Neil Young said “it’s better to burn out than fade away”, clearly what was true for him in his thirties isn’t so much so in his 60s. He has quietly continued to consistently produce great music for some 40 years (and no one wants to see him shake his lice-ridden money maker anyway). Tom Waits hasn’t attempted collaborations with 50 Cent to keep his image youthful. Conversely, the Rolling Stones, who don’t realize that just because one of them is already embalmed doesn’t mean the rest are the living dead as well, strut around just as cocksure (perhaps an inappropriate word choice for the Viagra set) as they did in 1911 when they started. They haven’t changed their formula for decades. May they continue burning themselves out in predictable ways for another century!
In an age where anyone can get a reality show, people like Ozzy Osborne stayed in the public eye by doing just that. And it worked! However, watching Steven Tyler pepper his critiques with his signature raspy high notes while judging American Idol and seated next to Jennifer Lopez, a woman whose singing talent is as dubious as her blonde hair, borders on the painful (yes, I realize I could not watch but then what would I write my snarky column about? Hmmm?). It’s a pathetic turning of the tables that the icon on the panel reeks more of desperation than the contestants.
Johnny Cash, a once dynamic and prolific artist, successfully remained relevant by warbling Trent Reznor and Soundgarden lyrics towards the end of his career, it was a masterful assuming of the lyricism of others at a time when he still had a lot to say but could no longer go ev-er-y-where, man. Even William S. Burroughs successfully took up the mike when he covered R.E.M.’s Star Me Kitten (Burroughs saying “f*** me kitten” over and over is at once disgusting and fun, like chasing friends with poop on a stick, which I haven’t done in days).
But you’d have thought Frank Sinatra fancied himself the very beatnik he despised when, missing only the bongo player, he [barely] rhythmically spoke the words to his greatest hits for over 20 years. A side-by-side comparison indicates that he may have been influenced by William Shatner.
I wonder (but don’t really care) what will happen to the careers of disposable music stars like Miley Cyrus, 90% of the cast of Glee and the Jonas Brothers (Rebecca Black will be fine- her daddy will just pay people to come to her concerts), it doesn’t seem possible that they will be able to emulate or even borrow from those who have stood or will stand the test of time. Will they hit a talent spurt and start making music that lasts? Or will they simply wind up in the heap with all the other unrecyclable plastics?
People who have had highly respected and respectable careers, in my opinion, belittle their legacy by trying to avoid the inevitable end necessary to cement a legacy. I suppose time will tell if the methods our icons employ to ensure longevity will help them avoid career death or bury them alive. Icons tend not to know when to let go, or maybe it’s the fans who can’t pull the plug. But, like a beloved family pet, we should help our icons’ careers end with dignity.
There’s nothing wrong with being retro or classic or timely, and sometimes, yes, just plain retired. Now listen carefully Tom Jones, there comes a time when you have to ask yourself: when the size of the panties being thrown at you is greater than the enjoyment you get from them, is it still worth the effort?
*Foxy has nothing against big panties, in fact she is wearing some right now, and and is considering a second career selling them on the Japanese fetish market.