Category Archives: Musical Musings

Musical Interlude… Yesterday When I Was Young

First, the best perspective…

For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of
his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow?
– Ecclesiastes 6:12a

Music has a way of touching the soul, whether it’s the music itself or the words. Sometimes both affect us, perhaps even deeply. Today we look at Yesterday When I Was Young, a song from the ’60s that tells
a tale of regret. An evidently older man wistfully looks back upon his life and realizes how short-sighted and foolish he has been and now he feels it’s too late. Before we look deeper, take a few moments and listen to Mr. Roy Clark…

Yesterday When I Was Young
~ Written by Charles Aznavour (1964)
~ Translated by Herbert Kretzmer (1969)
~ Popularized in performance by Roy Clark (b. 1933 )

Unfortunately, the life of regret, especially in late life is much more common than it should be. Yesterday When I Was Young provides
a  commentary on the foolishness of a life spent on selfish pursuit of personal pleasure, eventually leading to loneliness and despair. The melancholy musical tone adds to the effect of the words which we find to be dreary, even haunting.

The song speaks of the “weak and shifting sand”. However, in spite of the dreams and the sweetness of life in younger years, there came  a realization in later years that the investment provided a scant return. The reference is like the words of Jesus as He told the parable of the foolish man who built his house upon the sand. Eventually the rain and the winds came and the house fell, “and great was the fall of it.”

As we listen, we consider the message of one who has learned, but seemingly too late. During younger years and in the midst of mirth, merriment, and frivolity, time passed much too quickly and now it’s nearly gone. It’s too late to adjust priorities; it’s too late to change course; it’s much too late to gain a sense of that which leads to true satisfaction – the deeper satisfaction that only comes through living for something greater than one’s self: “And only now I see how the years ran away…”

Notice the transition from sweetness to bitterness, revealed through the play on words. Early in life, “the taste of life was sweet”. But after the years quickly passed, “I feel the bitter taste of tears…”

The song resonates with many as they look back on a life filled with selfish ambition and pointless activity, often using others to attain personal achievement, but never gaining true satisfaction or peace. Following are a few quotes posted online in response to the song…

1. I never thought that the time would come for me to regret my wasteful way of living… I first heard this song when I was 18 and
was carefree. Now, that I am 60 I started to realize the limitations
of what I can do. I played this song for an hour and I cried & cried.
I wish I could go back in time to change my life. 

2. I wasted my youth on things that meant nothing. It was all about
me. There is so much more to life than that. Don’t get me wrong,
life is great, I just wish I had not wasted the years of my youth
on meaningless things. 

3. I was 15 when Roy Clark produced this song. I liked the sounds,
the beat, the music. But I never really listened to the words like so many kids in my youth. I just recently reacquainted myself with
the song and how the tears flowed. I am now a single man with
nothing but memories, some pleasant, some not so. I really don’t
wish to go back and do it all again, but I am just so lonesome now.

However in actuality, it’s not too late! The words of a song such as “Yesterday” do not have to be the end of the story. Instead, look to redeem the time. Rebuild strained or failed relationships. Say the words that need to be said. Invest your time and strength to bless, encourage, and serve others. Do not allow regret over the wasted years to haunt your remaining time until you depart this earth.

In spite of personal regret – no matter how deep – there is hope. There is a way to overcome the feelings of misplaced priorities, lost time and wasted opportunity. God enables us as people to redeem the time. He has a special way of helping us make up for the mistakes of youth and He can give you peace, joy, and fulfillment in the time that remains. In God’s Word and in His presence there is forgiveness and a second chance to recover that which was lost. Look to Him and be restored…

If you are young, do not let the words of the song become reality. If you are older, the good news is that it does not have to end this way!

Lyrics: Yesterday When I was Young   (as performed by Roy Clark)

Yesterday when I was young
The taste of life was sweet as rain upon my tongue.
I teased at life as if it were a foolish game,
The way the evening breeze may tease a candle flame.
The thousand dreams I dreamed, the splendid things I planned
I’d always built to last on weak and shifting sand.
I lived by night and shunned the naked light of day
And only now I see how the years ran away.

Yesterday when I was young
So many happy songs were waiting to be sung,
So many wild pleasures lay in store for me
And so much pain my dazzled eyes refused to see.
I ran so fast that time and youth at last ran out,
I never stopped to think what life was all about
And every conversation I can now recall
Concerns itself with me and nothing else at all.

— Instrumental —

Yesterday the moon was blue
And every crazy day brought something new to do.
I used my magic age as if it were a wand
And never saw the waste and emptiness beyond.
The game of love I played with arrogance and pride
And every flame I lit too quickly, quickly died.
The friends I made all seemed somehow to drift away
And only I am left on stage to end the play.

There are so many songs in me that won’t be sung,
I feel the bitter taste of tears upon my tongue.
The time has come for me to pay for
Yesterday when I was young…

Roy Clark Album
Album: Yesterday When I Was Young, Roy Clark (1969)

 

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© Jeffery J. Michaels / Plain English Publications 2015

(Quotations are allowed with attribution to this blog)