To Be Young

Youth is one of the biggest themes in songwriting, so there is a very good chance this thread will need to peel off into sub-topics. Treat this as a starting point to dive into all the different aspects of what it is to be or to have been young.

I think it was in the late Ralph Murphy’s ‘Laws of Songwriting’ book that he advised if you want to have a hit you should write for a singer who is under thirty years old and totally winning in life. Of course we would never impose such a narrow restriction of experience here at, but there is something interesting about this particular vignette.

In one sense youth is characterised by the vast, unbounded possibilities that lie ahead. Life is a blank canvas, an empty book, waiting to be filled with an adventure fuelled by no shortage of ambition. There are no constraints, no ties, you have complete freedom. Youth is fearless and the only limit is the limit of your imagination. Nothing is out of reach when you are young, the world is your oyster!

“Why in our youth does the life we still have before us look so immeasurably long? Because we have to find room for the boundless hopes which we can cram it.” - Aruthur Schopenhauer

At some point in our journey, we realise just how painfully short our lives are. To make things worse, more and more of our limited time is filled up with more and more mundane life stuff. The energy we once had can feel like it is beginning to fade and we look toward a phase of being, god forbid, settled.

There are many ways one could address this state through songwriting. If the singer is not directly young and ambitious, they are often soaked with nostalgia for when they were. Perhaps they are trying to reconnect with their youthful ambitions, trying to fulfil promises out of a sense of duty to their youthful selves. Or perhaps they have reached a higher state of contentment that isn’t requisite on foolish dreams.

Aside from this sub-theme of ambition, youth is perhaps most characterised by its wholesome simplicity. Even if it doesn’t or didn’t feel like it at the time, the complexities of youth often get washed down by hindsight leaving us in a state of disbelief over the things we wasted our time worrying about.

“Youth is wasted on the young.”

Young love is of course another big area for discussion. One can never replicate that first tingle of bliss in one’s heart. Conversely, the first time that it is broken leaves a wound that is never quite stitched.

Anyway, these are just the first ideas that come to mind when thinking about the theme of youth. You can join the discussion with your associations, and of course with examples of songs that touch on these areas.