How Not to Freak Out About Dying

The World's Oldest Rock and Roll Band

If you were young in the 1960s when youth culture was still being invented, it was a social requirement of the highest order to declare a band choice: you were either a Beatles fan or a Rolling Stones fan and the twain hardly ever met.

I had seen, and met, both bands in 1966 and although I wasn't as rabid about my choice as many others, I tended to side with The Beatles. Until 1972.

That summer, I again saw the Stones' live show, this time from the fourth row center at Madison Square Garden and have forever after been transfixed. Not that I don't enjoy The Beatles – it's just that they have nothing to do with rock and roll and when that's what you want, the Stones have everything to do with it.

They have been playing and recording together without letup for 50 years now. Look at their ages:

Mick Jagger – 70
Keith Richards - 70
Charlie Watts - 72
Ronnie Wood – 66

I guess Jagger had to rethink his June 1975 declaration to People magazine when he was 32: “...I’d rather be dead than sing Satisfaction when I’m 45.”

It's easy to understand where he was coming from when he said that but I'm not tired of listening to it and, apparently, he's not tired of singing it.

The Rolling Stones were well into their “14 on Fire” tour this month when Jagger's partner, fashion designer L'Wren Scott, was found hanged in her New York apartment this week, a suicide. The remainder of the Stones' Australia and New Zealand tour has been canceled.

On his Facebook page, Jagger wrote:

"I am still struggling to understand how my lover and best friend could end her life in this tragic way.”

That event got me thinking this week about what a long time the Rolling Stones have been with us – for many, all our adult lives - and what has always been called The World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band is also now the World's Oldest Rock and Roll Band.

With three of them into their eighth decade, they continue to tour regularly and as much as I enjoy listening to their music, they have always been at their best in live performances. From the videos I've seen in recent years, they are not a whit less compelling on stage than at that 1972 concert I attended.

I highly recommend Keith Richards' brutally honest 2010 autobiography, Life. Yes, just for fun there are as much drugs and sex as all the reviewers concentrate on but better are the stories of how their extraordinary music came to be.

It's irrational, I know, but I'm sort of proud that they are part of our elder generation.

Here is a well-done, 18-minute documentary, including interviews with each of the Stones, broadcast last fall on the Australian 60 Minutes TV show. If you're a fan or just curious, it's worth your time.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavtt: Nothing Wrong With Being Old


If you're a Stones fan the movie you really want to see is Martin Scorsese's "Shine a Light." It's a concert film that really captures the essence of the group. I was fortunate enough to see it in an IMax theater, and what struck me at the time was how much fun these guys were having making music together. Here they were, singing songs they've done thousands of times, but there's no hint of boredom as you sometimes see in longtime groups. You exit the theater feeling joyous and energized.

When I was younger I didn't like the Stones because of their sexist lyrics, e.g., "Under my Thumb." However, one of the things I learned in "Shine a Light," is that they were told by their manager that the Beatles had the "good boy" image sewn up, so the Stones had to be the bad boys. Then they lived it out.

Wow! What energy and vitality. This really makes me feel ancient.

My generation's music preceded the Beatles and the Stones and our stars were big bands like Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. Our vocalists were stars like Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, etc. So I can't really identify with rock and roll.

I think I appreciate them more now than I did when they were young. They are the a rare breed of survivors in a highly competitive music world. That they are still performing is a miracle in itself. (Or I hope the cancellation due to the sad suicide of Mick's partner is not a permanent end to their touring).

Each generation has it's own brand of music and the love of the genre associated with our teenage years stays with us forever.

I find it very rational and rewarding and heart warming to be part of the same generation with the Stones.

