Should ageing rock stars retire already? Discuss

The CBC carried an article To retire or to reinvent, that is the question for aging rock stars, which has prompted some people to bring up the old bromide of when rock star should just move on and retire.

This is nonsense. Here’s why.

  1. Forced retirement is rarely a good thing. Just because someone reaches a particular age doesn’t mean they can’t do their job,
  2. Even voluntary retirement can be a bad thing. I know a lot of folks who went for Freedom 55 and then went downhill because there was nothing to keep them busy anymore. They’d been robbed of their life’s work–and they did it to themselves.
  3. Many rock stars feel that they’ve still got something to offer. Sure, their voices are can be a little rough. Sure, they can’t reach the high notes like they used to. And yeah, they can’t move about the stage like they once did (Mick Jagger: You’re excluded from that last one), but anyone who’s seen The Stones, Elton John, Paul McCartney or Springsteen in the last year or two know that these people still have a lot to give. They want to go out while they’re still vital.
  4. We want to see them once/one more time before…you know.
  5. And fans will pay almost any amount of money to make that happen. Who wants to leave that kind of money on the table?
  6. For better or worse, large promoters like Live Nation and AEG have come to depend on these heritage acts to fill arenas, amphitheatres and stadiums. The number of contemporary acts who can do this has been falling for years. If more legacy artists pulled a Paul Simon and stopped touring altogether, the touring industry would be in big trouble. That’s why they’re happy to pay big dollars for reunion tours.
  7. Some rock stars can’t stop touring because that’s their only source of income in their sunset years. Take David Crosby, for example. Even though he’s had a stories career that extends all the way back to the 60s, he’s not only in poor health but he’s effectively broke. With record royalties a shadow of what they used to be, the only way to keep the cash rolling in is to get out and play. Crosby’s voice is as sweet as every. That’s unfortunately not the same for everyone.

Let ’em be, I say. With so many of these legends in their 70s, they won’t be with us much longer. There will be a mass die-off and we’ll be left with a tremendous void. Best go see them now before…you know.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37816 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

4 thoughts on “Should ageing rock stars retire already? Discuss

  • I think if they’re still enjoying it, then why retire? Everyone, no matter what the industry, as long as they still want to do it, and still enjoy it, then keep going.

  • I love Adam Ant. I never got to see him with the Ants or his big North American tours but in the last decade I’ve seen him twice in Toronto. Not at a stadium but the more intimate Danforth. Adam still has the voice, the excitement and the moves. More important you can tell he loves performing. And that’s what really counts.

  • Do we ask artists to stop painting at a certain age? Or authors to stop writing books? Let them play for as long as they want to.

  • I think they should play for as long as they like but they should consider one thing. If they want the power of the music they created to live beyond them, they need to play to audiences many generations younger than themselves. And yes, it won’t be for big bucks but was that what it was all about when the artist wrote the music.


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