When I’m Sixty-Four – 10 of Pentacles
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967
“When I’m Sixty-Four” was the first song the Beatles recorded for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was also the first to be written for the album – by far. Paul composed the song on his family’s upright piano when he was just 14 years old. His father Jim was a musician, playing in jazz and ragtime bands during Paul’s formative years. Jim encouraged Paul to learn and write music, and this became a way for them to bond especially after Paul’s mother Mary died of cancer in 1956. It’s likely not a coincidence that Paul pulled out this oldie for the Beatles’ new album in the same year his father had turned 64.
Paul has said that he wrote “When I’m Sixty-Four” even before he’d been turned on to rock and roll. This song could be seen as proof that – unlike John – Paul was a musician first and a rocker second. It may also help to explain why there’s always a song or two on every Beatles album – written by Paul – of an older genre of music. These homages of vaudeville or ragtime were the songs that John – a loyal devotee to the rock and roll sound and spirit – later derided as “granny music”. Whether you find them to be charming tributes to a bygone age or cloying, oversentimental pastiches, these old-timey songs are a crucial part of the Beatles unique style and legacy. Either way, we can thank Paul’s uniquely loving and musical relationship to his father for them.
The lyrics of “When I’m Sixty-Four” are sung by a young man to a potential mate. He paints a picture for her of what it would be like growing old together. The song endearingly describes a life well lived, including the details we imagine being shared by a happily married old couple: her knitting a sweater and him being handy around the house. The two of them going for Sunday drives, puttering in the garden, and enjoying time with their grandchildren. He’s appealing to her sense of tradition, family, and values, including even in his semi-formal request for a response in the final verse.
These details all make the 10 of Pentacles a perfect corresponding card to “When I’m Sixty-Four”. It’s common for this card to picture family members of multiple generations. This image elicits associations of family ties, traditional values, the legacy you inherited from your parents, and the wealth and wisdom you’ll pass along to your own children. Consider these themes when you draw this card. Depending on the context of the situation, the 10 of Pentacles indicates a time to put these issues at the forefront. It’s likely you should look closely at the role of family, your deepest-held values, and the legacy you want to leave when you reach an advanced age (not that 64 is considered old these days; Paul is still touring into his 80s!).
Sadly, Paul was not able to experience the contented domestic bliss that he described in this song as he turned 64. In June of 2006 he had just separated from his second wife, Heather Mills. Fortunately he received a unique opportunity to celebrate his family lineage when his children and grandchildren gifted him a recording they made of “When I’m Sixty-Four” for his 64th birthday. It’s not hard to imagine Paul remembering writing the song as a boy and appreciating the role his father played in making his musical and family legacy possible.
“Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four.”
This is song #81 of the Beatles Song Tarot Project. Click here to learn more about this magical, mystical trip through the Beatles catalogue.