If you take 102-year-old Alan R. Tripp and 88-year-old Marvin Weisbord as examples, then you’re never too old to learn a new trick or achieve something special. Best friends that met a few years ago in a retirement home in Philadelphia, they’ve broken the so-called boundaries of senior citizenship by taking their love of and passion for music to the next level and writing, producing and recording an entire music album. Consisting of eight songs and two remixes, it’s irrefutable proof that senior citizens can – and should – push the boundaries, and their own stereotypes and self-doubt, to try new things and accomplish the unexpected.
It actually aids longevity, according to the duo, who claim: “We love what we’re doing, and that’s what makes you live as long as us and be happy.” Don’t miss this heartwarming tale of two friends successfully achieving their dreams and spreading joy nationwide in their later years.
Writing enough lyrics to make eight songs, recording them all, and remixing two of them is no easy feat for anyone. So, when one musician is almost 90 years old, and the other is over 100, it’s even more impressive. No mountain is too high, however, for best friends Alan Tripp and Marvin Weisbord – that much is clear.
Their endeavors attracted attention from across the country, propelling them into the spotlight almost overnight. Such success doesn’t come easily, however – and there are certainly no sympathy purchases happening. These men, both of whom had previously been tucked away in the corner of a retirement home in Philadelphia, have serious talent, and now America knows it.
Alan R. Tripp, the son of a businessman and a newspaperwoman, spent his childhood between Kansas, Illinois, New York, and Missouri. Although he was never in one place for a long period, and therefore wasn’t able to establish roots in a Jewish community, he was still able to find sustenance from people who shared his religion.
“My main Jewish education is the culture, which I consider to be extremely valuable wherever you move,” he said many years later. That culture? According to Tripp, it’s “That you intend to work and intend to do a little better than everybody else because you have to.” However, he also had another passion from a young age – music.
While he was at high school in New York City, Tripp took a keen interest in music and began to make his own songs and jingles, which he later said stayed with him throughout his life. At just 15 years old, he would go down to The Brill Building in Midtown Manhattan – one of the most important centers of popular music production at the time – regularly.
He would take some of his compositions with him and sing them outside in the hope that he could sell them. Unfortunately, however, this didn’t get him very far, and he was relatively unsuccessful – although he did manage to sell one jingle. His musical endeavors continued until he graduated high school, then he began to realize he could use his writing skills better elsewhere.
Regarding this period of his life, Tripp has no regrets. “I found out that being a songwriter at that point was not compatible with eating,” he recalled. “You could do one or the other. So, I went and wrote a jingle for Kool cigarettes, and I got $75. To me, it was all the money in the world. Then, I went into advertising.”
Casting his dreams of songwriting aside, he went on to study at Northwestern University. After graduating, he worked in Chicago as a reporter for a little while before moving back to New York and continuing work there. His passion for music, however, never died, and although he had given up trying to establish himself in the industry, he still enjoyed it recreationally.
The Second World War hit, and Tripp served his time in the Army Signals Corps before traveling to Philadelphia in the aftermath. There, he co-founded Bauer, Tripp & Foley, an advertising agency – but he did not stick in this industry for long. Instead, he worked in several professions, gaining multiple skills along the way.
Throughout his professional life, Tripp produced television shows, wrote magazine columns, published books of his own poetry, and helped to bring new inventions to market. On top of this, he also stayed true to his musical affinity by penning songs with Alan Bergman before the latter met his co-writer and wife, Marilyn, who took over.
Although he tried his hand at multiple different careers, one thing was clear throughout his life – he was fantastic with words. Writing came naturally to Tripp, and he was able to express himself beautifully by putting pen to paper. Little did he know that, toward the end of his life, his skills would be so refined that he’d be able to create an entire album’s worth of songs.
Tripp spent a lot of his free time throughout his life writing books. It’s not clear exactly how many he wrote – or whether he’s actually sure, as it’s been so many – but he did have three published before enjoying the success of the Senior Song Book. These were titled Millions from the Mind: How to Turn Inventions (Yours or Someone Else’s Into Fortunes (1992), Who Needs Hallmark? (2014), and A Woman with a Mind of Her Own: The Delicious Adventures of Maggie, Who Lived by Her Own Rules as Daughter, Wife, Mother, Businesswoman, Professor, Author, Public Speaker…and True Feminist.
Marvin Weisbord, on the other hand, was born in Philadelphia and grew up attending Har Zion Temple before studying journalism at the University of Illinois. After graduating, he got a Master’s degree at the University of Iowa and began teaching journalism at Penn State University. After a few years, he moved back to Philadelphia.
