Music

'Yesterday When I Was Young': Roy Clark's 1969 Crossover Hit

Most online rabbit holes involving the work of Roy Clark remind country fans of the Hee Haw star's next-level talent as a multi-instrumentalist. Yet beyond being an ace guitarist and a banjo great, Clark shone as a vocalist, whether he sung country and bluegrass material or introduced his audience to pop standards.

For an example of the latter, check out Clark's lone crossover hit, "Yesterday When I Was Young."

Charles Aznavour wrote the song, originally titled "Hier Encore," in French. Herbert Kretzmer penned the English lyrics, which recount an older man's memories and regrets.

Clark's 1969 single reached No. 9 on the country charts and, more impressively, No. 19 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100.

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In the years to come, it suited the smooth vocal delivery of crooners (Andy Williams, Bing Crosby), country stars (Glen Campbell) and other popular artists (Dusty Springfield, Shirley Bassey, Mel Torme).

As Disney + subscribers have been reminded, Clark performed the song during a 1978 episode of The Muppet Show.

Clark's pop-accessible peak won over at least one fellow celebrity. Clark performed the song at Mickey Mantle's 1995 funeral, per the baseball legend's request.

"Yesterday When I Was Young" Lyrics

It seems the love I've known has always been
The most destructive kind
I guess that's why now I feel so old
Before my time

Yesterday when I was young
The taste of life was sweet as rain upon my tongue
I teased at life as if it were a foolish game
The way the evening breeze may tease a candle flame
The thousand dreams I dreamed, the splendid things I planned
I always built to last on weak and shifting sand
I lived by night and shunned the naked light of the day
And only now I see how the years ran away

Yesterday when I was young
So many happy songs were waiting to be sung
So many wild pleasures lay in store for me
And so much pain my dazzled eyes refused to see
I ran so fast that time and youth at last ran out
I never stopped to think what life was all about
And every conversation I can now recall
Concerned itself with me and nothing else at all

Yesterday the moon was blue
And every crazy day brought something new to do
I used my magic age as if it were a wand
And never saw the waste and the emptiness beyond
The game of love I played with arrogance and pride
And every flame I lit too quickly, quickly died
The friends I made all seemed somehow to drift away
And only I am left on stage to end the play

There are so many songs in me that won't be sung
I feel the bitter taste of tears upon my tongue
The time has come for me to pay
For yesterday when I was young

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'Yesterday When I Was Young': Roy Clark's 1969 Crossover Hit