We all look to the future with worried eyes from time to time, trying to imagine how life is going to pan out. Songwriters - from Paul McCartney to the current No.1 Lukas Graham - are no different in this respect, putting themselves into the slippers and cardigans of their own grandparents to try and guess what the future will hold as the years trickle away.
1. It Was a Very Good Year by Frank Sinatra
Ervin Drake wrote this examination of the various stages of his love life - at ages 17, 21 and 35 - for The Kingston Trio in 1961, when he was 42 years old. Frank Sinatra's 1966 cover is the preferred version, especially for the dignified way he sings the final verse, in which Drake imagines himself looking back from a ripe old age and realising that every moment is as precious as the last: "Now I think of my life as vintage wine / From fine old kegs / From the brim to the dregs / It poured sweet and clear / It was a very good year."
Moral: It's always a very good year.
2. When I'm 64 by The Beatles
It's curious to think that while Paul McCartney was larking about here with Brian Matthew in his early 20s, he'd already written a song about being of near-pensionable age. When I'm 64 was one of his first songs, written in the pre-rock 'n' roll style of his father's jazz band, when Paul was 16. Lyrically it imagines the autumn years as a time of mending fuses, knitting sweaters, renting cottages, and having grandchildren called Vera, Chuck and Dave.
Moral: All will be well provided you feel a) needed and b) well fed.
3. 7 Years Old by Lukas Graham
This is a tricky song to mine for genuinely useful information about the ageing process as it has so transparently been written from a young man's perspective. Lukas Graham have written more about keeping your mates, making your mark on the world and ensuring you have a partner and children than about learning life lessons and maturing into a wiser person. And then there's this curious couplet: "I made a man so happy when I wrote a letter once / I hope my children come and visit, once or twice a month".
Luckily, Matt Edmonson crowd-sourced a slightly more realistic lyric, based on real-life experiences:
Moral: Age is significantly more than a number.
4. Losing My Edge by LCD Soundsystem
While the passing years offer the benefit of wisdom and experience, there's always the fear that younger, more energetic people are going to throw you aside to make room for themselves, and this is what Losing My Edge pokes fun at. LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy intones "I'm losing my edge to better-looking people with better ideas and more talent / And they're actually really, really nice" while listing every significant event in the evolution of music that he was definitely a party to (he wasn't) and then concluding "you don't know what you really want" 15 times in a row, like a grouchy old grandfather.
Moral: Life isn't a competition.
5. Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell
A far more abstract and poetic view of maturity than the rest of the songs on this list, Both Sides Now contrasts youthful whimsy with bitter experience showing that every up has a down, every positive a negative, and that there are very few reliable truths that can be learned about anything: "I've looked at life from both sides now / From up and down, and still somehow / It's life's illusions I recall / I really don't know life at all."
Brilliantly, having written and recorded the song as a young woman, Joni returned to it later in her career, her voice now deeper and huskier, suggesting greater experience but reaffirming that life remains as mysterious as it ever did.
Moral: Time doesn't heal all.
6. Old Friends by Simon & Garfunkel
While this has the melancholy air of It Was a Very Good Year, Old Friends is a far less contented affair. A thumbnail sketch of old men sitting out in the open air in their twilight years, it marvels at the things they've seen, and struggles to picture that this is something that (good luck permitting) will come to us all: "Can you imagine us years from today / Sharing a park bench quietly? / How terribly strange to be seventy," before concluding "Preserve your memories / They're all that's left you".
Moral: Old age isn't what it used to be. Paul Simon was 70 in 2011. It wasn't terribly strange.
7. Help the Aged by Pulp
On first listen, this sounds like a plea for greater understanding of pensioners and their wild youth, but it's a murkier tale than that. Jarvis Cocker's lyric is also about society's fear of physical decline, and puts a definite dividing line between "you", the listener and "them", the old people. With lines like "You can dye your hair / But it's the one thing you can't change / Can't run away from yourself" and the payoff "Funny how it all falls away", it's telling that this was the first single to be released after Pulp had achieved mainstream success after years in the margins, when possibly the only direction left for the group was down.
Moral: It's time you took an older lover, baby.
8. Old Man by Neil Young
Taking almost the exact inverse perspective to Jarvis, Neil Young's lyric is a plea for acceptance from the judgemental elders of society, who were (in the early 1970s) taking quite a dim view of the degenerate lifestyles of the younger generation. "Old man, look at my life / I'm a lot like you were" he sings, with that telling "were" slipped in as a mild accusation of the crime of forgetting your own youthful impulses. Neil is 24, looking forward to a long and fruitful life ahead, and all he wants is "someone to love me / The whole day through", just like Lukas Graham.
Moral: Don't look back in anger.
9. Glory Days by Bruce Springsteen
Being a smart songwriter, Bruce Springsteen wrote this partly to capture the feeling of life not quite living up to the promise it held when everything was fresh and new, but also to lightly mock people who like to spend their time living in the past. For every moment that he's seen reminiscing with an old friend about school over a couple of beers, he'll undercut it with an aside about "boring stories of glory days" or his own father working hard and being laid off, and then pondering on "glory days he ain't never had".
Moral: Your glory days could be just beginning.
10. Veronica by Elvis Costello
Written as an account of the fading memory of Elvis Costello's own grandmother Molly, Veronica contrasts vivid scenes from a woman's early years to her mute existence in a care home, towards the end of her life. It's a song about declining faculties, echoing the sentiments of Simon & Garfunkel. Elvis contrasts Veronica's "carefree mind of her own, with a devilish look in her eye" with a view of her sitting "in her favourite chair and she sits very quiet and still" while nurses and carers fuss around her, oblivious to her life's adventures.
Moral: Even if you can't remember it, it still happened.