And The Band Played On

“I was so much older then; I’m younger than that now” – Bob Dylan

Picture Paul McCartney leading an audience in the umpteenth chorus of Hey Jude. At age 80. It’s happening right now during McCartney’s umpteenth tour. Click

McCartney has credited his stamina to his vegetarian diet and a daily exercise regimen that includes stretching and yoga. And if you ask anyone who’s been to a Paul McCartney concert, they’ll report he’s never been better.

“Actively Aging” is more than just a passing descriptor of beloved musicians still touring on the road today. They genuinely live up to their “icon” status by continuing to perform in their seventies, eighties and nineties. Their music has become part of our collective identity, deeply imprinted on the minds of not just baby boomers but generations that came after. And their music transcends age groups: Sir Paul is not just playing to sell-out crowds of the elderly.

Any wonder that both Diana Ross (78) and Rod Stewart (77) took time out from their 2022 tours to fulfill requests of headlining at Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee?

Summer of 2022 Tour

Here’s a rundown of other aging performers who are touring this summer:

  • Loretta Lynn (90)
  • Judy Collins (83)
  • “Dion” DiMucci (83)
  • Dionne Warwick, (82)
  • Ringo Starr (82)
  • Bob Dylan (81)
  • Barry Manilow (79)
  • Rolling Stones: Mick Jagger (78) Keith Richards (77) Ronnie Wood (74)
  • Boz Scaggs (78)
  • Eric Clapton (77)
  • Van Morrison (76)
  • Patti Smith (76)
  • Carlos Santana (75)
  • Elton John (75)
  • Stevie Nicks (74)
  • James Taylor (74)
  • Dolly Parton (76)

Click to see 16 clips of “The Oldest Musicians Still Touring, Recording, and Kicking Butt:”

This month, Tanglewood celebrates the 90th birthday of John Williams ( featuring a selection of his concert music composed for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops, along with his classic film themes.

A legend in his own right, James Taylor recently said of John Williams on Late Night with Stephen Colbert: “He’s such a master.

The granddaddy of touring musicians is Willie Nelson who hasn’t stopped since he began in the 1970’s. Just this month, a New York Times Magazine story about Willie mentions he is still playing to crowds of 70,000: “In the past five years alone, Nelson has produced nine albums.

Phillip Montgomery
for the New York Times

“Don’t Let Me Down” – The Beatles*

*Click here to watch Beatles’ rooftop performance of “Don’t Let Me Down”

Even more remarkable are the stories of celebrated artists who return to perform after suffering profound adversity. Willie Nelson came back from a brush with death in 1981 when his lung collapsed. He returned to touring but swore off cigarette smoking for marijuana instead. He went on for the next 38 years before finally quitting smoking altogether due to “breathing problems.” The same New York Times articles reports that Willie performs 200+ concerts a year.

Joni Mitchell has spent the last seven years recovering from a life-threatening brain aneurism which left her unable to speak or walk, much less play the guitar. At age 78, she made a triumphant return to the Newport Jazz Festival in July 2022.

In an interview with CBS News following the show, Joni, who is now 78, talked about losing the ability to speak and walk, or even get out of a chair. She described the experience of the last few years as “a return to infancy. “She also described her need to relearn to play guitar by watching videos of herself “to see where I put my fingers.” James Taylor, in the same Late Night with Stephen Colbert interview, described Joni Mitchell’s recovery:

You can’t stop her. That she’s still here at all is remarkable.

Tony Bennett, at age 96, has Alzheimer’s Disease. Yet, when he hears a familiar song’s opening notes, he still knows the key, the tempo, and its lyrics. Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes reports, Tony can still croon as smooth as ever because his “brain has built itself around his music.”

Click here to watch

Tony Bennett’s neurologist, Gayatri Devi, MD, says his transformation to lucidity when it comes to singing “goes beyond muscle memory.” “For Tony, music is more than what he does; it is who he is.” More clinically, Dr. Devi explains that music and emotion are stored in a different part of the brain – one that is not affected by Alzheimer’s Disease. And, that Tony Bennett’s music is “an over-abiding passion and everything else is secondary.” In other words, his brain is programmed for his music.

Click here for our blog on Tony Bennett and Alzheimer’s

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” – Elton John*

*Click here to watch George Michael & Elton John perform “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me”

In the end, it’s not just the music that endures. It’s our enduring musicians who have defied all odds and are still out there reminding us that age is just a number and music continues to live on. Actively aging, indeed.

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