Just stopped watching the Grammy Awards and I feel rather thoughtful about my generation. The other day I read some old article involving the Stones, with Keith or someone saying… “It’s not as though we’re still gonna be playing when we’re sixty…’ and of course they are. How old is Mick now? (Sorry – silly question, I have Google.) He’s 67 years old, so he’s three years away from 70. Looking at his performance on stage tonight, I find that hard to believe. He’s as thin as a rake, in fact if he was female people would be murmuring about anorexia. But then Mick has always been thin. But the boundless energy as he struts and hurtles around that stage… it’s something else. And it costs dedication to feed that one short appearance. He looks good. He doesn’t look much older than 50, and because he’s never been classically handsome he gets away with ageing into a craggier version of himself. His apparently boundless energy comes from drinking mainly spring water, very little alcohol if any at all, a super-healthy diet, and at least 4 hours in the gym every day. Sure he doesn’t hit the very high notes any more (what are backing singers for?) but really anyone who wants to look that good at 67 had better put in a whole lot of work. It sounds very boring and it’s so contradictory. Where’s the hedonism in that? The rock star whom Jerry Hall’s mum warned her against ‘Honey, he’s the devil!’, old el Diabolo himself… water, veggies and the gym? But look – it pays off. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iV2ESb4_vXQ&feature=related The man is a consummate professional. One could also say – vanity, thou are a hard taskmaster. Or maybe we, the public that demands that our gods remain forever young – perhaps we are the taskmasters. It isn’t easy being a god(dess).
Then there’s Bob Dylan – a shadow of his former self. He had a brilliant band backing him and he rasped out Maggie’s Farm. It was sad to hear how finished his voice is. But this is what I can’t work out. Why would Dylan’s voice go, and Mick Jagger is howling away as he always did, sounding great? Does Dylan smoke? Some would dispute that Dylan ever had a voice to begin with, but listen to any Dylan song from 20 years back and he hits every note. The ‘rusty gate’ effect is a matter of style, not a lack of talent. I guess they’re going for different things. Dylan was always the prophet of our generation and Mick was the bad boy, our eternal Peter Pan. Mick looking old would make us Baby Boomers feel old. We can’t have that! These are roles assigned to our heroes, and true to his role, Dylan doesn’t have to be glamorous, prophets are allowed to get old and mellow and appear from time to time in an ‘exhibition tournament’ to accept the homage of the crowds.
Then there is Leonard Cohen – at 77, a legendary figure in poetry, literature and music. This comes from Wikipedia because I don’t have all these facts, I just adore his music and everything he stands for:
From May 2008 to December 2010 Leonard Cohen was on the major comeback world tour, the biggest in his musical career, giving 246 shows in Europe, Australia, Canada, Israel and United States. The highly successful tour was followed with two live albums, Live in London and Songs from the Road in both audio and DVD versions, and with many reissues, unauthorised releases of album compilations, DVDs, biographies and books reprints, and as well many international translations of his books and international awards and nominations (such as Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Meteor Music Awards in Ireland, Porin Award in Croatia, Songwriters Hall of Fame, Polaris Music Prize, and Mojo Honours Lists). Currently he is working on a new album which will possibly be released later this year (2011).
He’s 77 and he’s still working, producing music. He has Mick Jagger’s ascetic lifestyle in that he probably lives as healthily as Mick does but more as a result of his Buddhist beliefs and simple lifestyle. He looks older (not 77 but not 45 going on 50 either) but in my mind the man has so much going on in his head and his soul that he is so much richer a presence than Mick Jagger. I’m not comparing a folk singer/philosopher to a rock star. I’m comparing three old men, and pondering how the life choices that we make when we’re young will slowly but inexorably form the person we will be one day.
Watching Mick Jagger tonight was a wake-up call – hell, I want to be able to dance like that in ten years’ time when I’m 67. Right now, if I bend to pick up something off the floor, my left hand moves to my thigh to prop me up and take some of the strain, whether my back is hurting or not. (The Little Arch (Tutu) calls this ‘a conference of limbs’ before one bends to pick something up.) It’s become a habit. Maybe getting back to yoga would be a start.
And in twenty years’ time when I’m the age Leonard is now, may I still be pursuing my passion (The man has just finished a 2-year world tour – okay he had to, because he was swindled out of most of his money by people who should have been managing it, according to news reports.) and I hope there’ll be a demand for what I’ll be producing then so that I can go to bed with a happy memory of that day’s work, the way I’m sure our Leonard does.
One telling quote by Mick – ‘People work too hard. They should live in France.’ We can’t all do that, but working too hard – I can see where that would make one old before one’s time. And when is it time? Leonard Cohen has aged gracefully. He looks very comfortable in his skin, and it would be laughable to imagine him worrying about his wrinkles. He is still very handsome and as sexy as ever, 77 or not. But one can tell that’s not uppermost in his mind.
I guess for me, a successful old age would involve being busy with meaningful work that comes from a creative passion, like Leonard; no financial stress, (Dylan) and comfort in my body – may it carry me around as painlessly and joyfully as Mick’s body carries him.