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You kids get off my stage! These rocktogenarians are still getting it done

May 31, 2021
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Time marches on and with it comes a growing number of still active rockers hitting the milestone age of 80, an almost unthinkable prospect back when they created the soundtrack of the 1960s and 1970s.

Blues, country, and jazz artists pointed the way, along with the first rock and roll stars from the 1950s, proving it was possible to perform well during your golden years and still maintain your dignity.

B.B. King performed through the end of his life at age 89. 84-year-old blues legend Buddy Guy is set to launch a tour this July and why not? I caught one of his last shows before the pandemic put a temporary halt to concerts and it was a truly inspired show.

Jazz sax great Irv Williams lived to be 100 and he maintained a regular weekly gig at a jazz club near his Minneapolis home almost to the end. So did the late guitar legend Les Paul who played weekly club dates in New York City up to age 94.

Chuck Berry played “Johnny B. Goode” for the last time just a few days shy of his 88th birthday. Jerry Lee Lewis, “The Killer,” is still performing at age 85. Willie Nelson is scheduled to launch his next “Outlaw” music festival tour this August at age 88.

Is 80 the new 70? Will 90 become the new 80? It doesn’t matter as long as you can still do it, want to do it - and this might be the most important part - people want you to do it.

These rockers have already knocked on the door of 80 or will be there soon, and they’re still getting it done by performing, recording or both.

Steve Cropper - A true legend of guitar, Cropper will turn 80 in October. He’s feted for his classic work with Booker T. and the MGs, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave and The Blues Brothers, but he’s been a secret weapon for dozens of artists, from Rod Stewart to Ringo Starr. Steve released what he referred to as his first true solo album in more than 50 years, “Fire it Up,” in May.

David Crosby - Crosby will become the first member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young to hit 80 on August 14 this year. Sure he’s combative, cantankerous and has managed to alienate his bandmates, maybe permanently, but he has recorded some of his finest music over the last two decades.

Dion DiMucci - Dion will turn 82 on July 18. His most recent LP, 2020’s “Blues with Friends” found the former leader of Dion and the Belmonts recording with an all-star group, including Jeff Beck, Paul Simon, Van Morrison, Bill Gibbons, and Bruce Springsteen, among others. Dion has been working on a Broadway musical about his life, “The Wanderer,” which is expected to premiere next spring.

Bob Dylan - As mysterious and impenetrable at age 80 as he was at age 24 when “Like a Rolling Stone” topped the chart. His songs will continue to be studied, debated and adored more than 100 years from now. It took a pandemic to halt his “never ending tour” but expect to see Bob out there again soon.

Herbie Hancock - The legendary keyboardist and bandleader is still redefining jazz at age 81. He hasn’t released a solo album in years but that should change soon. His CV is dizzying and it’s safe to say that without him, jazz, funk, and electronic music wouldn’t be the same. Expect a new album from Hancock, bridging jazz and hip-hop, produced by Terrace Martin and featuring Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, and Wayne Shorter, among others.

Ian Hunter - The former lead singer of Mott the Hoople will turn 82 on June 3, proving that it’s not just the young dudes that carry the news. Still active, vital, and decades younger in appearance than his actual age, Hunter was forced to take a break in 2019 to deal with a serious bout of tinnitus. He will be back.

Tom Jones - The legendary Welsh-born singer will turn 81 as this issue is on the stands. His 41st album, “Surrounded by Time” was released in April and he is scheduled to launch a U.K. tour in July. Earlier this year, he revealed that part of the secret to his longevity can be attributed to inversion therapy, the process of hanging upside-down as a form of spinal traction.

Jorma Kaukonen - From Jefferson Airplane to Hot Tuna and beyond, the 80-year-old Kaukonen is going strong. With his wife, he operates the sprawling Fur Peace Ranch in Ohio, a 120-acre music camp in Ohio complete with a recording studio. He released his latest LP “The River Flows” last year and is currently on the road with Acoustic Hot Tuna. A solo tour is scheduled to begin this month followed by an Electric Hot Tuna tour this fall and winter.

Graham Nash - Graham will turn 80 next February. His most recent solo album is from 2016 but he’s been active behind the scenes working on archival releases for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, most recently the excellent 50th anniversary box set for the group’s classic “Deja Vu” LP.

Phil Lesh - The former Grateful Dead bassist turned 81 in March and shows no signs of slowing down. Phil’s had a liver transplant, he’s kicked cancer’s ass a couple of times, and underwent serious back surgery in 2019, but once he feels it’s safe to schedule more shows with “Phil and Friends,” he’ll be out there.

Mike Love - The Beach Boys co-founder and lead singer turned 80 in March and has a tour scheduled to begin this July. His most recent solo album was released in 2019. There is talk of a Beach Boys 60th anniversary tour for 2022, when Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, and Bruce Johnston will also turn 80.

Tom Rush – The folk-blues legend turned 80 in February this year. He’ll perform this Friday at Jonathan’s in Ogunquit, and has a show scheduled for the Camden Opera House on September 4. His concerts are both musical and hilarious as Tom always manages to work in plenty of stories from his six decades of recording and touring.

Ringo Starr – Peace and love! The eternally youthful Ringo will turn 81 in July, but like Ian Hunter, he appears closer to 51. His latest EP, “Zoom In,” was released in March, and his next round of dates with his All-Starr Band are scheduled to begin in May 2022. Expect to see Ringo pop up later this year with Paul McCartney for appearances tied to the release of Peter Jackson’s “The Beatles: Get Back” film. Speaking of Paul, he’ll hit 80 in June 2022.

Charlie Watts - Happy 80th to the legendary drummer for The Rolling Stones. Charlie hits that milestone on the date this issue arrives, June 2. His heart is in jazz, but for many, including Keith Richards, he’s the heart of the Stones. Mick Jagger and Richards will both turn 80 in 2023.

Last modified on Tuesday, 01 June 2021 22:50

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