Mick and Sonny are still rockin' on, but will Madonna and Robbie last as long?

When it comes to age expectations, why do we have different rules for musicians in
rock, jazz and blues?

Share

There he was, a man well beyond pensionable age, dominating the
stage and delivering a memorable performance with the stamina of a
20-something. Yes, Sonny Rollins gave a great show at the London
Jazz Festival, yet few people commented on the legendary
saxophonist's age of 82, and none added up the combined ages of his
band.

That's the thing with jazz musicians. We expect them to be old and carry on performing until they drop. Likewise blues singers and guitarists. No one would dream of saying that it's time that 87-year-old BB King made a dignified exit from the stage. Other veterans, notably Leonard Cohen at 77, give a subtle virtuoso stage performance that demands little movement from the main player.

Genuine rock is different. The Rolling Stones this week received terrific reviews, yet there were, as always in recent years, expressions of astonishment that they dare to perform. And, inevitably, there was the ubiquitous and tedious adding up the combined ages of the group. The last time I encountered Mick Jagger, he said to me wearily that journalists show that they can all do arithmetic.

Mind you, it's not just journalists who worry about rock stars continuing past their prime. Paul McCartney told me last week that 20 years ago his own manager at the time said it would be "unseemly" for him to perform live at 50. McCartney continues to tour, what he said to the manager is unrecorded. So, why is it that we have different rules and different expectations for musicians in rock, jazz and blues? Part of the reason, of course, is that there is a sexual element, a swagger, a strut in rock, particularly as today's veterans are inextricably linked to the youth explosion of the Sixties. The Stones and The Who cannot easily be allowed to grow old gracefully and be, Sonny Rollins-style, all music and no swagger.

Women are not exempt from this dilemma. Fifty-four year old Madonna's show remains high energy, relying on non-stop choreography and as much sexual suggestion and swagger as Jagger had in his prime.

And then to cap it all, Robbie Williams said in a piece of public therapy this week: "The fact that 40 is looming plays more on my mind than it does anyone else's mind because pop stars cease to be pop stars at 40 and start to be old people singing, don't they?"

It's all mighty confusing. So here are my predictions for how the next 10 years will pan out: The Stones will carry on, but gradually return more to their blues roots and do a lower energy show; Robbie will discover on turning 40 that it doesn't seem as old as he thought; Madonna will retire gracefully.

OK, here are my real predictions: The Stones will carry on with their usual brilliant show until destiny or Mick's doctor intervenes; Robbie will become the middle-aged swing singer he always wanted to be anyway; Sonny Rollins will, lungs permitting, play from a seated position when he is 90; and Madonna will rail with some justification against a sexist world that advises her to leave the stage at 60.

Hard facts can impress this Government

It was good that leading arts figures at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards, hit out at government arts cuts past and (almost certainly) future. I made the point here last week as someone who also feared another round of cuts that I wanted the rhetoric to be accompanied by statistics on how the arts had suffered. I share the passion of the above mentioned people to safeguard the golden age we have been seeing in the arts. I just believe that the argument carries even more force with real examples. Roddy Gauld, chief executive of Bolton's Octagon theatre, contacted me to say: "If the Government cared about the arts then, yes, stats would do it. We need to get them to care and believe first though." Maybe, but I suspect that this Government, like Mr Gradgrind, wants hard facts.

The obstacle to a good British road movie

Now here's a theory... Ben Wheatley, director of the new film Sightseers, told this paper that there was a reason why there were fewer British road movies than American ones. He said: "I think the thing that American road movies have, is that they don't have any roundabouts, so you can go a lot further in a straight line. I wouldn't like to see Dennis Hopper riding around a roundabout on his Chopper in Easy Rider. It would have been a bit awkward." It's a brilliant treatise. And how sad that we have missed out on an artistic genre because of traffic-flow control.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

Vote Tory and you’re voting for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer

Mark Steel
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd end the war on drugs

Patrick Hennessey
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'