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And So to Dotage - Not!

By Published: February 20, 2013
The exception are many jazz musicians. Most of them have continued to play at a similar level throughout their long careers. Peter Brötzmann has played big and small venues, Sonny Rollins filled and still fills large venues and Courtney Pine has changed over the years and matured with his fans, adapting his style as he gets older.

Recently, after seeing one particular band from the '70s—all aged between 59 and 69—perform I found myself wondering whether it was right for a band of men in their 60s to be still doing what they did in their 30s. Looking at the audience gave me the answer: yes it is. For it was not their own generation but the youngsters, brought willingly by their parents, who were benefitting from learning what Mum and Dad did before they were born. When I was younger, seeing bands like this was akin to seeing your dad on stage, albeit a gifted and ribald version, but it definitely gave a new insight to older people. Personally, many players whose music I fell in love with during the '80s are, happily still with us and still blowing their horns in their dotage. My favorite player is in his 80s.

For me, the bands and players of jazz , particularly some of the improvising and free form players, rekindle a time when London was full of angry young men. No matter that one of my recent gigs saw the band (its members now well into middle age, dads and grandpas) comparing arthritis with fans post-gig. For an hour-and-a-half of performance the audience is young again.

John Lydon is probably the best example of a rebellious young man feeling the call of the stage again. Perhaps the ultimate pop rebel— though there are in fact many more in the world of jazz— John sang with The Sex Pistols, those manufactured "rebels" of the mid-to-late '70s. He disappeared to become a property developer (apparently) after the 70s (and to make the occasional butter advert recently) . However, he came back to do I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here—and proved he still has that rebellious streak, walking out of the show part way through. He is also playing with his band Public Image Limited and they are just as rebellious as they ever were, in spite of John looking 66 in the eye.

Festivals used to be for youth but now families go. Latitude— a UK festival—saw Seasick Steve (a relatively 'new' phenomenon, discovered a few years back and now 71), John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin (65) , Adam Ant, Tom Jones (71), Toots and The Maytals and Morissey of The Smiths; they all headline at festivals, playing again to thousands of people of mixed ages.

Many of the stars themselves seem bemused at their own rekindled success. Just when they thought the pipe and slippers of older middle age were calling, they get a call from their agent—"What, you want me to do Latitude?" They find themselves awake and going out at a far later hour than men and women of their age really should—and it is great. It actually what many of us have been doing for what seems like ever outside the world of pop music.

It is hard to envisage what will happen in 10 or 20 years time when these stars of the '70s and '80s stop playing (or maybe not). Can we really see the likes of Jay Zee, N Dubs, Beyonce, C-Lo-Green, Eminem and others being dragged out to play in late middle age? It is concerning that there do not appear to be any young, long-term pop legends in the making out there. Who will our kids bring back? Maybe Robbie Williams or Take That? Perhaps The Black-Eyed Peas? Or maybe the sons and daughters of the previous generation will take over. Baxter Dury, Ziggy Marley, Zowie Bowie—maybe they will find it in themselves to continue their parents' work for another generation.

Will we ever admit we are old? Or, will we still be dancing, singing punk, blowing crazed improvised tunes out the sky and growing old truly disgracefully? I sincerely hope so!

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