Not Done Yet

Singer-songwriters Ann Klein and Mary Lee Kortes have written an Oldster theme song of sorts. Here, a performance, and a brief interview with them.

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Recently my dear friend Ann Klein, an amazing musician, dropped a line to tell me she’d just collaborated with another wonderful musician, Mary Lee Kortes, on a song called “Not Done Yet.” She thought it might make a good theme song for this magazine, and I was honored. Be sure to check out the video above! Below, a little chat I had with Ann and Mary Lee about the song, and about aging in the music industry. (And below that, song lyrics.)

I love this song. How did it come to be? What was the inspiration behind it? How did you work on it together?

Mary Lee Kortes: I was talking to a girlfriend over coffee. We were reviewing things we’d done through the years and showering each other with praise and awe over our accomplishments. And it hit me on the way home, “I’m not done yet.” I was very deeply glad to feel that way. I think a sense of purpose is critical to a happy life, and purpose is, fortunately, something we can all make up for ourselves, over and over. So I worked on the idea for “Not Done Yet” and got the words pretty far along but didn’t have any musical ideas. Enter the wondrous Ann Klein who was lyric hunting, and our song was born.

I’m as old as you think I am and as young as you need me to be—59 going on 35 but, smarter. - Ann Klein

Ann Klein:  I love Mary Lee’s lyrics and I asked her if she had any around she wasn't using for her own songs.  She sent me a few things and this really hit home with me.   I had that mandolin riff at the top of the song and once I got the lyrics, I just started playing around with some chords and melody and boom, there it was. We got together a few times to tweak the lyrics and arrangement and performed it live together in September.

How old are you?

AK:  I’m as old as you think I am and as young as you need me to be—59 going on 35, but smarter.

MLK: 100% [Ed. note: Mary Lee prefers not to state her age, and I respect that choice!]

As musicians, and women musicians in particular, have you encountered agism? Has anyone tried to “count you out”? Tell us a little bit about your experience with that.

AK: As an “Artist”, I was too old at 25!  As a guitarist for other people, I don’t think so.  I think being a rockin’ female guitarist 30 years ago was certainly not a thing like it is now.  There are a lot more opportunities now and I’ve been working pretty consistently as a side person and in the theater world for many years.

A manager told me that a record company came right out and said, “She’s too old.” I can even be ageist against myself! But get this: One of my musicians said he thought a song I wrote recently was one of the best things I’d ever written and that I “just keep getting better.” - Mary Lee Kortes

MLK: I assume I’ve been counted out—and often—but no one says it to my face. The most undebatable instance of that was when a manager told me that a record company came right out and said, “She’s too old.” Generally, I don’t think people like to admit when they’re being ageist. I can even be ageist against myself! It’s such an odd and sometimes sad phenomenon. You ask yourself if you should keep making music, or even be seen! But get this: One of my musicians said he thought a song I wrote recently was one of the best things I’d ever written and that I “just keep getting better.” Lately I’ve had the experience that my voice has never felt better. I haven’t had to lower any keys! It’s surprising. But our culture is so addicted to newness, and we simply can’t live up to that. No one gets to stay new, except to ourselves. I’m challenging myself in new ways all the time. 

What are you each working on now?

AK:  Well, we just finished the “Oldster” theme song!  I’ve got 3 nights at Joe’s pub with Toshi Reagon next week and a show on November 18th at the Bitter End with an amazing line up:  Will Lee from the Letterman show, Rob Arthur from Peter Frampton’s band, and Leo Sidran, a top shelf jingle writer and I will be doing a “Songwriter’s In The Round” night and we all play on each other’s tunes. 

These guys are such amazing players.  I can't wait. We’ll be streaming the show as well, so you can watch it from home!  Last week, I did a workshop for “Almost Famous” which hopefully will get to Broadway late spring/early summer 2022. We did a run in San Diego in late 2019 which went very well and our Broadway plans got pummeled by the pandemic. I’m involved with some other shows as well:  “Once Upon a Time One More Time,” and “Super You.”  whoever opens first wins!

And, I started writing again, which prompted me to book a couple of shows. I've done several on-line shows as well.

MLK: I’m working on two writing projects which I don’t want to name because I have no idea how long they’re going to take me. And I’m happy to say I’ve started a new album that’s very promising. It’s exciting me.

By Ann Klein & Mary Lee Kortes

So much is gone 
So much remains
I plant new trees
To drink new rains
While much is taken
Much is left
Inside this heart
Once bereft
I’m not done yet 
I’m not done yet
I hear the whispers
The distant noise
Stark silly sound
Dark dirty voices
They’re telling tall tales
About how things should be
They think they know but
They don’t know me
I’m not done yet 
I’m not done yet 
I’m not done yet 
I’m not done yet 
Count me out
Count me in
So many sins still left to sin
Count me out
Count me in
So many games still left to win
Around the bend
Is it light or dark
Some see the end
But I see the start cause
I’m not done yet…

These are some very accomplished women musicians, by the way…

Ann Klein plays guitar and mandolin and other things with strings. As a singer/songwriter, she has performed in Europe consistently for many years. She has written music for three documentaries for French television and has had her music used in television shows all over the world. As an instrumentalist, credits include: Kate Pierson of the B-52s,  Ani DiFranco, and the American Composers Orchestra. She has lent her guitar skills on Broadway in "Head Over Heels," “Grease,” “9 to 5,” “Baby It’s You,” “Everyday Rapture,” “Kinky Boots,” “Waitress,” "Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet," "Jagged Little Pill," and “Trip of Love.” Off Broadway credits include: "Superhero” and “Almost Famous." Ann has also produced recordings for several artists with her partner, Tim Hatfield, and was a MacDowell Colony grant recipient. She is most proud of her ability to wah wah her way out of any solo, anytime. "Somebody call the Bonnaroo bookers: This gal's as steamy as a hot July afternoon." —Fred Mills, HARP
Mary Lee Kortes is an internationally acclaimed singer/songwriter and performer. She has released five albums of original material—all landing on Billboard's "ten best records of the year" in their years of release—and a live, song-for-song cover of Dylan’s classic Blood on the Tracks, earning four stars in Rolling Stone, who described Mary Lee’s voice as having “the high mountain sunshine of Dolly Parton with a sweet-iron undercoat of Chrissie Hynde." The New York Times praises her songs as being “so meticulously crafted they sound completely natural.” She has toured the world both as a headliner and opening act for such luminaries as Bob Dylan, Ian Hunter, Joe Jackson, Los Lobos and Steve Earle. Her most recent album, “Will Anybody Know That I Was Here: The Songs of Beulah Rowley,” was produced by the legendary Hal Willner. A published short story writer, she is also author of Dreaming of Dylan: 115 Dreams About Bob, an illustrated collection of dreams about Bob Dylan, gathered from individuals around the world. Also now a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Mary Lee uses songwriting as a form of expressive arts therapy, and has led songwriting groups with adolescents and adults in numerous countries, including teenagers who have lived with armed conflict in Iraq and Northern Ireland.