Old dogs, old tricks: Seventysomething rockers are still going out on the road

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The Independent Culture

"Don't want to stay alive when you're 25" go the words of Mott the Hoople's 1972 hit "All the Young Dudes", written by David Bowie. Several decades on, the band's frontman, Ian Hunter, begs to differ.

Now 70 – that's 70! – he is to embark on a series of sell-out shows at the Hammersmith Apollo in London this week to mark the 40th anniversary of the band, which hasn't played together since splitting up 35 years ago. He is not alone. More than half a century after they first emerged, rock musicians born before the outbreak of the Second World War are still rolling on.

Many of the septuagenarians have survived rock'n'roll's wildest years, when drink and drugs were the staples of life on the road. But they'll have some way to go to match blues legend David "Honeyboy" Edwards, who performs tonight in Swansea on a tour of Europe and the US. He is a sprightly 94.

Ian Hunter

Singer, 70

The former frontman of Mott the Hoople found fame late, at the age of 30, and is not about to let go in a hurry. Still looking implausibly young, he will return to the stage with the band this week in a series of sell-out concerts in London, 35 years after the band split in 1974. Still recording, his latest album, Man Overboard – his 13th as a solo artist – received rave reviews in America, where he now lives, and has been described as a 'bionic rocker' by the US press.

Willie Nelson

Country and western singer, 76

This Texan singer-songwriter and activist truly hit the big time as a performer in his fifties after some hit singles and playing in a band with Johnny Cash. He had previously been a successful songwriter, penning Patsy Cline's hit 'Crazy'. He also branched out into acting in the late 1970s and recently played Uncle Jesse Duke in the 2005 remake The Dukes of Hazzard. He was arrested for possession of cannabis in 2006. Still rocking, Willie is set to perform 14 dates in the US in October.

Jerry Lee Lewis

Singer, songwriter and pianist, 73

Legend has it that his parents mortgaged their farm to buy their son a piano. Most famous for his hit 'Great Balls of Fire', Lewis first appeared on television in 1957. Despite a scandal in the 1950s which saw him dropped from record labels and radio playlists, he has far outlasted his contemporaries Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. 'The Killer' is about to play eight countries in a month.

Spencer Davis

Musician, 70

Welsh founder of the 1960s band the Spencer Davis Group, who entered rock immortality with hits 'Gimme Some Loving', 'Keep On Running' and 'Somebody Help Me'. He helped to foster the talent of Steve Winwood, who was just 15 when spotted by Davis. The former languages teacher turned rocker now lives in the US, and is on a European tour with 1960s contemporaries The Animals that will see him performing several times a week until the end of November.

Leonard Cohen

Singer, 75

Canadian singer described by Lou Reed as belonging to the 'highest and most influential echelon of songwriters'. On 19 February 2009, he played his first American concert in 15 years in New York, before going on to perform in front of tens of thousands at a festival in California in April. A bout of food poisoning that led him to collapse on stage at a concert in Spain earlier this month has failed to put him off performing live. He is preparing for a 15-date tour of the US.

Ginger Baker

Drummer, 70

He found worldwide fame with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce in 1970s supergroup Cream. The drummer, who also played in Blind Faith and Hawkwind, is still hitting the skins and returns to London in November in a special gig at the Jazz Café. His autobiography, Hellraiser, published next month, reveals how he lived the lifestyle of a rock drummer to the full, on one occasion making a bet with Eric Clapton about who would be first to sleep with all the waitresses in a club.

John Mayall

Guitarist, 75

The British blues legend helped the careers of musicians such as Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Peter Green, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, to name a few. He was the founder of John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, and finally called time on the band in 2008; just months later he went back on the road with a new band. Mayall released his 57th album this month, the appropriately titled Tough, and is now preparing to play 12 dates in Canada as part of a world tour he began earlier this year.

... and the granddaddy of them all

David 'Honeyboy' Edwards

Blues singer, 94

Just a few years off his 100th birthday, he is still playing regularly. The Grammy award-winning guitarist is one of the last remaining Delta blues players from Mississippi and was there the night in August 1938 that his friend Robert Johnson died after drinking from a bottle of poisoned whisky.