Looking ahead to looking back
Just a few days ago, on May 24th, to be exact, Bob Dylan celebrated his 73rd birthday. How Bob celebrated this year is not important. I hope he got to lay in a hammock, at least part of the day. But, jeez—73!
Yes, a lot of my generation's greatest artistic lights kicked the can of mortality a bit earlier than would have been desirable. These names are well known and established. But my point here today is to do the opposite, to simply take note of some of the epic cool cats who are still here, racking up the years, beers and tears. Yes, you could say I'm being pro-active, trying to beat other journalists, columnists and chroniclers to the punch, and shout out a big hey to some of our all-time great artists and troubadours before they die. Because, honestly … the dying could begin at any moment.
Among the first wave of '50 era rock 'n' roll giants, many still hang around. St. Chuck is 87. Deacon Domino 86. Little Richard 81. Still lookin' fabulous—or am I making dangerous assumptions?—The Killer 78.
Certainly, I want to take note of Willie. Mr. Nelson, that is. Dude is 81, and clearly a slap-happy ambassador for the upside effects of weed upon the fragile psyches of the elderly. Other old blues giants out there who could go at any second, preferably in a bar, include John Mayall, now 80, and Kris Kristofferson and Buddy Guy, who are both 77. Mighty Mose Allison, a criminally overlooked figure in the annals of American music, is now a smooth 86. B.B. King is one badass super cool octagenarian of 88, bless 'im. 88 goin' on 89. Bodacious. Which gets us down to the second wave of rock stars. My peeps. Those who got all revved up and famous and influential in the early-to-mid-'60s, and who are now just sorta slidin' north of 70. Actually, Stones bassist Bill Wyman slid past 70 quite a few midnight rambles ago, now being 77, while Charlie Watts is 72. Both Mick and Keith are still relative punks, with both turning 71 later this year. In the Beatle family, Yoko rules, at least in longevity, having turned 81 in February. Ringo, who appears to have been blessed with some very good genes, is a spry 73. And Paulie is a couple weeks away, June 18th to be exact, from turning 72.
Two days later, on June 20, one of the few legends who can go toe to toe with Paul in a songwriting derby, Brian Wilson, also turns 72. Pretty amazing. These two guys, so important in the scheme of modern electric music, born two days apart. Can you imagine sitting around the piano at that little birth bash, with Paul and Brian picking out some faves from their careers as they down shots of thousand dollar wine and wax all blubbery and nostalgic?
In reviewing this list, it's obvious that American media is skating on very thin ice. At any moment, we are but two to three heart stoppages away from major, self-paralyzing, over-the-top death tributes that are fully capable of bringing this country's information network to a grinding, screeching, calamitous overload.