A vivid look at how musical taste and age become tantalizingly intertwined

Music, Style, and Aging

Growing Old Disgracefully?

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Andy Bennett

"As we age, we not only draw on popular music to memorialize our misspent youth, but as models for living, in all stages of life. In Music, Style, and Aging, Andy Bennett explores how baby boomers and other middle-age music fanatics continue to invest deep house, DIY hardcore, and psychedelic rock with political, philosophical, and spiritual significance. Like a great record, this book will find fans among teenyboppers and punk rockers of all ages."
David Grazian, author of Blue Chicago: The Search for Authenticity in Urban Blues Clubs

The image of the aging rock-and-roller is not just Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger on stage in their sixties. In his timely book Music, Style, and Aging, cultural sociologist Andy Bennett explains how people grow older with popular music.

For many aging followers of rock, punk, and other contemporary popular genres, music is ingrained in their identities. Its meaning is highly personal and intertwined with the individual's biographical development. Bennett studies these fans and how they have changed over time—through fashions, hairstyles, body modification, career paths, political orientations, and perceptions of and by the next generation.

The significance of popular music for these fans is no longer tied exclusively to their youth. Bennett illustrates how the music that "mattered" to most people in their youth continues to play an important role in their adult lives—a role that goes well beyond nostalgia.



Read the Introduction (pdf).



"The interviews are freewheeling and often very frank....[A]n important--and enjoyable--contribution to the scholarly literature on popular culture and aging."
Library Journal

"What is compelling here is how Bennett’s respondents justify their stylistic transformation.... This provides readers with a rich insight into the association between style and authenticity for (some) middle-aged fans.... Music, Style, and Aging is an agenda-setting work that promises to inspire scholars to study the importance of culture as we age."
Contemporary Sociology

"Bennett tackles a long-neglected question: How have postwar generations’ youthful experiences with music and music scenes affected their adult lives? Bennett is at the forefront of new scholarship considering subcultural and music scene participation across the life course.... Carefully researched, engagingly written, and theoretically provocative, Music, Style, and Aging makes an important and long-awaited contribution to popular music studies, youth studies, subcultural or scene studies, and youth transitions."
American Journal of Sociology

"[A] thought-provoking study of the changing lifestyles of rockers and punks not dead, just aging.... Both the theoretical and the empirical parts of the book are fruitful, but the case studies are more captivating. They unveil stories of toned-down styles—e.g. punks with discreet Mohawks and few piercings but with enough visual signs to be recognized as old punks…. This book fills various gaps in the sociology of music. First of all, it examines a topic still marginal, studying not just popular music fans but some of the most overtly rebellious ones, especially those who have aged as well as those still following a distinctive style and refusing to give up. Second, this study is a crucial step towards the dissociation of two fields that have long been held as going hand-in-hand—popular music studies and youth studies. But perhaps the most intriguing gap this book fills is in the way the research was carried out: guided first and foremost by [Bennett's] personal curiosity."
Popular Music and Society



Introduction: A Life-Changing Thing

Part I: Contextualizing Popular Music and Aging
1. Popular Music and the Aging Audience
2. Individual and Collective Lifestyles of Aging Popular Music Audiences

Part II: Case Studies
3. Toning Down the Mohawk: Music, Style, and Aging
4. Career Opportunities: Work, Leisure, and the Aging Popular Music Fan
5. “This Is ‘Dad House’”: Continuity and Conflict among Multigenerational Music Audiences
6. Still “Changing the World”? Music, Aging, and Politics

Conclusion: Too Old to Rock and Roll?
Appendix: A Note on Methodology


About the Author(s)

Andy Bennett is Professsor of Cultural Sociology and Director of the Griffith Centre for Cultural Research at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia. He is a Faculty Fellow with the Center for Cultural Sociology at Yale University and author of Culture and Everyday Life, Cultures of Popular Music, and Popular Music and Youth Culture: Music, Identity, and Place.

Subject Categories

Music and Dance
General Interest



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