Senior woman listening to MP3 player with headphones on

Sounds Just Like the Classics: Modern Music Comparisons for Seniors

Regardless of your age, music is something that is cherished by everyone. Classic musicians such as Tina Turner, Cat Stevens and others have touched the hearts of all generations. Whether you simply listen to a record, tape, 8-track, CD or the radio or actually play a tune on an instrument, it’s definitely beneficial, especially for seniors with dementia. Its melodic tones and memorable sounds increase communication and can trigger certain memories.

Music has psychological and physical benefits, as well, including the ability to elevate moods, increase positive emotions, combat depression, provide a better night’s sleep and encourage mobility.

The music you listen to is your favorite for a reason. While classics definitely stand the test of time, it can be disinheriting to know that your favorite musicians may not have released new music in years. The good news: Music, like fashion trends, is cyclical. Your favorite artist might not be producing sweet melodies anymore, but newer musicians will continue to carry the torch. Here are a few suggestions:

If You Like Peter, Paul and Mary …

Formed in 1961, Peter, Paul and Mary is often considered the most popular American Folk band. With robust male voices and a calming female voice, Peter, Paul and Mary had a unique sound that made the band members pioneers in music. The trio’s harmonies were often accompanied by touching lyrics and beautiful harmonies. From Leaving On A Jet Plane to Lemon Tree, the band’s songs provide a timeless sound that often puts a smile on faces and in your heart.

You’ll Go Head Over Heels for The Head and The Heart.

The Head and The Heart is a trio of two men and a woman. The band’s folk sound is reminiscent of Peter, Paul and Mary but adds a little pop to the mix. Their addition of a violin fits perfectly with their heartwarming love songs and goose-bump-inspiring harmonies. Their biggest songs, Rivers and Roads and Down in The Valley, will have you tapping to the beat and humming along.

If You Like Janis Joplin …

The 1960s saw the combination of blues and rock enter mainstream prominence, and with that came Janis Joplin. With a raspy and soul-filled voice, Joplin expertly blended blues and rock to create a unique sound that would resonate with generations. In her short time, she became a legend that would define American rock ‘n’ roll. Whether you’re a fan of Mercedes Benz, Me and Bobby McGee or Try (Just a Little Bit Harder), Joplin is the kind of performer that sticks with you regardless of age.

You’ll Love Alabama Shakes.

Famous Southern rockers who are the winners of four Grammys, Alabama Shakes boasts a unique blend of blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll. The lead singer and guitarist for the band offers a similar soul-filled voice that made Joplin so popular. The band’s hit songs Hold On, Don’t Wanna Fight and Sounds & Color helped solidify them in the hearts of many. From fast-passed anthems to slow ballads, Alabama Shakes offers the same flair and energy found in Joplin’s biggest hits.

If You Like Tina Turner …

Considered by many to be one of the most dynamic soul singers, Tina Turner tends to be a staple in a music catalog. Her gritty gospel voice and tonal range have made her an idol. From her original 1960’s rendition of Proud Mary to her 1983 hit What’s Love Got to Do With It, Turner provided something for everyone when it came to her music. Along with an exceptional voice, she had an unparalleled energy during live performances. Her memorable onstage persona matched perfectly with her music and helped solidify her in the hearts of many.

You’ll Enjoy Janelle Monáe.

Currently one of the most energetic modern singers, Janelle Monáe has the type of an energy and vocal range similar to Tina Turner. This Grammy-nominated singer offers fun beats, plenty of spunk and a dynamic onstage presence. Her music has an R&B sound, and her most popular tracks, such as Tightrope, show off her vocal range. Monáe’s songs are guaranteed to get you off your feet – or at least grooving to the beat.

If You Like Cat Stevens …

Transcending music genres, Cat Stevens is an iconic musician. Starting in the 1960s and continuing today, Stevens has remained a favorite for multiple generations. His extensive career included popular hits such as Wild World and Peace Train. Steven’s music has been the quintessential for those growing up and living in the 1970s. His lyrics about love, life and relationships remain powerful even by today’s standards.

You’ll Be Amazed by José González.

Indie folk singer José González mixes acoustic sounds with goose bump-inspiring harmonies and heart-touching lyrics. González’s voice carries a similar cadence and emotion to that of Cat Stevens. His voice is so harmonious that The New York Times stated: “For me, when he sings, the room goes away.” Throughout his career, González regularly paid tribute to the musicians before him and even performed his own rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s The Ghost of Tom Joad. If you were a fan of the raw emotion found in Stevens’ music, you will be delighted to close your eyes and listen to González’s Step Out and Stay Alive.

If You Like Sam Cooke …

You can’t talk about soul without talking about the great Sam Cooke. The King of Soul boasted incredible vocals that were unheard of at the time. Cooke’s popularity may pre-date some seniors, but with songs like (What a) Wonderful World and A Change Is Gonna Come, almost every generation has found something to love in Cooke.   

You’ll Appreciate Leon Bridges.

Described by The Wall Street Journal as a “throwback to the ’60s soul a la Otis Redding and Sam Cooke,” Leon Bridges has brought the gospel and soul sound to modern audiences. His big hit Coming Home has received plenty of radio time, making him an up-and-coming artist since 2015. His music isn’t his only homage to classic musicians, either. Bridge’s wardrobe is reminiscent of the time as well. Bridges recorded his first album in a 100-year-old building using recording equipment from the 1950s. He honors the musicians that came before him while still creating new music for modern listeners to enjoy.

The classics are “classic” for a reason, but learning what the younger generation is listening to can help you bond and form intergenerational relationships. Music can be a great way to introduce your grandchildren to your favorites, and it’s never too late to find new interests with their music, too.

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