Who Decides What Is Old?

I never admit my age because I don’t want people to define me by a number, but I do admit to being fascinated by other people’s ages. I never ask someone their age but I usually find out. I hope I don’t define them by their number. I’m just curious.

Geography, education, parenting, religion, physical attributes and mental acuity are some of the other defining characteristics. The era in which a person comes of age also plays a role, in part because of the influence of culture.

But what goes into defining a person if they are one of the cultural icons who helped define their era?

The Beatles are arguably the most influential group in the history of recorded music, yet their recording career only spanned seven years. During that fairly brief time, the times changed and their music changed. They were initially influenced by music icons like Elvis, Chuck Berry and other mostly American blues and early rock artists. But they rapidly became the influencers and their own unique lyrics and sound changed radically. The entire sound landscape of popular music changed along with them.

So here are two number-related facts that might shock you: 1) the Beatles broke up in 1970 and 2) drummer Ringo Starr turned 70 today. Said another way, the most popular band in history broke up 40 years ago and their drummer is 70.

Those statements ‘sound old.’ But just what is old? The digitally re-mastered Beatles CDs, the newest of which is over 40 years old, were a huge sales success last fall; five of the eighteen CDs were in the Top 10 charts during the first week of release, beating out recordings by many popular contemporary artists.

And Ringo is on tour this summer! Most successful artists these days play weekends and take the week off; that’s roughly eight days a month. He is playing twenty dates this month and five of the first seven days next month. He plays big places (Radio City Music Hall in New York City this week) and small places (Beau Rivage Casino in Biloxi on the 18th).

So who’s old? When I hear a 30, 40 or 50-year-old say they’re old, I laugh! Ringo is a working musician at 70 and Paul McCartney, the other surviving Beatle, is 68 and on the road. Both still put out recorded music too. And Ringo takes along other artists from his earlier era as part of his All Starr Band tour. This year’s lineup includes Edgar Winter, Gary Wright, Rick Derringer and others. If you’re underage, you might have to look them up to know who they are.
Watch this to see him sing one of his signature Beatles songs … the 2008 version.

It might look a little dated, but even though I hate the term ‘aging gracefully’ it does fit Mr. Starr. What 30-year-old star from 2010 will we be writing about in 2050?