It was there that he started a long career as a consultant, during which he wrote multiple books on management, some of which are still available on Amazon (with titles such as “Ten Principles for Leading Meetings That Matter,” “Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There!” and “Organizational Diagnosis: a Workbook of Theory and Practice”).
During this whole time, Weisbord had been harboring a hidden passion for music. Big-band jazz music had been extremely popular in his youth, and he had been a big fan, frequently visiting jazz bars in the city and enjoying it from the comfort of his own home. However, it never really worked out for him in the way that he had hoped.
Unfortunately for Weisbord, he was unable to make his own music, despite desperately wanting to, as he just couldn’t seem to get the hang of playing musical instruments. Despite trying multiple times with several different instruments, it just didn’t seem to be for him, and he could only manage to be an average piano player – by his own admission.
However, Like Tripp, the friend that he would meet decades later, Weisbord’s background in journalism and writing – as well as his life-long passion for music – served him well throughout his life, as well as in his later years as a retirement home musician. Throughout this life, he slowly acquired all the skills that he’d need when he met Tripp – including his ‘average’ piano skills.
In fact, during the 1950s and 1960s, when Weisbord was writing for The New York Times and The New Republic, his account of John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign – aptly named “Campaigning for President” – went through two editions. He also wrote multiple sought-after books on management and photography.
At 85 years of age, Weisbord and Dorothy, his wife of 63 years, both moved to a retirement home near Philadelphia named Beaumont at Bryn Mawr. Although they were still in good health, they felt that it was time to move somewhere that could provide all the facilities they’d need and want in their later years, and spend the rest of their lives there.
Beaumont at Bryn Mawr wasn’t too far from where they lived before, so it seemed to be the ideal solution. And, through sheer coincidence – and what would turn out to be incredible luck as well – Tripp ended up there, too, after Maggie, a prominent feminist activist and his wife of 73 years, sadly passed away.
Although neither man was at all lonely, having both made friends soon after they arrived there, both Tripp and Weisbord spent a while at the retirement home without knowing one another. A few years ago, however, a mutual friend in the retirement home introduced the two, thinking that there was a chance they would bond over their shared love of music.
The friend was specifically referring to the big band music of the ‘40s and ‘50s, which he knew both men loved listening to in their rooms. Well, the friend couldn’t have been more right, and Tripp and Weisbord soon formed a strong, unbreakable bond, despite the age gap. And, so far, it’s proved to be an extremely productive partnership that’s generated a lot of joy.
Continuing his childhood passion into his later years, Tripp wrote a poem shortly before his 100th birthday. It was called “Best Old Friends,” and the subject was life – specifically, getting old and losing friends. It was a truly touching testament to his best friend in later life, reading: “When we were young, you’ll remember, I’m sure/ We all had good friends and felt nice and secure.”
“Then some moved away, and others just died/ While a few hung around and stayed fast by our side/ Now if we get lucky as we’re growing old/ We move to a place where we’re part of the fold/ By magic we meet all the right folks somehow/ Who are more than just friends/ We’ve become best old friends now!”
He dropped it on Weisbord’s desk in the retirement home as he felt as though it was something that his friend would appreciate and enjoy. He didn’t, however, want to make a fuss about it. Although neither of them knew it yet, this was to be a pivotal moment for the two friends that would change both their lives forever.
As Tripp’s 100th birthday approached, Weisbord wondered what to get him – after all, it had to be a special present for such a big milestone. “What do you give someone who’s 100 and has everything?” he told People magazine. Then, he remembered Tripp’s poem and decided to do something special for his friend.
His idea was to set Tripp’s poem to music – after all, Weisbord loved to sing and could play the piano. Needless to say, Tripp was delighted, and watching Weisbord perform his words sparked an idea. “I spent my entire life wanting to become a songwriter, and at 102, I thought, ‘Why not finally do it?’” he says.
He expressed his happiness to his friend, as well as his enthusiasm for trying another poem out as a song. “I was very happy, he was happy,” Weisbord said. “Next thing you know, I have another poem on my desk.” — and, as a result, the dynamic duo was born, and the retirement home in Philadelphia would never be the same!
Tripp remembers the process well: “What happened was, I wrote a poem called ‘Best Old Friends.’ And it was published in our local paper. And Marvin Weisbord – he’s my junior partner, by the way. He’s only 88 – he took that poem, which he saw published, and wrote music for it and gave it to me for my 100th birthday present.”
All Tripp needed was that encouragement from his friend to gain the confidence to share more of his work. “That was his mistake because I had four or five other lyrics in the drawer,” he said. He just hadn’t ever considered the possibility that they would be popular with a lot of other people, but the prospect of showcasing his poems excited him.
