Chicago Tribune - Too old to rock?,0,1746745.story

Summer concert scene dominated by sixtysomethings
By Mark Caro | Tribune reporter
May 10, 2009

Let's first acknowledge that we've moved well beyond the irony of "I hope I die before I get old" and the fact that the Who's Pete Townshend, who wrote the lyric, did get old, though his band's drummer didn't.

Let's also let Mick Jagger off the hook for famously declaring, "I'd rather be dead than singing 'Satisfaction' when I'm 45." With the Rolling Stones singer turning 66 in July, he has had more than 20 years and several world tours to eat those words.

We will, however, give consideration to Robert Plant's explanation earlier this year that he shot down a Led Zeppelin reunion in part for fear of fans' "disappointment" and "the comparisons to something that was basically fired by youth and a different kind of exuberance. ... It's very hard to go back and meet that head on and do it justice."

Or as he told a reporter backstage at the Grammys: "You try to do 'Communication Breakdown' in these pants."

Why the band just might take your request So the 60-year-old Plant won't be screeching "Heeeey, girl!" onstage any time soon. But 68-year-old Mike Love probably will be singing "Be True to Your School" when the Beach Boys hit Ravinia this summer. Plant is the exception, not the rule in a concert season testing the age limits of rock.

Chicago's most-hyped summer concert is the pairing of Elton John, 62, and Billy Joel, 60, at Wrigley Field. Also hitting town will be Crosby, 67, Stills, 64, and Nash, 67. As for Young (that is, Neil), he's 63 and just released a jagged rock album.

Almost-68-year-old Bob Dylan has last week's No. 1 album, "Together Through Life," and will soon tour minor-league baseball stadiums with Willie Nelson, 76, and John Mellencamp, 57. Paul McCartney, who turns 67 in June, recently performed a 2 ½-hour set at the Coachella festival after releasing the trippy, hard-rocking "Electric Arguments" CD as the Fireman. McCartney now is about 15 years older than the man who played his grandfather in "A Hard Day's Night."

Last week's biggest local shows were the Dead (Bob Weir is 62) and Leonard Cohen (74). Bruce Springsteen, who turns 60 in September, plays a sold-out United Center on Tuesday.

Ravinia's summer calendar is dominated by 60-something rockers: Joe Cocker (64), Tom Jones (68), Steve Miller (65), Jackson Browne (60), Bonnie Raitt (59), Taj Mahal (67 next Sunday), Blondie (Debbie Harry turns 64 in July), the Doobie Brothers (co-founder Patrick Simmons is 60) and Loggins & Messina (both 61). Who knew Pat Benatar (56) and Elvis Costello (54) would represent Ravinia's youth movement?

This cataloging of rock's geriatric movement is meant simply to point out what's both obvious and startling: Rock's biggest names have gotten old.

"I think all of us are pretty amazed at the lengths of the careers of the acts that pretty much defined rock 'n' roll," said Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of the concert-industry trade publication Pollstar. "If you look at the ones that demand the highest prices, it's all acts that date back to the '60s and '70s."

He added: "You could've had the same conversation five years ago."

Yes, but could you have the same conversation in another five years? Bluesmen such as B.B. King, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters are typically considered the exemplars of performing into one's golden years, but for rock music this is uncharted territory.

How long can McCartney maintain that clear tenor? How long can 69-year-old Tina Turner keep her voice and legs in shape? Will a near-70 Jagger shake his skinny tush over another Stones tour as cancer survivor Charlie Watts, who turns 68 next month, keeps time?

"I don't think Mick Jagger's quitting until the last nickel is out of the hand of the last sucker," laughed rock critic/author Dave Marsh, who hosts the Sirius/XM show "Kick Out the Jams."

While country music has developed a new generation of arena headliners -- Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Toby Keith -- rock has stayed with the tried and true, only occasionally spitting out a U2, Radiohead or Coldplay. Six of the last year's top-10 grossing tours were headlined by 50-and-older acts: Madonna, the Eagles, Springsteen and the E Street Band, Neil Diamond, the Police and Turner.

The only other rock act in the top 10 was Bon Jovi, whose frontman is 47. Pollstar's top 10 this year includes John/Joel, the Eagles ( Don Henley and Glenn Frey are 61 and 60, respectively) and Fleetwood Mac (only Lindsay Buckingham, 59, is under 60).

How sustainable can this business be when so many key players could be cashing retirement checks?

Celia Berdes, a sociologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Buehler Center on Aging, Health & Society, thinks rockers who maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet can keep going for a while.

"In gerontology, we think that people can continue their level of activity and productivity well into their 70s," she said, noting that guitarists probably maintain excellent dexterity thanks to the continual finger exercise. "The worry I would have for the rock musicians is they've burnt the candle. It's possible they may be aging at a faster rate, particularly with regard to hearing."

Click link to read rest of article:,0,1746745.story


  • with thbe music scene now a days and all the crappy whiny music the fucking Dinosaurs will live forever. Rock on Billy!
    they say that these are not the best of times but they're the only times i've ever known!
  • joolsmithjoolsmith Posts: 823
    The 70's was a great time for music and it's these people that are surviving because their work is so good.
    Rock on the oldies


    "It's about joy that comes out of sorrow"
Sign In or Register to comment.