What do Billy Joel, Cher, The Eagles, Elton John, George Strait, Paul Simon, Sting and Van Morrison have in common? For one, they’re all AARP eligible by 11 years on the low end and 22 years on the high end. You might never think that George Strait, whose last tour date ever is coming up in 2014, would be the youngest of the bunch at age 61, or that Cher, Billy Joel and Elton John have been active the longest, with Cher beginning in ‘63 and edging the other two out by a year. More curiously, what are all these aging rockers doing at the top of the list for highest grossing acts of 2013? Isn’t Rock music the province of the young?
Once upon a time, these grandparents were the voice of a generation. Cher sang “I Got You Babe” for the first time at age 19. When Simon and Garfunkel wrote the subtle anti-war lyrics to “Scarborough Fair”, Paul Simon was 25 years old and shared space in the Vietnam protest movement with Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. They were the revolution. The 60s and 70s were a golden age for singing and songwriting as well as a hotbed for social change. It’s hard to imagine John Mayer’s “Waiting for the World to Change” igniting a movement, but the times, they have a-changed. Whether CIA-assisted or not, that unique mix of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll created a potent atmosphere and nostalgia that the Boomer generation were successfully able to pass along to their offspring. It doesn’t hurt that many of the torch anthems of the period have led a successful afterlife as advertising packing material with over 40 years on the airwaves. Today’s artists unfortunately suffer from a short shelf-life and fracturing of tastes courtesy of the Internet, although maybe in 40-years-time Mayer’s simmering anti-establishment sentiment, which our future bureaucrats will know from watching a lyric video on YouTube, will boil over into full-bore activism behind the chant “One day our generation/is gonna rule the population.” But probably not. The Dad Rock hegemony is fueled primarily by Boomer purchasing power and the unparalleled singing and songwriting of the era’s best musicians. Radiohead’s “No Surprises” is a prime candidate for protest song of the new millennium with its incendiary refrain “Bring down the government/they don’t, they don’t speak for us” but splintering aural palettes, sparse employment options and declining wages mean that the bulk of its audience is probably listening to it through earbuds while ordering Guy Fawkes masks from a Chinese online retailer. Not to mention that the average age of Radiohead is 44. Miley Cyrus may be socially and culturally rebellious but we haven’t seen her active politically, unless, that is, you count toking up on primetime.
Still it’s hard to argue with the sheer, awesome giddiness that swells up upon hearing the opening strains of Charlie Watts’ percussion, Rocky Dijon’s conga line, Bill Wyman on the maracas and Mick Jagger getting his ya-yas out on “Sympathy for the Devil.” At age 70, Jagger is still the archetypal rock god and may well be into the foreseeable future. His workout regimen supplied by an Olympic trainer includes eight-mile runs, swimming, kickboxing, yoga, ballet, cycling, pilates, caviar facials and a high-protein, low-carb diet. With a personal fortune estimated at approximately $300 million, Jagger is a prime candidate for the anti-aging technologies of the future being proposed by companies like The Ellison Medical Foundation and Google’s Calico, or if you prefer the more Orwellian California Life Company. Google can kill two birds with one stone by rejuvenating Jagger and associates for future Rolling Stones tour dates—in space. Google co-founder Larry Page’s asteroid mining side project Planetary Resources, Inc. could launch a mission to land the Stones on…a stone for the first interstellar Hangout. And they’re not alone. Cher, Don Henley, George Strait, Sting and Billy Joel all have upwards of $100 million in earnings under their belts for personal nano-reboots once they become available. Now rock stars won’t have to worry so much about burning out as burning up upon atmospheric re-entry, and not only will rock and roll never die, neither will the rockers.
(But just in case, tickets are on sale now to see Billy Joel, Cher, The Eagles, Elton John, George Strait, Paul Simon, Sting and Van Morrison in their original skins on tour dates at concerts across the country!)