At 102 Years Old, Alan Tripp Finally Gets His Shot as a Songwriter

Photo courtesy of Alan Tripp

He recently released his first album, which features music from the 1940s and ’50s with lyrics for 2020. 

Those folks at New York City’s legendary Brill Building are long gone. Otherwise, Alan Tripp might be tempted to locate some of them and let them know that, while it may have taken awhile, he finally became a songwriter. “I wanted to be one from the time I was very little,” says Tripp.

So much so that he tried to find a way into the Brill, for a decades the nexus of American songwriting, nurturing the likes of Neil Diamond, Paul Simon and Carole King. He wasn’t welcome. No matter. At the age of 102, he’s released Senior Song Book with fellow Beaumont resident Marvin Weisbord. The collection of 10 tracks (eight originals and two remixes) features music from the 1940s and ‘50s, with lyrics for 2020.

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The primary lyricist, Tripp calls the 89-year-old Weisbord—who handles the music and arranging—his “junior partner.” Though they’ve known each six years, their collaboration didn’t begin until late 2017, when Weisbord took Tripp’s poem, “Best Old Friends,” and turned it into a song as a gift for his 100th birthday. Equally inspired, they worked to write, hone and record Senior Song Book. “I’d never written a song until I was 86 years old,” says Weisbord. “I didn’t think I could do it, so I went to my [piano] teacher and asked how to write one.”

“Best Old Friends” is on the CD, along with “Never Too Late for Love,” “Goodbye, Goodbye Forever” and a tune that’s particularly germane to seniors (and plenty of the rest of us), “I Just Can’t Remember Your Name.” That one includes the classic lines: “I’m ready now to kiss you, but baby there’s an issue. I just can’t remember your name.”

Tripp’s mission was to match the old tunes with lyrics today’s seniors can relate to. “We saw that the saccharine lyrics from that time don’t fit today, when people are more acerbic and realistic,” says Tripp. “We wrote about what matters to seniors.”

Decades ago, when Tripp received $75 for his first jingle, it was “the most money I’d ever seen,” he says.

After the Brill people shooed him away, Tripp continued to come up with ideas. One day, a jingle for Kool cigarettes came to him, so he found the ad agency representing the brand and brought the tune to its offices. They liked it. “I went into the advertising business,” he says. “I wrote a lot of jingles.”

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Growing up in Kansas and Illinois, Tripp ended up in New York as a teenager. He spent some time there before marrying his “Philly” girl, Maggie. They moved to this area after getting married. “You see who won that discussion,” he says.

In 1960, Tripp found his way into broadcasting, producing a TV show on the local CBS affiliate called Frank’s Friday Night Party, where he worked with legendary songwriter Alan Bergman. At home, he and his late wife raised a family that included two children and has now swelled to three grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Tripp’s 102 years on this planet have provided him with a wisdom that he doesn’t mind passing along. He delights in quoting renowned psychiatrist Henry Stack Sullivan about the secret to a happy life: “Happiness is something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to.”

As one ages, “having all three in the same room can be difficult,” Tripp says, adding that someone with two out of three can find satisfaction.

The creative process for the CD consisted of Tripp forwarding the words to Weisbord, who’d fit music around them. “Nine times of out of 10, that was it,” says Tripp.

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Tripp’s lyrics often extended beyond the conventional 32-bar limit for most songs, challenging Weisbord—not that Tripp was too concerned. “Nowhere is it written in God’s Bible that you have to have a certain number of bars in songs,” Tripp says.

Weisbord is part of an 11-person band that has performed 70 times at Beaumont, playing selections from the Senior Song Book along with other standards. The CD has sold 2,500 copies, registered 4,000 downloads and is available on most platforms, including Amazon, iTunes and Spotify.

There will be no world tour or even a circuit through senior centers in the area, although there have been opportunities. Tripp and Weisbord have been featured on the CBS Evening News and NPR, among other outlets. And Kelly Clarkson invited the duo to fly to Hollywood to appear on her show. Alas, it didn’t work out logistically.

Tripp reports that concepts for a second album are germinating, as is a murder-mystery he’s writing titled, The Weatherman. His drive to move forward is part of his mantra: One should never retire from something—retire to something. “We’re going to keep going,” says Tripp. “If you stop, you never know what’s going to get you.”

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