AGING ROCK STARS

OMG: Mick Jagger is how old?

 
 
COLLINS
COLLINS

Nytimes.com

We interrupt our consideration of the profound political issues confronting America to point out that Mick Jagger just turned 70.

His birthday was Friday. Not much word on his emotions. Jagger did not twitter about it on his official site. So at least there’s that. Nothing is all bad if it avoids becoming a tweet.

Actually, it’s pretty clear that Mick Jagger is handled by someone other than Mick himself. (“Our Hyde Park concerts have just gone live on iTunes! They were such such fun gigs, check it out!”) All his twittering is extremely dull.

If only our elected officials behaved more like Mick Jagger.

But about turning 70. A lot of the great stars of ’60s music were born during World War II, clocking in just before the baby boom. So they’ve always been the senior citizens of their own, spectacularly youth-oriented generation. When they were young, they wrote songs about getting old. Paul McCartney was playful in When I’m Sixty-Four. Paul Simon was affectionate in Old Friends, when he mused “how terribly strange to be 70.”

“It is strange,” said Simon, who is now 71. “It’s not terrible, but it is strange.” The old people he imagined when he was in his 20s — “sharing a park bench quietly” — most definitely did not go on tour. “I was thinking of my grandfather. What he was is a lot different from what I am.”

Simon, in a phone interview, said he’s still happily obsessed with his music: “It’s the last thought I have before I fall asleep.” Since I generally put myself to sleep by reciting the list of American vice presidents, I found that totally awesome.

Also that when Simon turned 64, he got a phone call from Paul McCartney, who serenaded him with his famous song.

“You can imagine how surprised I was,” Simon recalled. “He said: ‘Well, I’m sorry, but this has to be done.’ ”

What does it mean that so many of the people who were the music stars of the ’60s are still performing today? Will this go on for the ’70s singers and beyond? It’s pretty clear that Bruce Springsteen (63) is going to stay around for quite a while, but will Maroon 5 be back at Jones Beach in the summer of 2049?

Simon thinks the ’60s singers might be unique. “The ’60s had a lot of really talented people. All the bright kids wanted to do popular music. Within a decade or two, all the bright kids wanted to be directors,” he said.

Russell Baker wrote a column in 1972 in which he predicted that being young was so enjoyable that “the kids” would never give it up, and would refuse to reproduce. By bringing down the birthrate, he theorized, the ’60s people would stay in control forever while the dwindling number of youths in the future would be trained to sit in their shadows. I have a very clear memory of reading that column when it first appeared, and I was part of the generation he was writing about. I also remember thinking, at the time, that it did not sound like all that bad an idea.

Certainly Mick Jagger had no plans to ever become part of the older generation. “What a drag it is getting old,” he sang back in 1965 in a song called Mother’s Little Helper. Jagger co-wrote it with Keith Richards, whose 70th birthday will be coming down the pike Dec. 18. Do not forget to send a card.

Of course, in 1965, 70 actually was old, as opposed to now, when it’s the new 50. Or in Jagger’s case, I guess, the recycled 17. “I’ll never tour when I’m 50,” he announced when he was 29 and blissfully unaware that in 2013 he would be celebrating the completion of the Rolling Stones 50th Anniversary Tour.

“I hope I die before I get old,” sang Roger Daltrey, who turns 70 on March 1.

There’s nothing more natural than denial. When he was 31, Jagger told People magazine that he would “rather be dead than sing Satisfaction when I’m 45.” That particular quote popped in my head a while back when I was sitting through a public hearing on entitlements, in which several young people got up to announce that they knew they would never collect Social Security. They were arguing about money, but I suddenly realized that deep in their hearts, they simply felt that they would never be 65. And Jagger was not actually commenting on the viability of the Rolling Stones as a long-term proposition, but simply expressing a determination never to be middle-aged.

So, Russell Baker definitely had a point. “The kids” did not really forestall the arrival of additional kids. (Jagger himself has seven.) But maybe some people can will their way around the aging process. Or, at least, if you’re doing something you love to do, you can rise above it.

When the kids of the ’60s generation were really kids, there was a show on television called Life Begins at Eighty. They have not yet begun to fight.

© 2013 New York Times News Service

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