As Years Go By
Time Catching Up with Ageing Rock Stars
published: 12 /
With the news that Marianne Faithfull has moved into a retirement home, Nick Dent-Robinson reflects on the growing amount of ageing rock stars.
In March came the news that, following a series of recent ailments including Covid, Marianne Faithfull has moved permanently into Denville Hall, the North London retirement home for veterans of stage and screen. Marianne, aged 75, was always a trend-setter and she is apparently the first rock or pop performer to grace this retirement home – but she is unlikely to be the last. Rock stars like to mix with their own kind – and many are rapidly reaching retirement home age!
Born in the same year as Marianne are Barry Gibb, Cher, Donovan, Gilbert O'Sullivan, Benny Andersson of Abba, Noddy Holder, Dolly Parton, Jane Birkin and Patti Smith. Yet the elderly rock star still seems as much an oxymoron as a teenage judge or an ancient gymnast.
Back in the late 1960s, nobody could imagine people performing rock music after they were 40 - the thought was a huge joke to many, not least the rock stars themselves. Just before his tragic death in 1980 soon after his 40th birthday, John Lennon took time to explain quite seriously to several doubting American interviewers why he did still feel able to relaunch his rock career (with the release of his “Double Fantasy” album) at the grand old age of 40!
That same year - in 1980 - 'Rolling Stone' magazine had published a list of 'Rockers Over 50 This Year' in an article intended to shock its readers. Chuck Berry was then 53 - about the same age as Kylie Minogue is now! Today a similar list would need to be 'Rockers Over 80' - which would include Jerry Lee Lewis (86), Bill Wyman (85), Willie Nelson (88), Cliff Richard (81), Ringo Starr (81), Joe Brown (80), Marty Wilde (82) and Tina Turner (82) plus so many more!
And, for some years now, the obituary columns have seemed rather like the pop charts of the 1960s. Last year we lost Charlie Watts, Don Everly, Les McKeown of the Bay City Rollers, Gerry Marsden, Michael Nesmith of the Monkees, Mary Wilson of the Supremes, Graeme Edge (from the Moody Blues) plus Ronnie Wilson (the Gap Band). So far in 2022 there have been the deaths of Gary Brooker of Procol Harum, Ian McDonald of King Crimson, R Dean Taylor, Ronnie Spector plus Meat Loaf and we have just reached the end of March!
As rock stars and their fans continue to age - apparently some of the most lucrative stands at rock festivals now rent out mobility scooters or sell walking sticks and frames - it is nice to imagine some of the in-house entertainments that might soon be possible in the care homes chosen by these elderly entertainers. Noddy Holder leading the Christmas Show, perhaps with 'Merry Xmas Everybody' and the likes of Donovan, Pete Townshend, Jane Birkin, Cher, Barry Gibb and others taking appropriate parts in a glorious pantomime performance. Plus, of course, Marianne Faithfull could always bring proceedings to a gentle conclusion with a sweet rendition of 'As Tears Go By'.
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