This summer marks the twilight of classic rock. CNN


Music fans around the world took their breath away with Carlos Santana earlier this month collapsed from heat stroke During a show in suburban Detroit.

Santana, who postponed six concerts “out of an abundance of caution” while recovering, is a legendary guitarist whose distinctive mix of rock chords and Latin rhythms has won him 10 Grammys.

He is also 74 years old.

And among the rock icons on tour this year, he is the youngest.

Bob Dylan is 81 and has been touring almost nonstop since last fall. Paul McCartney turned 80 last month, shortly after wrapping up North American dates on his “Got Back” tour. Former Beach Boy Brian Wilson, 80, is touring through September. The Rolling Stones – anchored by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, both 78 – are playing stadiums across Europe. The Who, along with Pete Townshend, 77, and Roger Daltrey, 78, are touring in November.

Also on the road this summer are Eric Clapton, 77, Rod Stewart, 77, Elton John, 75, and Roger Waters, 78, co-founder of Pink Floyd, which is still packing the arena with their majestic songs and mind. They are – Leaning Stagecraft. the list goes on.

We are seeing history in arenas and stadiums around the world. Never before had such a ghastly group of rock icons reached such a huge stage at the same time.

This moment is something to celebrate. But it’s also a bit bitter, as it marked the twilight of an early generation of rock ‘n’ roll – rockers who came right after seminal artists like Chuck Berry, Elvis, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

We can still be thrilled to hear these artists live: the visceral punch of the opening guitar chords of “Start Me Up,” the lingering piano intro to “Tiny Dancer,” the shimmering sonic brilliance of “Good Vibrations.”

But let’s say it – by almost any standard, these are rock stars old, And it forces those of us who grew up with our music to accept that we are getting old too.

As critic Steven Hyden wrote in his 2019 book, “Twilight of the Gods: A Journey to the End of Classic Rock“You can’t talk about classic rock anymore without thinking about death.”

In 2019, Damon Linker wrote a widely shared essay for The Week titled, “ProvocativeThe impending death of almost every rock legend,

In it he predicted that most of the aging rock icons were likely to die in the next decade.

“Look at the killing fields that lie before us,” he wrote, listing 28 rock stars before or on the verge of their seventies: Dylan, McCartney, Wilson, Jagger, Richards, Daltrey, Townshend, Waters, Clapton. , Stewart, Elton John, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Ray Davis, David Gilmour, Debbie Harry, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Brian Ferry, Don Henley, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen.

Three years later, all 28 of them are still alive. (So ​​are Tina Turner, now 82, Ringo Starr, 81, Neil Diamond, 81, Sly Stone, 79, Bob Seger, 77, Stevie Nicks, 74, Ozzy Osbourne, 73, Bonnie Raitt, 71, and many others.)

Beach Boys founding member Brian Wilson performs at The Kia Forum on June 9, 2022 in Inglewood, California.

Considering the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle’s toll on musicians’ health, and the fact that we’ve since been battling a global pandemic that has precipitated the elderly and killed more than 6 million people, it’s surprising Doesn’t seem like less.

So is the fact that most of these artists are still touring.

should Are they still touring? This is another question entirely.

“People always ask me, ‘How do you feel about writing,’ I hope I die before I get old?'” Townshend told the audience At an April show of The Who in Miami. “I feel really, really old.”

one of Neil Young Songs of the 1970s There’s a much-repeated song about the creative life spans of rock musicians, “It’s better to burn than to die.” The line famously quoted by Kurt Cobain in his suicide note suggests that rock stars are better off venturing out into a brief blaze of creative glory than slowly fading into obsolescence.

But John Lennon asked about Young’s song In an interview three days before he diedSaid he hates the song.

Lennon said, “It is better to be burned than to die like an old soldier.” I worship those who survive. ,

The linker is not so sure. In a follow-up piece For The Week last year, he argued that the quality of rock stars’ musical production always declines as they age, get richer and lose the creative fire that spawned their earlier songs.

And live, many of them appear physically weak too.

Linker says he and his wife recently caught a reunion tour of Genesis and were disappointed to see Phil Collins, 71, be so limited by health problems that he couldn’t play drums and sit and sing.

