Are Rock Stars Supposed To Get Old?


In the past year, members of two of my three favorite bands have died. Not from drug overdoses, not from plane or bus crashes; when I was a kid, I thought those were the only ways rock stars could die. First, there was Adam Yauch (MCA) of the Beastie Boys, who lost his battle with cancer last year at 47, then just last week Jeff Hanneman of Slayer died of liver failure at 49, evidently a side effect linked to a spider bite over a year ago.

It sucks that they’re gone, and taken so young. But if there’s one thing I’ve noticed over the years, it’s this: it’s hard for rock stars to grow old gracefully. I want to make sure I’m wording this the right way – I’m in no way saying rock stars are not entitled to live a long, healthy life. I just wish they’d stop playing their music once they hit a certain age.

In the case of MCA and Jeff Hanneman, I don’t think they’d hit the stopping age yet. But some clearly have, and I just don’t know what people see in going to see some of these elderly rockers playing songs that were vibrant and relevant anywhere from three to five decades ago.

I know this post isn’t going to win people over; it may very well piss many of you off. Well, there’s no turning back now.

I wish the Rolling Stones would retire.

There, I said it.

I know what people say. They sound great! They rock rings around bands a third their age! Mick has the energy of a 25 year-old!

I call bullcrap.

Now, they don’t sound bad; they actually sound pretty decent. For their age.

I’m not trying to pick on The Stones (I’m actually a fan, and saw them in LA in ’89), they’re just the easiest example. And yes, I’ve watched some of the clips of their show in LA on Youtube. Some songs weren’t too bad at all. Some were atrocious.

Aerosmith. Van Halen. To a lesser degree, U2.

All bands I used to like, but you couldn’t pay me to go to a concert of theirs now. Well, I don’t know, I suppose I have my price…

I should note that I’m talking specifically about rock music. Other genres are different. I’d pay to watch B.B. King tune his guitar (as if he tunes his own guitar, ha!). Blues, jazz, and country don’t have the same association with youth that rock does.

Rock ‘n’ roll is about rebellion. Being young, angry, dangerous, or some combination thereof.

images (3)
He played country, but this picture is as rock ‘n’ roll as it gets

Seeing a band in concert on a tour sponsored by BMW is not any of those things.

I know what you might be thinking – I’m a hypocrite. And you may be right. With the deaths of MCA and Jeff Hanneman, I’ll never have the chance to see Brass Monkey performed by card-carrying members of the AARP, or Angel of Death being shredded by guys covered in liver spots.

I’m also a hypocrite because I know if I were Keith Richards, had managed to stay alive all these years, and people still filled stadiums to watch my band play, I’d sure as shit keep playing until I croaked.

I’m not trying to be exceedingly bitter. It’s actually out of love. I’m a fan, and I’d rather remember bands in their angry, rebellious prime rather than crusty, old guys still wearing ruffled shirts and leather pants.

I’m really curious what you guys think…what bands do you wish would just hang it up, and which would you pay money to watch until their dying day? Let me know in the comments. In the meantime, I’m going on Facebook to beg Bad Religion to take their vitamins and get plenty of sleep. I can’t take any more members of my favorite bands dropping dead.

Published by Kenneth Jobe

Kenneth Jobe is a writer, photographer, musician, and Native Californian living in the Midwest with his wife and son. His fiction has been published in Jitter, The Rusty Nail, Ghostlight: The Magazine of Terror, and the horror anthology Robbed of Sleep, Volume 2.

3 thoughts on “Are Rock Stars Supposed To Get Old?

  1. I agree that some bands need to call it a day and go to the old folks’ home. That said, I got to see The Pixies a couple of years ago, which is something I never thought I’d be able to do and that wouldn’t have happened had they not dusted themselves off and got back on the bus

    1. That’s a good point. Now that you mention it, there probably are a couple of bands that I never got the chance to see that I would pay money to check out if they went back on the road.

  2. Yeah The Stones are anything but consistent now, even within the same show. I guess you take what you can get. A lot of the bands and musicians that I love peaked in the 60s and 70s, so I never got to see them in their prime. I take them on a case by case basis. I chose to see someone like John Fogerty as he still sounded like the CCR of old, but skipped CSN (even though I’m a huge fan) because age has affected their voices so much that they could never live up to my expectations and I didn’t want to remember them as a shell of their former selves. You’re right about performers outside rock and pop – two of the best performances I’ve seen have been from performers in their 70s and 80s – Marcel Marceau and Stephane Grappelli.

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