Tripp felt that there was no new music being written and produced for senior citizens, and he was determined to fill the void. However, he didn’t want to stick to stereotypes. Instead, he wrote lyrics that he could imagine taking musical form as pop songs and show tunes, in every genre from rock ‘n’ roll to swing.
Weisbord was also eager to continue to make music. Over the following two years, the two men met in the morning (given that they’re both early risers). They sat at the grand piano in Weisbord’s apartment, testing lyrics with the music of all different kinds and generally having a good time with each other.
On average, Tripp and Weisbord spent approximately 30 to 40 hours each week writing lyrics and music and decided that they would produce an album. Sometimes, they worked together, but occasionally, each man worked in his own apartment, with both set approximately 200 yards and a short elevator ride apart. Weisbord states that this distance took him “less than two minutes on foot.”
Luckily, the collaboration was harmonious in every sense, with Weisbord stating: “We had very little in the way of a disagreement. Our musical sensibilities and tastes are very parallel. It’s not like I was trying to sing a ballad to someone who likes hip-hop.” They found that they had even more in common than they originally thought, despite the 14-year age gap.
Tripp and Weisbord spent four weeks during September recording their album, which they titled “Senior Song Book.” Tripp was producer and lyricist, while Weisbord played the piano and set the lyrics to music. The two men funded the entire album themselves, including paying in full for the use of a studio.
They recruited Weisbord’s band – the Wynlyn Jazz Ensemble – to play music, as well as fellow residents of their retirement home as background singers. Tripp declined to reveal the exact amount of money they spent, although he said that it was “a lot.” It didn’t matter to them, though – as far as they were concerned, they were living the dream.
When asked about the decision to record the album – as well as where and how to do so – Tripp replied: “We said, golly, we’ve got to do this right. So, we got Marvin’s little jazz group that’s called the Wynlyn Jazz Ensemble. And we got some good singers, and we hired the best recording studio in Philadelphia, called Morning Star.”
Although Tripp is firm in the belief that he is the lyricist, and definitely not a singer or performer as such, he did feature at the beginning of ‘Best Old Friends’ – the original poem that he wrote for Weisbord. His words were: “But life, life is not a slippery slope/ Best friends still bring us love and hope.”
The songs that feature on the “Senior Song Book” – of which there are 10 in total (including two remixes) – are reminiscent of the 1940s Big Band days – think Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. According to Tripp, the tunes paid homage to “the great music of the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, [but] the words are looking ahead to the 2020s.”
“We found a secret,” he continued, “If you write music in the old style of the 1940s, the big bands, people love it. Not just older people, but younger people. But the words must not try to compete with the old times. They were too saccharine, too sweet. They weren’t the reality you get when you become older — and I’m a little older. But now, in this reality of looking back at life, we could sing new words with new ideas based upon our viewpoint of what makes life good.”
The lyrics reveal the wealth of life experience held by both Tripp and Weisbord, touching on various different subjects and relevant regardless of age. “Wonder Woman,” for example, describes the sheer bliss and joy that reciprocated love brings, with lyrics such as: “When I start to frizzle/ You can make me sizz, sizz, sizzle/ If you disappeared quite suddenly without a trace …”
“I would find you if I had to go to outer space/ Bring you back with me to lots of old-time hoop-de-do/ Never wonder, woman, why I…love…you!” When the men are asked if there were any particular ladies that this song was written about, they both reply – without hesitation – “my wife.” With decades of marriage under their belts, they should know!
Another song on the album, “Looking in the Mirror,” tells of the need for quiet self-reflection in life. The poignant lyrics are as follows: Looking in the mirror, who is that I see?/ That face looks so familiar, surely that’s not me/ Do I see a collection of all my cares and woes/ Or just a sad reflection of the way my life goes?”
“Wondering why you left me, I relive my past/ It seems to me a mystery that our love couldn’t last/ Looking in the mirror, I can’t believe it’s true/ The face I see looking back at me looks a lot like you.” Although it’s unclear whether these lyrics were written with anyone in particular in mind, they are applicable to people of all ages.
The song “Goodbye, Goodbye Forever” tackles a subject that is close to many people’s hearts – bad breakups. They are something that can happen to people of all ages, and most people have at least one that’s affected them in their life. Weisbord says he wanted the songs to feel timeless and have wide appeal, and the lyrics reflect this.
“Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye forever/ I think you never meant to stay/ Your words were only soft and clever, then you were gone and on your way/ Now I am not a lonesome love, who’ll take whatever comes my way/ But I am waiting to discover if there’s tomorrow with today/ Don’t come and go if you can’t stay/ If you can’t stay, then go away!”
