Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Still Swinging at Seventy...Bob Dylan to Paul Simon

Amidst all the hoopla over Bob Dylan's 70th birthday, the mainstream media is having a field day with the phenomenon of the stars of the sixties pushing into their seventies and there does seem to be a trend (can a USATODAY poll be far behind). Unlike the proverbial old soldiers who were supposed to fade away at war's end,  rockers have apparently found the fountain of youth in music. You can't pick up a newspaper or turn on a radio station without learning of a new album or a reunion tour.  Stevie Nicks (67) has a new CD as does Emmy Lou Harris and Aretha Franklin.  The Beastie Boys  are only in their forties but got this headline in the NYT, "The Droll, Buzzing Grandpas of Rap," for their new album.
The Cars  are on what the Wash Post describes as "yet another won't ever happen rock reunion tour" to back their first new album in 24 years. Even Donny and Marie are reuniting.  Robbie Robertson is back off the sidelines with a new CD and at the top of the retro heap is the music master of the last 50 years Paul Simon.
Something is happening here but we don't know what it is do we Mr. Jones?  Maybe the reunions are happening because as Steve Earle said recently,  "I'm no longer as addicted to being right as I used to be." Maybe once you get to be a star, your fan base is big enough to sustain any CD you release. Maybe we are longing for the good ole days when the music was memorable and we thought it could change the world.  Maybe global warming is making everyone mellow and able to get along with other large creative egos.
In some cases, musicians are going back to their roots and American music roots for inspiration and new takes on old standards. Dylan has been doing this off and on for years. Willie Nelson relaunched his career with tunes from my parents youth. (I recently heard Jeff Beck's version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow and realized that since I knew all the words, it was a perfect instrumental. When I came across Jerry Lee Lewis doing it, I was blown in another direction.)
In other cases, the musicians do indeed have something new to say. Booker T. Jones (minus the MGs) has a great new album out, The Road From Memphis, but then he's only 66 (and he studied music at Indiana University).

Speaking of music and higher education, a belated tribute to the late Bob Flanigan, one of the founding members of the Four Freshmen, a group he helped create while an undergrad at Butler University(and you thought it was just a basketball factory). The group produced some 50 albums and 70 singles and was cited as an early influence on Brian Wilson (see our post of April14).  Flanigan  retired after nearly forty years of touring but the group continues. It's hard to quantify the impact the Four Freshman must have had on other harmony groups as well as individual singers who came of age during the 1950s.  Here's a link to the AP/IndyStar obituary:

In closing, a couple of memorable quotes. From Cyril Neville, performing with Tab Benoit and Anders Osborne in The Voice of the Wetlands All Stars on their new CD, Box of Pictures. Admitting he has drawn fire in the past from criticizing government action that has destroyed Louisiana wetlands, he allowed:  "I can't bite my tongue cause my soul will bleed."

Finally this quote goes out to all the race fans (from Indiana and elsewhere) on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500. Marco Andretti, who started his final qualifying run just 50 seconds before the closing gun went off, said after he  finished:  "I was either going to put it in the show or in the wall."

Some good advice for aspiring musicians and the rest of us. Happy Memorial Day.


  1. Great post. Your closing quotes are great and should be recycled.
    Another reason they tour, as the tour manger of the Moody Blues told me last week, "that's how you make money today. There are no record sales, everything is a download."

    The tour never ends.

  2. Very surprised and happy to see that this was not a 100% Dylan retrospective, as expected from the photo. Good thing I have my flatmate's Uncut magazine handy to read around 30 or 40 pages about Bob this month. Do you have Rumours on vinyl, by the way? xo