The Late Voice: Time, Age and Experience in Popular Music (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, October 2015)

Popular music artists, as performers in the public eye, offer a privileged site for the witnessing and analysis of ageing and its mediation. The Late Voice undertakes such an analysis by considering issues of time, memory, innocence and experience in modern Anglophone popular song and the use by singers and songwriters of a ‘late voice’. Lateness here refers to five primary issues: chronology (the stage in an artist’s career); the vocal act (the ability to convincingly portray experience); afterlife (posthumous careers made possible by recorded sound); retrospection (how voices ‘look back’ or anticipate looking back); and the writing of age, experience, lateness and loss into song texts.

There has been recent growth in research on ageing and the experience of later stages of life, focussing on physical health, lifestyle and psychology, with work in the latter field intersecting with the field of memory studies. The Late Voice seeks to connect age, experience and lateness with particular performers and performance traditions via the identification and analysis of a late voice in singers and songwriters of mid-late twentieth century popular music.


Chapter 1: Time, Age, Experience and Voice
Chapter 2: ‘Won’t You Spare Me Over till Another Year?’: Ralph Stanley’s Late Voice
Chapter 3: September of My Years: Age and Experience in the Work of Frank Sinatra and Leonard Cohen
Chapter 4: Time Out of Mind: Bob Dylan, Age and Those Same Distant Places
Chapter 5: Both Sides Now: Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and the Innocence and Experience of the Singer-Songwriter
Conclusion: Late Thoughts


“Through a series of illuminating case studies of particular singers, Richard Elliott shows how age, memory, temporal distance and loss are displayed in vocal quality as well as lyrical content. This is an original book: theoretically informed, and full of insight into the process of assimilating and evaluating what time, age and experience bring to us, it breaks new ground in studies of popular music, and deserves to be widely read.” ―Michael Pickering, Professor of Media and Cultural Analysis, Loughborough University, UK

“Engagingly written, carefully thought through, and characterised by exemplary scholarship, Richard Elliott’s book navigates with great elegance some complex theoretical waters. Through a selection of rich case studies, Elliott offers a powerful contribution to a growing body of work on ageing, nostalgia, and memory, particularly in relation to music.” ―Freya Jarman, Senior Lecturer, Department of Music, University of Liverpool, UK

“This thoughtful intervention to the interdisciplinary area of popular music and ageing brings sustained critical attention to the aesthetic concerns of the ‘late voice’ by offering a range of distinctive case studies of singers, songwriters and songs. The result is an impressive synthesis of theory and analysis that bridges popular music studies and traditional musicology as an approach to understand music, ageing and experience.” ―Ros Jennings, Director of the Research Centre for Women, Ageing and Media, University of Gloucestershire, UK

Bloomsbury page for The Late Voice.
Amazon UK page for The Late Voice.

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