“So I say crudely / It ain’t like it when I was young … I know I ought to kiss you, but baby, there’s an issue / I just can’t remember your name.” However, Tripp says that it “turned out to appeal to both younger and older people. Perhaps because the lyrics reflect how does a real adult looks at life and what’s going on with life today.”
The duo feels that the Senior Song Book may have a particular appeal to people who spent their younger years listening to Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald – and for people who still love and enjoy the famous Great American Songbook. Weisbord likens this to a theory he read in a book titled This Is Your Brain on Music.
Apparently, the music you remember for your entire life is “the music you heard when you were 14 years old,” he said. “So, we’re writing songs that are recognizable, in genres that are recognizable, with lyrics telling stories about what our lives are like now.” Tripp agrees, adding: “Now, we’re giving people who are 64 years old a chance to be 14 again and get new songs in their heads.”
Senior Song Book was officially released on November 15 and is available to buy as a CD for $16.95. However, it is also available for streaming on Spotify and iHeartRadio for $9.99. Although both Weisbord and Tripp say that they haven’t been tracking the sales of the album, it is clear that it has been doing remarkably well since its release.
In fact, the CD version has already sold out, according to CDBay.com. However, interested buyers can add their names to a waiting list and will become notified when more copies are available for purchase. The Senior Song Book was much more popular than many initially thought that it would be!
Neither Tripp nor Weisbord released the album to earn money – and neither were they particularly concerned as to whether they recouped the cost. “It was a labor of love, first and foremost,” Weisbord said. The duo certainly didn’t do it for fame, either – in fact; they didn’t even think that many people outside of the retirement home would listen to it.
They were both in for a pleasant surprise. Within just days, the first copies of the album had sold out, and Tripp and Weisbord found themselves thrust into the retirement limelight. To their delight – and shock – they then started to receive fan mail from across the country and appeared on news and radio stations nationwide, as well as in Canada.
Although apparently not hung up on the number of sales, since their album’s release, both Tripp and Weisbord have taken a keen interest in personal responses to their work. Initially, the fellow retirement home residents were the only people to hear it – and they loved the songs. Apparently, they started to sing along (the lyrics were provided to them, plus they’re available online).
Those that could, even stood up and started to dance, which delighted Tripp and Weisbord. Not only were their fellow residents clearly enjoying the music, but they were also feeling encouraged to be active and involved in the moment, which was fantastic for both their physical and mental well-being. As far as they were concerned, the reaction was perfect – but there was still more to come.
Next came feedback from their families. The two men were understandably nervous to hear what they thought, but they needn’t have worried. Weisbord reports that he heard “positive things” about the Senior Song Book from his children and grandchildren, which pleased him greatly. Perhaps what he was most overjoyed about and proud of, however, was that his wife liked it.
“And that is a pleasant surprise because she’s pretty critical,” he said. “So, when she says she really likes it, you can take that to the bank!” Although Weisbord is pleased that his grandchildren can finally measure him in a metric that they truly understand — YouTube hits — he’s quick to quash any notion that it’s gone to his head. After all, celebrity culture is “a paroxysm of self-congratulation,” he says.
Meanwhile, Tripp has personally received around two dozen letters and emails from across the US praising the album and the lyrics and asking for a copy of the CD. Poignantly, some of these letters and emails have come from professional musicians, which has totally shocked Tripp. Moreover, the duo was also given a feature segment on a local TV station.
Several national publications, such as People magazine and The Washington Post, also ran articles about the men and their music – something they found hard to believe. “The reception has been far better than I had any dream of expecting. It has surpassed all of my expectations,” Tripp said. Weisbord agrees, stating: “Neither one of us ever anticipated this.”
The two men aren’t just fabulous lyricists and musicians – they’re funny too, and they bounce off each other with their sense of humor, constantly cracking jokes and laughing. “For the first time in my old-time, I’m learning what ‘going viral’ means,” Weisbord says, to which Tripp quips: “I thought it was a disease at first!”
But fun is what it’s all about, according to the duo. “I’ve never had so much fun in my life, and I never expected to be doing this in my old age,” Weisbord said. Tripp laughed, interjecting: “He doesn’t know anything about old age.” Apparently, due to the 14-year age difference between them, this is a recurring joke between the two.
There is, however, one underlying factor behind their drive to make their album. According to Tripp, “We did this because we really both believe this music ought to be preserved.” And preserve it, they did! Not only did they release a new album full of that type of music, but they also managed to get it publicized across the country.
