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Young@Heart is a senior citizens' chorus out of Northampton, Massachusetts, that covers rock songs by everyone from The Clash to Sonic Youth to Coldplay. They infuse their takes on hits such as "Forever Young," "I Wanna Be Sedated," and "I Feel Good" with a kind of profundity that only age can bring. Director Stephen Walker's documentary, titled Young@Heart, premieres this month, and New Times sat down with three of the group's members — Steve Martin, Stan Goldman, and Dora B. Morrow — to talk about rocking it out in your seventies and eighties.
New Times: What is it about the Young@Heart chorus that audiences can't get enough of?
Steve Martin: I think we startle the audience. You would never expect that people in our state of life could deliver what we do in the way we do; [people] expect we'd be in a nursing home at this age. Once they get over the initial reaction, they admire us and they deliver what we love — standing ovations, applause, recognition.
Stan Goldman: There's an interconnectedness between the audience and us. The audience sees their own parents in us. And bar none, it happens every performance — standing ovations.
Martin: Hooting, the lighting of cigarette lighters — everything you'd expect in rock and roll.
Speaking of rock and roll, how did you feel about the Young@Heart chorus before you joined it?
Martin: First of all, rock and roll, when I first heard it 30 or 40 years ago, was to me socially terrible. I'd tell my kids: 'Go listen to it in your room. Shut the door.' I put it aside, went on raising children, and then got to the grandchildren age. The words began to have more meaning to me in terms of social norms and all the emotions we live. There's more to rock and roll than noise and bass guitar, walking around with tattoos, grabbing your crotch onstage.
And you, Dora? Were you a fan of rock and roll or, say, James Brown, whose "I Feel Good" you perform with Stan?
Dora B. Morrow: I'm so used to all kinds. If you have a house full of youngsters, you're going to hear all kinds of sounds. You're going to hear some you like, some you don't like, some you're going to tell them to keep outside. I had a lot of teenagers, so I listened to it all, but didn't like it all. You hate to scold your kids constantly, so you just put some earplugs in and send them downstairs [to the basement] where they can play their music as loud as they want to play it, 'cause they can really play their music loud.
Trailer for the Young@Heart documentary:
Music video for Young@Heart's version of "I Wanna Be Sedated" by the Ramones:
Young@Heart performing Coldplay's "Fix You" live: