Meet Alan Tripp, America’s Newest Artist at 102: NPR

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Alan Tripp always wanted to make an album. It only took 102 years to get there. Tripp talks with NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly about her debut album Senior songbook.



MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Sometimes music takes time to make, like a century. Alan Tripp released his first album last month at the age of 102. Tripp collaborated with his friend and resident of a Pennsylvania retirement community, Marvin Weisbord. The result is called “Senior Songbook”.

Well, we read about it in the Washington Post and couldn’t wait to have Mr. Tripp online to talk about it. When we did, I asked how it all started.

ALAN TRIPP: What happened was that I wrote a poem called “Best Old Friends”. And it was published in our local newspaper. And Marvin Weisbord – he’s my junior partner, by the way. He is only 88 years old.

KELLY: (Laughs). OK, a young upstart.

TRIPP: He took this poem, which he saw published, and wrote music for it and gave it to me for my 100th birthday present. It was his mistake because I had four or five other lyrics in the drawer. So I started writing more until we had a dozen. And we said, damn it, we have to do it right. So we have Marvin’s little jazz band called the Wynlyn Jazz Ensemble. And we had great singers, and we hired the best recording studio in Philadelphia, called Morning Star.

KELLY: So everything is falling into place for me now because there are different voices on this album, including a female voice, which I knew was not you. But it’s – it’s you who sings on a lot of these songs, right?

TRIPP: I just did the intro for “Best Old Friends.”

(SOUND EXTRACTION OF THE SONG, “BEST OLD FRIENDS”)

TRIPP: But life, life is not a slippery slope. Best friends always bring us love and hope.

KELLY: There are songs here about all kinds of experiences in life – the misery of breaking up, the joy of finding your true love. And then there’s my favorite, “I can’t remember your name.”

(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE SONG, “I DON’T REMEMBER YOUR NAME”)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) I know I should kiss you. But baby, there’s a problem. I don’t remember your name.

KELLY: So it’s a member of that jazz troupe singing over there. But these are your words. It’s a poem you wrote.

TRIPP: Yeah.

KELY: Yeah.

TRIPP: I wrote all the lyrics. When you say I just don’t remember your name, you think you’re targeting an older audience. But I’ve spoken with people in their 30s and 40s, and they’ve had the same experience.

KELLY: (Laughs) Yeah, I think that’s a problem for my teenage sons and some of the girls they kissed. It’s universal.

TRIPP: By the way, can I give people advice on retirement?

KELY: Please.

TRIPP: People ask me how I could live so long and my mind goes. The answer is that you are not withdrawing from something. You withdraw to something. And your life will hopefully go on.

KELLY: Well, I have to ask you then, at the age of 102, after doing this, after releasing your first album, why are you retiring? And after?

TRIPP: I was writing a book when this thing happened. It is a mysterious book. I have written several other books, but never a mystery. So when I’m done with that, go back to the computer and write that mystery book.

KELY: I love it. I look forward to reading it. Promise you’ll come back and talk to me when your book comes out.

TRIPP: I would be more than happy. You are a delight.

KELLY: And it’s been a pleasure talking to you about this ongoing project.

TRIPP: Thank you very, very much.

KELLY: Thank you very much.

This is Alan Tripp talking about his first album at the age of 102. It’s called “Senior Songbook”.

(SOUND EXTRACTION OF THE SONG, “BEST OLD FRIENDS”)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Now, if we’re lucky as we get older…

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