National attention means people of all ages – including “kids” (i.e., anyone under 40 years old) – have now enjoyed the big band sound. However, Tripp was eager to give most of the credit to Weisbord, stating, in his usual light-hearted, jokey manner: “Marvin is responsible for our doing this whole song album. It’s his fault.”
Either way, however, Tripp and Weisbord initially imagined the album to turn out. Whoever they thought their audience might be, the Senior Song Book has turned out to be far more, completely exceeding their expectations – as well as the expectations of both their families and friends. And the men could not be happier with the outcome.
It seems as though people can’t get enough of them, and there have already been multiple requests by fans far and wide for a second album. ABC TV summed up their success perfectly: “Writing the musical script for the next decade [by] tapping into an underserved market … With over a century’s worth of life experience, [Tripp] combines the sounds of the 1940s with lyrics for the 2020s [to create] tracks that will speak to many generations of people across the country.”
Listeners of all ages and backgrounds have been quick to offer support in the form of positive online comments. A fan by the name of E. Alexander says that the music takes her “to a kinder and gentler time. Everything old is new again!” E. Weiss says, “the lyrics are smart and witty, and the songs are a delight.”
Meanwhile, L. Roberts says she “just sat here listening with the goofiest grin on my face…” And it doesn’t stop there – the album, as well as the story and the characters behind it, is causing a stir online too. In fact, a video about the men and the projects has tens of thousands of views and likes on YouTube – and there are also lyric videos for the songs, which have also had extremely positive feedback.
So, what about plans for the future? You may think that, at 88 and 102 years old, any plans they did have would be limited, but think again. These two are dreaming big – and after their huge initial success, no one doubts their ability to succeed again. In fact, the pair hopes that, next, the album will be featured on a TV series or a movie.
“It’s the perfect soundtrack for an elderly romantic comedy,” Weisbord said during an interview with People magazine. “Something that would have the audience crying,” Tripp said. Weisbord added, “Or laughing!” They’re hoping that, at some point, a director will happen to stumble upon the album and pave the path to success on the big screen.
For now, however, both men hope that the album inspires other elderly people to try something new – and shows people that you’re never too old to learn a new trick or achieve something special. For them, it’s irrefutable proof that senior citizens can – and should – push the boundaries, and their own stereotypes and self-doubt, to try new things and accomplish the unexpected.
This is a particularly poignant way of looking at the process of growing older – and, as Tripp says, “We love what we’re doing, and that’s what makes you live as long as us and be happy.” Who could disagree with such a fantastic outlook on life, regardless of age? If that’s the case, there’s likely to be a good few years left for both of them yet!
Looking positively at a somber subject, Weisbord said he is overjoyed to find himself “continuing to grow at a time when most of my peers are dead.” Tripp, though scoffing at even the idea of a secret to his longevity, did offer one piece of advice for people wondering how he had managed to stay so healthy for so long.
“Everyone, everywhere, can do something,” he said. “Whether it’s writing, knitting, whatever — it’s wanting to do it well that makes the difference. Whatever your skill or hobby is, if you try to do it as best you can, and then a little better than that, that will make you happy.”
He continued: “People ask me how did I live so long and have my mind clicking away. The answer is you do not retire from something. You retire to something. And your life will continue, with any luck.” And continue, he will – Tripp has no plans of sitting back and relaxing while he’s waiting for his first album to be picked up for a TV show.
“I was writing a book when this thing came up. It’s a mystery book. I’ve written several other books, but never a mystery. So, when I’m done with this, back to the computer and write that mystery book,” he revealed. With his wealth of life experience and evident skill with words, there’s no doubt it will be a success.
Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara is a renowned Japanese longevity expert that agreed with Tripp and Weisbord’s views on keeping active and engaged to lead a long life – and he should know, as he lived to be an impressive 105 years old! From 65 years of age, he worked 18-hour days, seven days a week, until the last few months before his death.
Speaking to The Japan Times in 2009, eight years before he died, he stated: “There is no need to ever retire, but if one must, it should be a lot later than 65.” According to him, he “loved every minute of [working].” This theory of staying active, being the key to a long and happy life, is supported by many other experts from all areas of the world.
It’s also corroborated by fashion icon Iris Apfel, who is still working at 98 years old. “For me, retirement is a fate worse than death,” she said in 2018. “I’ve seen so many people, especially in a place like Palm Beach, who worked so hard in their lives, and they come down here cold turkey, and then one day wake up, and they realize how vacuous their lives are now.”
Tripp seems to agree, stating in a promotional interview he did with his publicist: “If you retire to slothfulness, believe me, you’ll be a slob. That’s all that will happen to you.” If anyone should know, it’s a man of 102 years of age – and it seems unlikely that he’s going to slow down at any point soon