8 Musicians Who Are Still Rocking After 50
Ringo Starr was a quiet creative force in the Beatles. The second song he ever wrote was “Octopus’s Garden,” which George Harrison called “cosmic” and has been performed several times by the Muppets. At age 74, he has spent the past 25 years touring and playing music with no less than twelve variations of Ringo Starr & his All-Star Band. Musicians like Phil Collins and Steve Smith have raved over his drumming skills, and Rolling Stone readers named him the fifth-greatest guitar drummer of all time. In 2002 Starr was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame, and he continues to collaborate with Paul McCartney for various musical events like the 2014 Grammys. Ringo could have gotten by on the fame he earned when he was in his 20’s, but he continues to make music and use his celebrity for humanitarian work. This summer he toured Canada and the US, and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Unlike younger music sensations such as Jay-Z, Paul McCartney has never tried to retire from music. At age 63 he was headlining the Super Bowl halftime show and singing “Hey Jude” with as much energy as he did in the 1960s. Now Paul is 72, and last year he was drawing a crowd of over 37,000 at Fenway Park during his Out There Tour. As a musician he is still the energetic force behind his shows – he’s singing, playing bass, piano, guitar, and alternating between his solo pieces and the Beatles songs that brought him up “to the toppermost of the poppermost.” Paul McCartney’s status as a legend is built in concrete: he has been immortalized in The Beatles: Rock Band, wrote the ending song for the video game Destiny, and two years ago released a song commissioned by the New York City Ballet (his first composition for a dance). Able to easily grab 100,000 fans in Mexico City or close the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics, Paul is definitely still one of the world’s top-draws.
Stevie Nicks gained international fame as a member of Fleetwood Mac, whose songs you probably listened to primarily when you were going through a break-up. Rolling Stone named her “The Reigning Queen of Rock and Roll” and her fans are happy to watch her twirl onstage with her shawl. Last year Nicks portrayed herself as a witch on American Horror Story: Coven, much to the delight of the show’s Fleetwood Mac-obsessed character. The performance led to Nicks playing several songs on the show, including “Rhiannon” and “Seven Wonders.” The bump in her popularity led to her joining the reality show singing competition The Voice, as an advisor to young competitors. This month, Nicks is releasing her eighth studio album “24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault” and is playing a reunion tour with Fleetwood Mac.
Prince began making music in the late 1970s, where several unsuccessful demos were just the building blocks to his platinum 1979 album, “Prince.” These days, you can find him in the studio working on an expanded edition of “Purple Rain.” And as well as being a multi-instrumentalist musician, composer, dancer, and film director, he can now add “acting” to his impressive resume. Prince’s first brush with television came when the show Glee covered one of his songs, which the performer reportedly was not a fan of. What he is fanning over is the show New Girl. He contacted the show runners directly to ask if he could make a guest appearance and help the main couple, Nick and Jess, with their relationship. So a plot was written into the episode that aired after the Super Bowl: the cast of New Girl ends up at a party at Prince’s house. Over the duration of the night Prince helps Jess (Zooey Deschanel) open herself up to love emotionally, in-between performing a song and making butterflies land on his shoulder at will. The strangeness is exactly what we would expect from the 56-year-old who once changed his name into a symbol.
U2 (Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr.)
U2 started out as an Irish post-punk band, performing only song covers when they started out in the mid-1970s. Today the band, whose members are all in their early 50’s, has just released its 13th studio album “Songs About Innocence.” The album is an homage to the music and experiences of their youth in Ireland, and comes five years after their last album “No Line on the Horizon.” But this album was worth the wait. The band worked with Apple to digitally release the album with iTunes, which automatically downloaded the song onto the library of every iTunes user. Available to over 500 million customers, “Songs About Innocence” is the “largest album release of all time,” according to Apple. U2 is already planning their follow-up album, and is working with Apple to innovate digital music into an audiovisual form to bring consumers away from music pirating and back to the world of digital downloads.
Sheryl Crow came onto the music scene in the 90s, when “If It Makes You Happy” persuaded every radio listener to fall in love with her pop-country-rock sound. She went on to win three Grammys and international success with her debut album, “Tuesday Night Music Club.” Since then, Crow has battled cancer, adopted a son, and turned 50 – all with an impressive amount of subtlety and grace for a celebrity. In 2013 Crow asserted her independence by separating with her label to sign with Warner Music Nashville, before releasing “Feels Like Home.” The album debuted at number seven on Billboard, and became Crow’s ninth Top Ten album. This year, Crow went on tour with Rascal Flatts, opened for part of The Cowboy Rides Away Tour, and had time to host the 40th anniversary of the Austin City Limits Festival. Obviously Sheryl Crow is not going to fade out of the spotlight; in 2012 she was ranked one of the Greatest Women in Music, and it’s a title she’s going to hold onto.
The 64 year old, who brought us the epically romantic song “In Your Eyes,” was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice in the past four years. The first induction was as a member of his band Genesis in 2010, before being inducted as a solo artist in 2014. His double induction is even more impressive when you consider the fact that he took a five year break from music between 1995 and 2000. When he made his comeback, he garnered up enough success to last another musician a lifetime. First he released his album “Up,” an album of songs averaging six minutes each which still sold well enough globally to prompt a tour and two concert DVDs. In 2008 Gabriel was nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for his original contributions to the “Wall-E” soundtrack, including the film’s closing song “Down to Earth.” Then, he released one of his more brilliant projects. While some artists cover other musician’s songs on tour as a way to relax and have fun, Gabriel made an entire album where he covered musician’s songs called “Scratch My Back.” But the genius comes in the next step: his follow-up album featured the musicians whose songs he had covered, but this time they were singing Peter Gabriel songs. This album was titled “And I’ll Scratch Yours.” Gabriel took another sabbatical in 2013, but he was back to touring in Europe earlier this year.
Emmy Lou Harris
As of 2014, Emmy Lou Harris has won a whopping 14 Grammys. The 67-year old singer/songwriter has worked with music idols like Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Bright Eyes while still rising up to make a name for herself. Recently her work has included writing songs for movies, which is amazing for a girl who taught herself guitar by memorizing just three chords. Her song for Brokeback Mountain, “A Love That Will Never Grow Old” only missed being considered for an Oscar because of a technicality. She has also contributed to the “Cold Mountain” and “Nights in Rodanthe” soundtracks and made time to perform in a series of concerts that raised money for victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In all, her profile has never been higher: from touring with Elvis Costello, becoming a grandmother, and being featured in “A Tribute to Joni Mitchell,” Harris has not slowed down from any project.