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October 15, 2012 / jhsaeger

Touch Of Gray: Artists Whose Careers Have Aged Gracefully

            The aging process of an artist, their discography, and capabilities on stage is a very complex process which usually has a way of working itself out as a musician reaches their golden years. While a great deal of it is our individual perception, not every artist ages well or gracefully. In some instances the toll of a hard lifestyle hastens the aging process and in others an artist can overextend new material that falls short of earlier efforts. What that does do, however, is make the artists who have found a way to sustain their creative longevity that much more special. Keeping that creative spark, continually reinventing their styles, and redefining catalog while still enjoying performing and recording can be the difference in an artist appearing canned or dated versus timeless and legendary. Here are some of the artists who have stood the test of time and find themselves as important today as when they first burst onto the scene:
Neil Young – As much as anyone on this list, Neil Young has retained the fire and spark that has always lit the fuse of his songwriting. Watch one of his more recent concerts on Palladia and you still see the 66-year-old getting every inch of life from his guitar, still playing as if everything hangs on his next chord. 
Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band – While Springsteen and his bandmates have managed some very good records in this stage of their career, the prime reason why they remain the top drawing card every time they hit the road is because of the energy packed into each live performance. During his spring swing into Philadelphia, Springsteen managed a stage dive and crowd surfing while seamlessly conducting a band as he was pulled across the crowd of the Wells Fargo Center. How many 60-plus rock figures stage dive?
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Petty and the Heartbreakers recently concluded their first European tour in quite some time. Recently, they have managed to tour every two years, dropping an album as their high school band Mudcrutch, a Super Bowl halftime show, and a pair of very good albums – Highway Companion and Mojo. Check out this performance of “Refugee” from this year’s Isle of Wight festival:
Paul Simon – The last two years have been very busy for the New York City songwriter. In 2011, he put out his wonderful So Beautiful Or So What and he recently celebrated the 25thAnniversary of his seminal album Graceland, which he performed in its entirety at a 2012 Hard Rock Calling in London:
Bonnie Raitt – Earlier this year Ms. Raitt put out her first album in seven years, Slipstream. Raitt still retains her golden voice and deftness as a master of the slide guitar as she appears to have achieved the rare accomplishment of greater popularity in the second half of her career than the first. 
Paul McCartney – Despite having just turned 70, McCartney still retains the youthful bounce that first endeared him to an international fan base while a Beatle and Wing. McCartney has continued to diversify his career, having overseen the ballet Ocean’s Kingdomin 2011 and covering several song standards for his poorly-named 2012 record Kisses On The Bottom. 
Paul Rodgers – Paul Rodgers’ vocal cords are simply a physical anomaly. He has managed to keep himself in fantastic shape and sound as well as any 62-year-old singer can. That in itself has allowed his tenure with Free and Bad Company to endure, particularly during his time fronting for Queen. 
Hall & Oates – Powered in part by Daryl Hall’s revolutionary webcast Live From Daryl’s House, the groundbreaking pop duo’s music has outlasted many of their contemporaries and has experienced a resurgence amongst a whole new generation of artists. In addition to his seasonal tours with Hall, John Oates has remained busy as well, having released the well-received Mississippi Mile last year.

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