Rock you like an octogenarian: 5 musicians over 75 who are still hitting the road
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While many performers his age are content nodding off to reruns of Matlock, blues legend B.B. King—age 86—is still touring the country. An upcoming three-night stand in Milwaukee (March 25-27 at Potawatomi Casino’s Northern Lights Theater) is just part of a more than 20-date spring tour of the U.S. and Canada. Armed with his faithful guitar, Lucille, King has a repertoire of more than 60 years of songwriting, from his Grammy-winning hit “The Thrill Is Gone” to his latest studio album, 2008’s One Kind Favor.
Along the way, King has amassed countless awards and tributes. One of his most recent gigs was a White House concert celebrating the blues, where he was joined onstage by Mick Jagger and fellow blues legend Buddy Guy. (Guy is still going strong at 75.) President Obama even joined in as a special guest vocalist, crooning along with a few lines of “Sweet Home Chicago.”
Before King’s stint at the Northern Lights Theater, The A.V. Club looks at a few more senior citizens who still know how to hit the road.
“The older I get, the surer I am that I’m not running the show,” says singer, poet, and former Buddhist monk Leonard Cohen. Cohen, who recorded his first album in 1967, still looks sharp in a suit, and he went on an ambitious and extensive world tour that started in 2008 and extended into 2010. He also released a critically acclaimed new album, Old Ideas, earlier this year.
How old is he? At 77, Cohen is so old, he’s two years older than John McCain and 4.3 times older than Justin Bieber.
The coal miner’s daughter from Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, has had a long run of country hits, and has recorded more than 70 albums. In recent years, Lynn has had renewed success with 2004’s Van Lear Rose, an album produced by one of her fans, Jack White. A couple of new albums are currently in the works, and her book, Honky Tonk Girl: My Life In Lyrics, goes on sale next month. Lynn still dresses in fancy ball gowns, tours regularly, and plays gigs at her own ranch. Loretta Lynn’s Ranch is billed as “The 7th Largest Attraction In Tennessee” and offers tours, a campsite, museums, and an annual motocross race.
How old is she? 76. Lynn received controversy for her 1975 song “The Pill,” in which a woman finds liberation through birth control. That year, Rush Limbaugh was the tender age of 24, and nine years away from hosting his own radio show.
The true king of rock has had a career filled with dramatic ups and downs. He’s been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, and there is an 8-foot statue of him on the St. Louis Walk Of Fame. On the other hand, he’s been busted for armed robbery and income tax evasion. He also settled on a class-action lawsuit with a group of women in 1990 after they found he had hidden a camera in the ladies’ room of a restaurant he owned. Berry still gets onstage about once a month to play what’s often a sold-out show at a club called Blueberry Hill in St. Louis.
How old is he? 85. Gas was little more than 20 cents a gallon when Berry had his first hit, “Maybellene,” in 1955.
A folk singer and master of the banjo and 12-string guitar, Seeger is well known for folk songs like “This Land Is Your Land.” Seeger has never been afraid to mix politics and music, writing pro-labor, civil-rights, and anti-war ballads. In the 1950s, he was branded a Communist and subpoenaed to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Seeger continues to write new material, and one of his more recent performances was out on the street, playing a set of folk songs with Arlo Guthrie and other musicians for thousands of Occupy Wall Street protesters in October 2011.
How old is he? 92. Seeger was 10 years old when the stock market crash of 1929 occurred on Wall Street, ushering in the Great Depression.