I was just fourteen when the song came out, but according to the story, Paul actually wrote it many years earlier when he was only sixteen himself. He forgot all about it until his own father’s special birthday nine years later, however, and even then, his partner John was not exactly a fan of the tune, saying in an interview some years afterwards, “I would never even dream of writing a song like that.”
To be sure, the almost vaudevillian melody was a little out of sync with the rest of their music, and the clarinet trio featured in the song was not exactly standard instrumentation for the group. On the other hand, whenever the amplifiers failed or the power went off, it did make a nice filler for the boys to sing.
Still, when it first appeared on the 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Paul McCartney’s sentimental siren “When I’m Sixty-Four,” became an enormous hit. For there was something sweet indeed about the idea that though life won’t always be easy (“we shall scrimp and save”) in the end, it can be worth it when we can one day simply work in the garden and play with grandchildren, even if their names aren’t Vera, Chuck, and Dave.
Of course, I’m afraid that I lost much of my own hair years ago, and unfortunately, when my formerly long locks left the premises they seemed to take a lot of brain cells with them. And today, I’m not even sure that I could stay out until quarter of three if I wanted to do so.
But having just turned sixty-four at 12:01 this morning, I’m happy at least that my dear wife not only has never locked the door on me but that she still feeds me and even seems to need me, just as I do her. And there’s something incredibly nice about going through life with a person who not only knows you well, but has loved you long.
It’s said that when Paul McCartney turned 64 himself eleven years ago that his own children made a special recording of this song at Abbey Road Studios and presented it to him as a surprise present. But I have a feeling that he wasn’t really all that surprised at all. After all, he had forty-eight years to get ready for it.
And how good it is when “sincerely ” or not, we don’t simply “waste away” the years but we treasure them all as a wonderful gift from God. For to quote Sir Paul, who really could ask for more?