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Before I Let Go: Reflecting on Retirement and the Agelessness of Black Music

June 20, 2024   |   Matthew Thompson   |   Healthy Aging, Who We Are, Blog
Music artist Frankie Beverly live in Los Angeles during Farewell Tour
Frankie Beverly live in Los Angeles during Farewell Tour

In recognition of Black Music Month, Matt Thompson, Alliance Manager of Digital Communications, reflects on the critical role Black music has played in strengthening his connection to the Black aging community. Learn more about the benefits of music on healthy aging from our partners at the National Institute on Aging.

I can’t remember the first time I listened to Frankie Beverly’s delicate vibrato sing “Before I let Go.” All I know is that his music has been with me my entire life. Birthday parties, family reunions, cookouts, weddings, and funerals—Frankie Beverly & Maze’s music coats my most enduring childhood memories. So when I saw that he was performing his final show in DC this month, I knew I had to be there. 

Now 77 years old, Frankie danced, wailed, and wept, sometimes all at once, as a nearly sold-out Capitol One Arena joined in a sing-along of his most memorable hits: “We Are One,” “Joy & Pain,” and, of course, “Before I Let Go.” I felt the weight of the moment. We were all gathered to celebrate the retirement of an artist who dedicated his life to his passion. However, there was more to celebrate—the enduring spirit of Frankie Beverly and Maze’s music and its intergenerational impact on my community. I danced and sang alongside my elders, as the shared nostalgia that Frankie’s music evoked, brought us closer together.  

This Black Music Month, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on music’s ability to bridge generational divides. In the Black community, music is passed down like an heirloom to preserve for the next generation. It is the common language that I get to share with my older family members, a document of shared experiences that transcend age. As I stood on the floor of Capitol One Arena, witnessing a 77-year-old Frankie Beverly take the stage for the last time, I was reminded that Black music is truly ageless. 

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