“Hold onto 16 as long as you can. Changes come around real soon, make us women and men.”
– John Mellencamp
“Jack and Diane” is the 1982 hit song written and performed by singer- songwriter John Mellencamp, then performing as John Cougar. You gotta love a guy who has “Cougar” as his last name.
The song appears on Mellencamp’s album “American Fool.” It was chosen by the Recording Industry Association of America as one of the Songs of the Century. The single spent four weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1982, and is Mellencamp’s most successful hit single.
He said of recording the song: “’Jack and Diane’ was a terrible record to make. When I play it on guitar by myself, it sounds great; but I could never get the band to play along with me. That’s why the arrangement’s so weird. Stopping and starting, it’s not very musical.”
Obviously the arrangement worked for his listeners, including me. As much as I love his guitar and the overall sporadic beat of the song, the lyrics are even more engaging. According to Mellencamp, “Jack and Diane” was based on the 1962 Tennessee Williams film, “Sweet Bird of Youth.”
This film focuses on the relationship between a drifter (Paul Newman) and a faded movie star (Geraldine Page) and won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Ed Begley), and was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Page) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Shirley Knight).
The film was considered a big hit and was one of Roger Ebert’s top films of the decade – and it held a score of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes based on a total of 23 surveyed critics.
I have to admit I have not seen the film, but you can bet I’ll be searching Netflix for it real soon. I’ve always been intrigued by stories of youth and the desire to hold on to that feeling that fades all too fast into a collection of memories.
Oh, if I had a nickel for every time I started a sentence with, “I remember when …” Don’t get me wrong. I love the fact that I just celebrated another year of life, and I am thankful to be in relatively good health and certainly great spirits.
And I detest the idea of feeling old or appearing as someone who is looking at his best years in the rear-view mirror.
No, I am determined to press on and see life as an opportunity to make a difference each and every day. If I can impact the life of another individual, I impact my own life in return. I liken this to the law of increasing returns.
The more one gives, the more one gets in return.
Zig Ziglar said it best: “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” We all remember when we were young and strong of body and mind. Those were good times for sure.
The truth is, however, we can’t really hold onto 16 forever. But we can recapture that feeling over and over again if we set our sights on others before ourselves.
Oh yeah, life goes on, my friends. Long after the thrill of livin’ is gone.
Rich DeLong, formerly of Richmond Hill, is the executive director for The Villas & The Grand of Seagrass Village in Panama City Beach, Florida. Reach him at SeniorMomentsWithRich@gmail.com.