Q: You mentioned painting, and, of course, we're here in your art studio. How does your singing and your painting interrelate?
My father died when I was 9 and I couldn't believe it as a young boy. All my aunts and uncles and nephews and nieces, they would come over every Sunday and make a circle around my brother, my sister and myself. And then they saw the way I painted. They said, "Look at his painting. He paints these beautiful flowers." So it gave me a passion, not realizing as of today, that my passion is even stronger than it was then. But my whole life has been about painting and singing. Music and art. Truth and beauty. Those are the things that I work on. That's all I know, and I keep studying it. When somebody says, "Are you going to retire?" I say, "Retire to what?" Because I'm not going to stop learning. There's so much to learn! And I've had a beautiful life thinking that way.
Q: You're going to be doing a show in Los Angeles later this month for AARP's initiative to help combat hunger, AARP's Drive to End Hunger.
The wonderful thing about being 85 is that there was a period of time when the kind of music I liked was slowed down by the Beatles and Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones. They broke music into "This is your music; your parents like the other kind." That was a mistake. You're supposed to play to the whole audience, not to one group. What I like about AARP is that its now serving the Beatles generation. They're in their 60s, going on 70. They're old-timers now! So it's humorous to me.