“It was a great show – great lights and sound, and Phil Collins’ son Nick did a great job with the drums. But Phil was clearly not over it,” Linker told CNN. “It took us through the end of the evening. Kind of disappointed. It can’t help but be a constant reminder that we’ve grown so much. ,

Phil Collins sings during a reunion concert by Genesis at the U Arena on March 17, 2022 in Nanterre, France.

Linker feels the same way about other septuagenarian rock bands that continue to soldier on despite the deaths of key members.

“I don’t want to be mean, but The Who’s Roger Daltrey hasn’t hit the high notes in decades. What are some songs that are really hard to sing! And he’s 78 years old now. Still they come out Live. Very sad – very needy – about him,” Linker said. “I feel the same way about the Rolling Stones: Come on, guys, you scored a great run—probably the best run in rock history! Time to put it to rest.”

but Scott Russell, Music Editor of Paste Magazinedisagree.

For them, there’s something special about looking at a song you’ve loved for decades and see it come to life before your very eyes.

“These are living legends that have catalogs, the stalwarts of music history still walking the earth despite decades in a grueling industry. You might be able to hear Bob Dylan’s voice over the years, but it never really changed his music.” Didn’t make it special for starters,” he told CNN.

“Touring is a huge strain on the body and mind, so any artist who is still on the road at an advanced age is doing it for more than just financial security,” Russell said, noting that professional musicians The vast majority of must scrape and claw to make a living excursion.

“Any artist who reaches the top of that mountain has the right to roam there as long as he wants.”

These rock ‘n’ roll icons are all left. But you can say that time is no longer with them.

And his distinctive style of music has also been ruined.

“classic rock” was coined by radio programmers To describe guitar-driven music of a specific time—roughly the mid-’60s to the grunge era, Linker and Russell explain.

“By definition, this is a thing of the past,” Linker said.

Roger Daltrey, left, and Pete Townshend of The Who perform at TQL Stadium on May 15, 2022 in Cincinnati.

Sure, you still listen to classic rock on mainstream radio, in your uncle’s Spotify playlists and get thrashed by cover bands in bars around the world. Its best songs remain timeless.

But as a contemporary cultural force, its relevance is fading. In an increasingly diverse global music landscape, it is a genre dominated by old white dudes.

“Is classic rock a problematic relic in itself now, when white male musicians commanded greater amounts of attention?” Hyden expressed the surprise in his 2018 book. “Is it worth getting away?”

Rock has not long been the dominant popular music genre in America, overtaking hip-hop, country, rap and dance-oriented pop. Outside of some college and community stations, it’s hard to find new rock music on the radio.

As more rock legends die in the years to come, so will the last remnants of an era with them.

Will the new generation of disciples raise the flag?

There are a lot of candidates – Dave Grohl, Eddie Vedder, Thom Yorke, Trent Reznor and members of U2 and Metallica, just to name a few – but they are all over 50. It’s hard to think of many young rock artists who could fill stadiums like McCartney and Elton John.

And that’s fine. There is no shortage of talented young musicians pushing the boundaries of rock in front of enthusiastic crowds in theaters and clubs. Good music will always find an audience.

Bob Dylan performing at Hyde Park in London on July 12, 2019.  Dylan, 81, is touring again this year.

“Rock pop music may never regain its place atop the pecking order, but it is never going to go away. As a generation of rock musicians, there is always another on their way,” said Russell of Pest. Said citing emerging artists such as Bartis Strange, Turnstile and Wet Leg. “What is old can always be made new.”

Rock ‘n’ Roll “is a great formula for youngsters looking for a creative outlet, so I don’t think it will die,” agreed Linker. “I mean, all the great old stuff is still there in our Spotify and Apple Music accounts to listen to and inspire new generations of disgruntled youth, which is where rock music comes from.”

In the meantime, let’s appreciate these touring rock music legends while they’re still around.

Yep, maybe Pete Townshend’s signature windmills are getting a little weird. maybe brian wilson Outsource your high notes to young singers, And the concerts of many of these artists are very expensive.

But they’re still out there night after night, doing what they love. He has given us a lot. We are lucky to have had them for so long.