In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to be thankful for classic (and modern) rock, to which I owe a great musical debt. This post is not intended to poke fun at old age, but rather show just how vibrant and active we all can be, even when we near retirement. My hope is to inspire people of all ages to keep on making music, through this post.
Classic rock stars, the idols and sex symbols of generations, are aging. Fast. Some have retired, but these icons are still gracing the stage in old age. You may be surprised, though, at just how old—and just how active—these powerhouses are.
- Gene Simmons, KISS – 67 years old
Yes, you read that right. Gene Simmons, the KISS co-founder, was born in 1949. Just how long has KISS been touring? (Do you want to feel old, kids of the glam-rock era?) 42 whopping years. Still, this sex symbol kept his image going, including not marrying Shannon Tweed until 2011. His website notes 60 albums and videos to his name, as well as a slew of motion pictures and television appearances. KISS is still touring, securing Gene’s reputation of longevity not just when calling for room service.
- Geddy Lee, Rush – 63 years old
Rush may finally be on its last legs, but Geddy Lee is still an active artist. Yes, he no longer can hit all his soprano notes, and his tenor notes get a bit soupy from all those years of screaming daggers of lyrics, but his bass playing, synth work, and energy are going strong. After 40 years of stellar performance in Rush, Geddy is expanding his musical tastes and being awarded for his philanthropy. The nerd in me is so proud of this man who made being uncool, cool.
- Mick Jagger, The Rolling Stones – 73 years old
You’re probably not surprised that Mick Jagger is on this list. I mean, who wouldn’t be? But, given his youthful appearance, many wouldn’t guess that the man who brought us “Gimme Shelter”, “Paint It, Black”, “Start Me Up”, and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” back from the days of mono recording, is quite this old. What is he up to now? The Rolling Stones are set to release a new album on December 2nd, entitled Blue and Lonesome. If that doesn’t make Mick an emperor of rock and roll, then I don’t know who could even come close.
- David Crosby, Crosby, Stills, and Nash– 75 years old
I don’t want to list just the most common, most talked-about rock stars here. (We all know Ozzy is ancient and still performing.) David Crosby – one of the infamous pioneers of music and social awareness in Crosby, Stills and Nash, is still touring. Oh, and his new CD, Lighthouse, was released on October 28, 2016. How on this green earth this man, who helped define the Woodstock era of rock and roll, still has notes and profound ideas coming out of his head, baffles many of us, but should we really expect anything less from someone so vibrant?
- Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin – 68 years old
Robert Plant, one would think, would have a hard time walking up a stairway to heaven—or to the second floor. But, this man hasn’t had a long time since he rock and rolled—he is still ramblin’ on. (Sorry for the excessive puns.) According to his website,
“Robert Plant has confirmed that he will join Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller, The Milk Carton Kids, and more for select dates (12/10-21/10) on the Lampedusa Concerts For Refugees tour. Lampedusa is an 11-stop concert tour intended to raise awareness of the unprecedented worldwide refugee crisis. Funds raised by Lampedusa will support educational programs for refugees around the world.”
His voice has certainly changed, but the fact that he is still alive and well should reinforce the idea that no matter how far one has gone in life, there are new adventures up ahead. In fact, the wisdom and perspective one gains from old age may continue to fuel all of these artists.
- Brian May, Queen – 69 years old
Not only does the guitarist of Queen have his own signature guitar line, he is still releasing new media, for example Queen + Adam Lambert – Live in Japan. Yes, that curly bulge of hair is now white, and we are still mourning the loss of Freddie, but Brian has continued the legacy of one of the best rock acts ever to grace the stage. And he certainly hasn’t lost touch with the world; you can even follow him on Twitter.
- David Gilmour, Pink Floyd – 70 years old
The man who helped engineer the soundscapes and tone poems to which a generation “indulged” is certainly not comfortably numb. His website doesn’t even give us a biography, but instead advertises his fourth solo album, “Rattle That Lock”. Oh, and in case you thought that was impressive: his prior solo album, “On An Island”, was a No. 1 platinum release. Way to put the rest of us to shame, David. I’m still trying to plan my fourth album (ever), and here he is, still shaping the history of rock music.
- Tony Iommi, Black Sabbath – 68 years old
Tony Iommi, whose guitar playing in Black Sabbath helped invent the genre of heavy metal, is synonymous with the notion of dark rock. Black Sabbath’s final tour, The End, was extended into 2016 “due to overwhelming demand”. His biography leaves his performance future open, asking us “[w]hat comes next?” I’m sure that one day, he may be old and paranoid, but it will be a truly black Sabbath when he finally kicks the bucket.
- Eddie Van Halen, Van Halen – 61 years old
Like Brian May, Eddie is not only a guitar revolutionary in one of the greatest rock acts of all time, but he has his own line of musical gear. You can follow him, just like May, on Twitter for shots of recent performances. Yes, he looks a lot more sober than we remember him, and the Frankenstein guitar is retired (but paid homage to in his new signature guitars), but he is still heavily involved with his musical career. After his eruption onto the musical scene, making kids through today want to play like him, he is finally out of his house of pain, but still rocking the cradle (and I say, rock on!). (Again, please forgive the excessive puns.)
- Pete Townshend, The Who – 71 years old
Who are you, Pete Townshend? I would hope we know that, considering The Who were featured in the 2009 Superbowl and at the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games, with an upcoming 2017 tour. As noted by Reuters, Pete’s recent projects include:
“….rock operas “Tommy” and “Quadrophenia”, [and] a new musical “Floss”, about getting old.”
Which brings us back to the main topic: old age. We can look to these epic figures and realize that old age is nothing to bemoan, but rather an opportunity to grow, blossom even further, and try new things. Despite modern society’s reverence for the flawless, endlessly youthful, constantly new “next big thing”, the stories of these lives tell us that no matter what we do now, the future is boundless, and our capacity for creativity never ceases.
Sources for text (in order of reference; images credited to these sites, too):
Birthdays acquired by searching on http://www.famousbirthdays.com; no other information acquired there.