’m 40 yet (I am still living like a twenty-something on the good side of 35) but I do know a thing or two about pursuing music later on in life than the typical sixteen year-old kid who gets their first guitar and falls forever in love. For me, it was four years into a professional career in banking before I decided to pack it all in and head back to graduate school for a master’s in musicology.
Starting a band is something entirely different, though. For starters, one doesn’t need to pack up their life, quit their job and move to another country to start a band. All one really needs is musical talent (or at least some musical talent), a few musicians with similar tastes in music and equipment. The rest can happen on its own.
Dads who are over the hill and anxious to step away from their fatherhood duties for a minute to pursue their own inner-child usually do so in one of two areas—music and sports. While there are many different possibilities in terms of leagues across this country for older men to participate in as athletes, men excel at any given sport during their late teens and twenties (and perhaps into their thirties if they are extremely athletic or a professional). Music is another story. Musicians tend to get better as they age, and the most important component of a good band is having good musicians. Perhaps it has taken you years to find your musical stride, your voice, your sound, and now that you are over all these trendy musical genre-phases of your youth, you are ready to take on a serious endeavor with a group of like-minded middle-agers.
There is more than just wisdom on your side too; there are plenty of practical terms to assist you in your musical pursuit. For one, you are surely old enough to play in any establishment you wish; the minimum age limit to get into such places will not be a factor for you in booking gigs. There is also the freedom of practice space. Sure, you and your pals may have to deal with a few nagging wives who think getting together to jam in the garage or basement is an exercise in immaturity and signify necessity for adolescence. However, it is your garage or your basement (or at least half of it is), so pleading for permission is not be a practice you should have to grow accustomed to at this age. Finally, there is the freedom of mobility. How many rock-star biographies have I read where a musician spends pages thanking his mom, dad, or auntie for driving him and his cronies around from gig to gig? Hopefully by this age, you won’t have to rely on your drummer’s mom to get you to the pub to play.
It is never too late to start anything in your life. Remember the final scene in Mr. Holland’s Opus? The retiring teacher who, after about forty years of teaching, finally gets a chance to conduct his first ever orchestra through an opus he had been writing for decades?
The lesson to be learned here is an important one. The value in pursuing one’s own passion as a parent, limits the risk of living vicariously through one’s own child(ren). Nothing is worse than watching the father live his passions by forcing them on his offspring. We have all seen this man, and whether it is in music, sports or some other form of expression. Children should be left to pursue their own dreams in life, and not the failed missions of their parents.