The Living Years

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"The Living Years"
Single by Mike + The Mechanics
from the album Living Years
B-side"Too Many Friends"
Released27 December 1988[1]
FormatCassette Single, 12", 7", CD
GenreSoft rock
LabelAtlantic, WEA
Songwriter(s)Mike Rutherford, B. A. Robertson
Producer(s)Christopher Neil, Mike Rutherford
Mike + The Mechanics singles chronology
"Nobody's Perfect"
"The Living Years"
"Seeing Is Believing"

"The Living Years" is a ballad written by Mike Rutherford and B. A. Robertson, and recorded by Rutherford's British rock band Mike + The Mechanics. It was released in December 1988 in the United Kingdom and in the United States as the second single from their album Living Years. The song was a chart hit around the world, topping the US Billboard Hot 100 on 25 March 1989,[2] and reaching No.1 in Canada and Australia and No.2 in the UK. It spent four weeks at No. 1 on the US Adult Contemporary chart. Paul Carrack sings lead vocals on the track.

The song addresses a son's regret over unresolved conflict with his now-deceased father.[3] It won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically & Lyrically in 1989,[4] and was nominated for four Grammy awards in 1990, including Record and Song of the Year, as well as Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals and Best Video. In 1996, famed composer Burt Bacharach opined, "'The Living Years' is one of the finest lyrics of the last 10 years."[5]

In 2004, "The Living Years" was awarded a 4-Million-Air citation by BMI.[6]


The Mike + The Mechanics version was initially promoted as giving impressions about disagreements between Mike Rutherford and his father, who had recently died. In an interview, Rutherford said:

"The lyrics were written by BA [Robertson], and the song is about something he went through. He lost his dad, and it's about the lack of communication between him and his father before he died. There's also the irony of him having a baby just after losing his father."[3]

Music video[edit]

The music video was directed by Tim Broad and premiered in January 1989. It was filmed in October 1988 in West Somerset, England, near Porlock Weir and the hamlet of Culbone. The video features Mike Rutherford with his then-eight-year-old son, Tom. It also includes an appearance by actress Maggie Jones, best known for playing Blanche Hunt in the soap opera Coronation Street.[7]

The video also shows the group playing the song, with two sets of choirs singing the chorus with them, an all-boys church choir and an adult choir.

Charts and certifications[edit]


There are alternative recordings of the song,[29] instrumental as well as vocal, reggae to classical crossover, from artists as diverse as American country music band Alabama, Chris De Burgh, West End theatre star Michael Ball, Marcia Hines, Engelbert Humperdinck, James Last, The London Symphony Orchestra, Christian artist Russ Lee, Rhydian, John Tesh, Russell Watson, the London Community Gospel Choir, the Newsboys, The Isaacs, The Katinas, Japanese singer Kaho Shimada, Italian band Dik Dik and Michael English.

Mike + The Mechanics band member Paul Carrack, who performed the original lead vocal, has made a number of solo interpretations. His father died in an industrial accident when Carrack was eleven.[30] It is still a mainstay of Carrack's live performances today.[31]


  1. ^ "Mike And The Mechanics Discography - UK". Retrieved 2017-03-03.
  2. ^ "Weekly Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 Songs from the First 50 Years, 1980–1989". Billboard.
  3. ^ a b Rothstein, Simon (18 June 2004). "The Mechanics fix it for Us". London: The Sun.
  4. ^ "Mike Rutherford". IMDB. Retrieved 8 December 2009.
  5. ^ "Do you know the ways to Monterey? Santa Fe? Whitley Bay?." Mojo. March 1996.
  6. ^ "BMI London Awards: Song List". BMI. 5 October 2004. Retrieved 8 December 2009.
  7. ^ "Obituary: Coronation Street's Maggie Jones". BBC News. 2 December 2009. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  8. ^ " – Mike + The Mechanics – The Living Years". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  9. ^ " – Mike + The Mechanics – The Living Years" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  10. ^ " – Mike + The Mechanics – The Living Years" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  11. ^ "Radio2 Top 30 Artiest: Mike & The Mechanics | Radio2". VRT (in Dutch). Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  12. ^ "RPM Top 30 Retail Singles". RPM Magazine. Library and Archives Canada. 50 (2). May 8, 1989. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  13. ^ "Search: Canadian Top Singles". RPM Magazine. Library and Archives Canada. Search for "The Living Years". Archived from the original on 17 January 2016. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  14. ^ " – Mike + The Mechanics Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  15. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Living Years". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  16. ^ a b Tatsaku, Ren (2011). The Oricon Sales Report (in Japanese). Tokyo: Oricon Style – Recording Industry Association of Japan.
  17. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Mike & The Mechanics" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  18. ^ " – Mike + The Mechanics – The Living Years" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  19. ^ " – Mike + The Mechanics – The Living Years". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  20. ^ " – Mike + The Mechanics – The Living Years". VG-lista. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  21. ^ a b "Swedish single certifications – Mike + The Mechanics – The Living Years" (in Swedish). Swedish Recording Industry Association. Archived from the original on 11 November 2015. Retrieved November 11, 2015.
  22. ^ "Mike + the Mechanics Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  23. ^ "Mike + the Mechanics Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  24. ^ "Mike + the Mechanics Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  25. ^ "Mike & The Mechanics". Official Charts. United Kingdom. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  26. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 51, No. 8, December 23, 1989". RPM. 23 December 1999. Archived from the original on 7 September 2017. Retrieved 22 November 2017.
  27. ^ "New Zealand single certifications – Mike + The Mechanics – The Living Years". Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Archived from the original on 11 November 2015. Retrieved November 11, 2015.
  28. ^ "British single certifications – Mike & the Mechanics – The Living Years". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved November 11, 2015. Select singles in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type The Living Years in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  29. ^ "The Living Years versions search". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  30. ^ "Band biography". Retrieved 2017-03-03.
  31. ^ "Paul Carrack Discography". Retrieved 2017-03-03.