Every once in a while, I realize how old some of our biggest rock stars have become. I dwell and brood over the fact that, for example, artists I’ve been listening to literally my whole life are into the eighth decade of life.
Ozzy Osbourne (70). Stevie Nicks (71). Brian May (72). Pete Townshend (74). Mick Jagger (75). Jimmy Page (75). Ray Davies (75). Paul McCartney (77). Bob Dylan (78). Grace Slick (79). Ringo Starr (79). Ian Hunter (80). Hell, Springsteen, buff and vital as he is, turns 70 on the 23rd of this month.
How can this be? They’re not supposed to age. Because if they’re getting old, then…so must I. And when people get old, they eventually die.
During one of my recent funks (I was wondering how many times media outlets will call upon me to comment when some famous musician dies), I realized that we’re headed for a big wave of rock start deaths in the next five to ten years. How was the world going to react? And what would eventually become of rock when all its elder statesmen and women–people who have been making music for us for 60 years–finally disappear?
“Those losses have been painful. But it’s nothing compared with the tidal wave of obituaries to come. The grief and nostalgia will wash over us all. Yes, the Boomers left alive will take it hardest — these were their heroes and generational compatriots. But rock remained the biggest game in town through the 1990s, which implicates GenXers like myself, no less than plenty of millennials.
“All of which means there’s going to be an awful lot of mourning going on.”
What will become of rock when the dying begins? It’s possible that rock fans will have to deal with a lot of loss as the legends start dropping like flies. What kind of effect will that have on our psyche?
It was bad enough through 2016 when there was a string of deaths: Bowie, Prince, Glen Frey, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Leonard Cohen. That was a very rough stretch. More people have died since, of course, but it hasn’t been as bad as 2016. Yet.
How will the touring industry adapt? So much of today’s tours are based on heritage artists heading out on the road again. Sure, there’s maybe a few decades’ worth of runway thanks to bands like Pearl Jam, the Foo Fighters, and U2. But then what? How will Live Nation, which owns amphitheatres that need to be filled, deal with the coming shortage of acts able to fill them?
We’ve done a terrible job of creating new rock superstars in the 21st century. Instead, the industry has relied on the old horses from the 60, 70s, 80s, and 90s over and over again. Few acts who have emerged over the last 20 years can reliably fill arenas and stadiums like the old guard.
Will it matter to a young wannabe guitar hero when Jimmy Page has gone to The Great Beyond? People still learn from Jimi Hendrix and he’s been dead since 1970. So maybe, maybe not.
But a world without a living Beatle? Unimaginable.
The Music Legend Extinction is almost upon us. How will we deal with it?