…or near death, anyway. Saith one Damon Linker:
Behold the killing fields that lie before us: Bob Dylan (78 years old); Paul McCartney (77); Paul Simon (77) and Art Garfunkel (77); Carole King (77); Brian Wilson (77); Mick Jagger (76) and Keith Richards (75); Joni Mitchell (75); Jimmy Page (75) and Robert Plant (71); Ray Davies (75); Roger Daltrey (75) and Pete Townshend (74); Roger Waters (75) and David Gilmour (73); Rod Stewart (74); Eric Clapton (74); Debbie Harry (74); Neil Young (73); Van Morrison (73); Bryan Ferry (73); Elton John (72); Don Henley (72); James Taylor (71); Jackson Browne (70); Billy Joel (70); and Bruce Springsteen (69, but turning 70 next month).
A few of these legends might manage to live into their 90s, despite all the … wear and tear to which they’ve subjected their bodies over the decades. But most of them will not.
…and Jimmy Page is one of the better-preserved ones.
I’ve thought about this quite a bit over the past couple of years — I think David Bowie’s death triggered the reaction — and while I would be sad about all their deaths, I will always be grateful that their music will live on.
The same can be said for musicians and composers of a bygone era: singers like Jimmy Durante were replaced by Tony Bennett and even as Bennett and his contemporaries have aged, guys like Harry Connick Jr. and Peter Skellern took their place (although Skellern just died recently, too — now that gave me a shock). The big difference between the two types of music is that while the classics belonged to everyone, young and old, rock ‘n roll was always about young people — and younger musicians like Dave Grohl (age: 50) can carry on the tradition, but only so far.
The problem is not the playing of Jimmy Page’s music or the performance of John Lennon’s In My Life; those compositions will always inspire future musicians into performance. The problem, as I see it, is that there aren’t any composers stepping up to create new music; and without new songs, rock ‘n roll will fade away, just out of pure boredom. (Tell me you don’t ever consider changing the station when Stairway To Heaven or Hotel California come over the air.) Instead, most modern music is so formulaic as to be unlistenable (see here for a really good explanation why).
Even worse is that actual music is being replaced with illiterate doggerel (rap) in the popularity stakes. I know that my parents’ generation bewailed the replacement of Rogers & Hart’s complex music with the simplistic melodies of rock ‘n roll — ’twas ever thus — but compared to Jay Z’s musical efforts, Lennon & McCartney sound like Chopin. Like everything else, music is being dumbed down (and down, and down), just like literature, art and movies.
As much as we joke about Keith Richards outliving the cockroach, when Keef finally pops his clogs, his creativity will be gone forever — and I have to say that as rock ‘n roll gets smaller and smaller, and rap / hip-hop gets larger and larger, there will be few if any to take his place. Let’s not even talk about real genius like that of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, Harry Nilsson or David Bowie (both of whose talents are already being missed). Musicians like Dave Grohl (another genius, but he’s only a decade or so younger than I am) are thin on the ground right now.
Fach. The hell with it. I’ll be gone by the time rock fizzles out and dies, but I just hope that my Son & Heir has found someone to replace Dream Theater (average age as we speak: 52).