In its early days, rock music was a cultural force that riveted youths and shocked elderly listeners who preferred the more restrained music of crooners like Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin. Now the rockers who once energized American youth culture have grown old themselves, but their advanced age doesn’t mean they can’t still rock, though admittedly not as hard as they once did. October’s landmark music festival, Desert Trip — affectionately nicknamed “Old Chella” — proved as much, even as it made clear how the icons of yesteryear have aged along with the rest of the world. While many successful bands today have enjoyed only a few years together, these classic acts are still going strong well into their senior years.
1. Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan began his musical career in the budding Greenwich Village folk scene of 1959, and he still plays hundreds of shows annually some 57 years later. The 75-year-old songwriter, who recently won the Nobel Prize in literature for his lyricism, enjoyed his most notable success in the 1960s, when he was often heralded as the voice of his generation.
In the years since, however, Dylan has earned a reputation for ceaselessly exploring new avenues of American music with each new album, including a recent LP of Frank Sinatra covers. His voice is scratchier than it’s ever been, but it doesn’t stop Dylan from playing his new material for live audiences around the world.
2. The Rolling Stones
When The Beatles broke up in 1970, many expected The Rolling Stones to do the same, but instead Mick, Keith, and company have continued to tour as a group and release albums well into the 21st century. Their latest album, Blue & Lonesome marks their 25th studio release in a 54 year career that began with the band’s formation in 1962. Despite their advanced age (Mick is 73, Keith 72), the Stones are still renowned as an energetic live act, particularly with Mick strutting across the stage in his signature garish outfits.
3. The Moody Blues
The Moody Blues were founded in 1964 and came to international prominence in 1967 with the release of their concept album, Days of Future Passed, which was often credited as one of the first progressive or art-rock endeavors. They were also among the first popular acts to incorporate synthesizers into their music. Though they never again achieved that album’s international success and acclaim, The Moody Blues have been touring and releasing material for a whopping 52 years, except for a short hiatus from 1974 to 1977. Graeme Edge, the band’s drummer and only remaining original member (the other two joined in 1966), is now 75 years old.
4. The Who
The Who haven’t toured consistently since their founding in 1964 at the height of the British Invasion, but they’ve enjoyed so many reunions since their original dissolution in 1982 that it’s hard to follow the trajectory of their career since. Singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist Pete Townshend are the band’s only remaining members (the only two who didn’t die before they got old, you might say), and they’re joined by a group of accomplished studio musicians on tour to help recreate the raucous energy that made them an infamous live act during their original run. Townshend doesn’t smash his guitars anymore, but he can still perform his signature windmill guitar strum at 71 years old.
5. Golden Earring
Golden Earring was formed by a couple of Dutch teenagers in 1961 and they’ve been going strong for the 55 years since, though most listeners probably only became aware of them in 1973, when their single “Radar Love” achieved international success. Despite being known primarily as a one-hit wonder, the band, which still includes founding members Rinus Gerritsen and George Kooymans, still tours the world today and in 2012 released their 26th studio album, titled Tits ‘n Ass.
6. Neil Young
Neil Young began his musical career in Winnipeg in 1960 before moving to California and briefly joining Buffalo Springfield in 1966. The final years of the ’60s saw him join Crosby, Stills & Nash after releasing his debut solo album in 1968. Like Dylan, the 70-year-old Young has remained relevant for decades by following his own muse rather than courting mainstream success, releasing albums as both a solo artist and with his backing band, Crazy Horse. His sound ranges in tone from folk and distorted blues rock to country and new-wave synthpop. His distinctive guitar work and high tenor singing voice sound as sharp as they ever did during his recent performances with new backing band, Promise of the Real.
7. The Hollies
Like The Rolling Stones, The Hollies achieved international success during the British Invasion of the early ’60s and outlasted their contemporaries by continuing to tour without once disbanding. Unlike The Rolling Stones, The Hollies specialized in poppy three-part harmonies and achieved more acclaim for their singles than their albums. Nonetheless, they’re still touring with two of the original members present — guitarist Tony Hicks and drummer Bobby Elliott.
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