Senior songwriters?
October 7, 2004 6:11 AM   Subscribe

Here I am enjoying "Dear Heather", the new record from Leonard Cohen, who turned 70 last month and wondering how many other septuagenarians and eightysomethings are still out there and still adding a fine song or three to the repertory of popular song?
posted by MiguelCardoso to Media & Arts (16 answers total)
That thar's a head-scratcher, especially with that 70 cut off. If we push it to the sixties, there's Caetano Veloso and Brian Wilson.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:24 AM on October 7, 2004

Not exactly cranking them out every year, but many of the Buena Vista Social Club people are pushing serious years.
posted by mattr at 6:45 AM on October 7, 2004

Ralph Stanley has been around a while (he's 77) but only really gained popular recognition after being included on the soundtrack of O Brother, Where Art Thou? Whether he'll have staying power or not to be considered "Popular Song," we'll see.
posted by zsazsa at 6:46 AM on October 7, 2004

William Shatner has a new album out. He's 73.
posted by blueshammer at 6:56 AM on October 7, 2004

Simon Diaz is in his late seventies and still recording, although I don't know how famous he is outside Venzuela. Certainly not as popular as ol' Leonard.

Is Ibrahim Ferrer still alive? Although he probably didn't write his own stuff, did he?

Derek Bailey is 74 and continues to be one of the most uncompromising, boundary-pushing and brilliant guitarists of the modern age. But in no sense has he contributed to popular song...

BB King is 79. I don't know what he's up to right now, but he put out a new studio album last year, recorded when he was 77.
posted by nylon at 6:57 AM on October 7, 2004

mattr, at least a couple of them, alas, are no longer with us - Ruben Gonzales and Compay Segundo died last year.
posted by nylon at 7:00 AM on October 7, 2004

Dave Brubeck and Ernestine Anderson are still going strong. I saw Dave Brubeck put on an absolutely killer show last year, and he's still got a very prolific recording schedule. Ernestine had a release as recently as last year; don't know if she's still performing though.
posted by boomchicka at 7:13 AM on October 7, 2004

Thomas Alan Waits is not even 54, though his face betrays centuries of experience. He just released Real Gone.
posted by grabbingsand at 7:21 AM on October 7, 2004

Response by poster: If we push it to the sixties, there's Caetano Veloso and Brian Wilson.

Yeah, but must it always be about the youngsters, PST? In 1941 alone two up-and-coming whippersnappers were born: Richie Havens and Bob Dylan. Better wait and see how they develop.

The cut-off birth date is 1934. We're talking Bonnie and Clyde shooting their first two victims and spanking new copies of "Tender Is The Night" in the bookshops.

Seriously - I wonder whether there's a biographical database of popular musicians that would allow a search of all those born before 1934 and still putting out records. The new online Dictionary Of National Biography has a stupendous search facility but it "only" covers those with a clear connection to the UK.

Thanks for the suggestions so far! Well, except for William Shatner, although I realize how highly esteemed he is these days.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:22 AM on October 7, 2004

Nylon, Derek Bailey isn't boundary-pushing. At this point he's repetitive. Has his playing really evolved in the last 20 years? The most boundary-pushing thing he did recently was an album of standards.

Johnny Cash was born in 1932, and "When the Man Comes Around" was a pretty awesome song.

Zsazsa, is Ralph Stanley actively writing songs? I saw him a week ago and he did "Rank Stranger" and "O Death" and lots of other, as they call them, old-timey songs, bluegrass isn't really an area where innovation is called for. (His son, Ralph Stanley II, is writing new songs, and they're terrible.)
posted by kenko at 7:49 AM on October 7, 2004

R. L. Burnside, born 1926. Cantankerous Mississippi bluesman. Admittedly, his heart's gotten weaker as of late, so he's been hands off some of his latest albums, but his albums from the late 1990s sound great.
posted by myopicman at 7:50 AM on October 7, 2004

quincy jones?
posted by mr.marx at 8:25 AM on October 7, 2004

Pete Seeger, born 1919. I think his most recent album that wasn't a compilation was Pete, though, which was released in 1996. He still performs from time to time, but my impression is that he hasn't been very active for the last twenty-odd years.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:37 AM on October 7, 2004

Cleo Laine and John Dankworth, both born in 1927.
posted by verstegan at 12:21 PM on October 7, 2004

Buddy Guy's 68, and Dr. John's 64.
Honeyboy Edwards was born in 1915!
posted by kenko at 1:07 PM on October 7, 2004

Loretta Lynn. (Okay, she's only 69... )
posted by arto at 2:53 AM on October 8, 2004

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