My Third Act—And The Music Plays On

Contrary to Truman Capote’s declaration that “Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act,” I have found immense joy and satisfaction in my 60s and 70s.

After 35 years of writing, producing, and directing TV and radio commercials, I happily retired from the advertising business at age 60. While a relatively young age to retire, a sexagenarian in an ad agency is as rare as a hen’s tooth. In any case, I had a wonderful and rewarding career as a writer and creative director, and for the most part enjoyed every minute of it.

Now, with the Mad Men chapter of my life behind me and a lot of time on my hands, I was ready to really focus on my piano playing. Even though I never counted on it for my livelihood, I always owned a piano and continued playing. Good thing, too, because in my early days as a lowly cub copywriter, if I hadn’t played in piano bars and jazz clubs a couple of nights a week, I would have starved to death.

Now that I was retired, I started playing and practicing a lot and was eager to see where my piano playing might take me. So, when a singer friend approached me about playing the piano on a video tribute she wanted to make in honor of her parents, I jumped at the chance to take part. We rehearsed a bit and when we were ready to record she introduced me to a bass player and drummer she knew. The recording went extremely well and the video turned out great.

Having hit it off with the other musicians, I approached them about recording an album as a trio. They were very enthusiastic and I was thrilled but nervous as hell. Both of them had played on lots of albums, but I had zero recording experience. I also hadn’t played in a trio for more than 50 years. But I practiced hard and we started recording. After three sessions we had 10 songs in the can. There would be an album after all. I was totally jazzed and Blame It On My Youth was released just after my 66th birthday. I am very proud of this album and it did remarkably well in the marketplace.

Bolstered by the success of my first album, I decided to make a second one. This time, though, I opted to go solo. I went into the studio, laid down a bunch of standards plucked from the Great American Songbook and Why Try To Change Me Now was released in 2015.

Two years later, I was back into the studio again to record a third album, The Songs Of My Life. But this album would be a little different. More personal. That’s because each of the songs I chose would have a special meaning to my wife, Marjorie, our children, grandchildren, members of our extended family, or our friends. For example, I used to play Rainbow Connection” when our young children were drifting off to sleep. Can’t Help Falling In Love” is one Marjorie’s longtime favorites and Piano Man” … well, you get the idea.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I found myself playing more than ever and developed a strong desire to record a new album that would reflect what we were all going through. My aptly named Everything Must Change came out in late 2020.

As we all continued to hunker down in our COVID bunkers, time marched on and before I knew it my 75th birthday was looming on the horizon. To commemorate this significant milestone I recorded my fifth album, Young At Heart, which hit the airwaves just days from my 75th birthday.

Although I have played the piano my whole life, I never thought for a moment when I was young that I would record one single CD and now here I was with five of them—all recorded between the ages of 66-75. I guess you could say I was a very late bloomer.

Along that line, it’s reported that when legendary cellist Pablo Casals was asked why he continued to practice at age 90, he replied, because I think I’m making progress.” Well, as a mere mortal piano player who recently turned 76, I feel the same way as Señor Casals. There is no doubt in my mind that this late-in-life devotion of time and energy has made a huge difference in my playing. Clearly, age and life’s experiences have shaped and modified my approach to the piano in a number of meaningful ways, and I can feel and hear their influence every time I play.

While old age has caused me to give up some of my younger pursuits, I am deeply grateful that in the autumn of my life, I can sit down at the piano and play to my heart’s content. And when the time comes, I like knowing that I will be the one to play the finale to my third act. Oh, and thank you for the inspiration Señor Casals. I think I’m making progress, too.

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