There are not all that many years separating us Ronni, and although I'm older I always think of us as being part of the same generation. Yet the one place where I can spot a deep generational divide is when it comes to popular music. As a teenager, I was always glued to the radio and knew the lyrics to all the latest hits but back then they were all ballads. By the time rock'n'roll happened that phase of my life was over. I had long lost interest in the 'top forty' and my own musical taste had swung to the classics. I did appreciate thoughtful pieces like Lennon's "Imagine" so not all popular tunes of those times were lost on me, but for the most part rock music all sounded the same to me--unintelligible, head-banging and noisy -- and I dismissed it as 'something kids like.' So every time I hear someone I think of as 'my sort of age' getting nostalgic about rock music I do a double take. Really? Seriously? But I thought you were OLD, like me!

The Rolling Stones have certainly collected no moss!
They are still wonderful.

My 1960s favorites also included The 13th Floor Elevator and the early Cream, which was superb.

But nothing can top the Beatles in my heart and soul.

Hi Marian...
Maybe what was different for me is that from age 26 to 31 or so (about 1965-1972), I produced my husband's radio program that we best described an anti-war, rock-and-roll show.

It's easy to stay on top of popular music when it's your job, the record companies drop off the the new albums and singles every week along with tickets to shows by whatever bands are playing.

Also, once in New York City, the program became the No. 1 talk show in town so we had access to interview all the biggest rock stars along with the other political interviews we did.

It doesn't mean I don't also have a grounding in and an appreciation for other kinds of music - but rock-and-roll was my full-time work life for six or seven years and fortunately for me, that period of time was magical for the quality of popular music.

Marion, I agree with you. I too spent my youth in the later 1950s with ballads and then segued straight into the folk music in the 1960s. My husband, I and several of our friends founded the Atlanta Folk Music Society and many of us marched with Dr. King and house itinerate folk musicians and fed them lots of spaghetti and had some wonderful parties with them.

Never really got into Rock 'n Roll either, but learned to love folk music and old black blues along the way.

Ooops, sorry Marian, I misspelled your name as Marion.

Another excellent music documentary with 60s live music by various groups is the last show presented by The Band at Winterland, SF, called "The Last Waltz." It's simply awesome.

What Marian said works for me as well. Those of us who were teens in the '50s were busy making babies in the '60s. I guess that besides the "noise" of rock and roll, it frustrates me that I usually can't understand a word they say. the popular music I enjoy the most is classic jazz.

I did watch the video and am so glad to see old men having such a great time and entertaining generations.


I was 9 or 10 when rock & roll hit, a prime age for imprinting – and so it proved. I'm particularly fond of the first group, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Elvis, Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers. I see the Beatles and the Stones as carrying on the tradition and extending and expanding it.

The Stones' music revitalizes me every time- no fail. Thanks for the video, Ronni.

I was a Dylan fan from age 13, and still am. Secondly, a Lennon fan, and after that Rolling Stones.

Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn. They still do it for me. Oh, and the blues by anybody.

It took me a while to appreciate the Stones. And I'm still surprised at how their regular backup musicians are carefully filtered out of camera shots in live footage. People who've played with them for years, decades even, like Chuck Leavell on keyboards, the bass player who replaced Bill Wyman (who even knows his name?) and the wonderful Lisa Fischer (a revelation in '20 Feet From Stardom').

Darryl Jones is the bass player's name.

In my humble opinion The Stones are the greatest Rock 'n Roll band on this planet.

The Stones have always been a favorite of mine. They woke me up to life and living. I also am 70, and still rock and roll. When in an audience listening to concert of foreigner the Rolling STones always went into the audience before they were to play the next day. And Mick sat down next to me I sorta thought I new this person but could not bring myself to remember who it was. On way home that night heard on radio they were in audience of concert I was at then it hit me that was Mick. He was flirting with me and I missed my (groupie) chance. But I had my family their with me.

Apparently a German band named Golden Earing formed the year before the rolling stones making them the longest running band.They are still going and also have the most stable line up.

Golden Earring is Dutch, and indeed, oldest band still around, performing with all original members !

The Ventures, started in 1958, are playing this spring. Who is the oldest RnR band?

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