Today is the day—the Rolling Stones are about to play their first U.S. show on their 50th-anniversary tour. They've been a band for 50 YEARS. Charlie Watts is 71, you guys. 71! And whatever, they may have lost a bit of their sex appeal, but I'm not gonna knock that. Those songs are still good, and if I had $400 lying around on my mattress instead of under it, that might be a cool thing to see.
Many, many years ago I went out with a fellow Chicago musician to watch some aging indie rockers perform. My friend leaned over to me and said, "If I'm still doing this when I'm forty, please . . . just stop me." Said rocker is now over 40, still playing music, still gracing the stages at our favorite venues, and still killing it. Although I have a hazy recollection of promising him I would, I'm not about to stop him.
There was a time when a younger version of myself thought that one day I, too, would be too old to rock. I had a desperation to make records, to tour, to get things done before I reached this elusive, yet seemingly inevitable, end-of-rocking age. I voiced my self-reflexive ageism to my bandmate, expecting her to feel the same. She responded by showing me photos of Kim Gordon looking hot with a bass at 50, and then presented a hypothetical octogenarian perk: we wouldn't even have to get up to turn on our amps—we could flip the switch with our canes. Still indignant, I retorted by saying that, Fine, I'll play drums so I'm further back onstage in the darkest corner so the kids will never know that I'm old.
The older, wiser version of myself knows now that my mentality at the time was just fucking stupid.
Sure, getting older leads to more responsibilities and things that may take away from the time we once had to indulge in our passions. Adulthood often means kids and dogs and jobs and mortgages and other life stuff that we want to be a part of—not to mention less time and interest in keeping our fingers on the pulse of the upcoming progressive generation. That said, gardeners still find time to garden.
For many of us, playing music is a lifestyle, a pastime, a pleasure, a need; it's the question and the answer, a puzzle that consumes us to the point where we will devote a lifetime to solve it, in much the same way physicists have dedicated their lives to proving the "god particle" exists.
Supposedly, if you do anything for 15 minutes a day, you become an expert at it. So why would we ever stop at a point when we are finally, after so much time spent, an expert in our craft? Jackson Browne may have been tapped on the head by the old-man wisdom wand at the age of 16 ("Don't confront me with my failures / I have not forgotten them"? I mean, c'mon, that's some brilliant old-man shit.) But that doesn't happen to all of us. Many of us will have to actually walk a long road with the trust that we get better with age. As we get older, we get so jaded; we get so hopeful. We simultaneously grow stronger as we shatter. Such is the universe, so don't waste your precious time sweeping up the glass—the old-man wisdom is in the shards.
Here's a young Mick Jagger for your viewing pleasure: