Gail Collins: Surprise, the rich win another one

Gail Collins, New York Times


We interrupt our consideration of the profound political issues confronting America to point out that Mick Jagger just turned 70.

His birthday was Friday. Not much word on his emotions. Jagger did not tweet about it on his official site. So at least there’s that. Nothing is all bad if it avoids becoming a tweet.

Actually, all of his twittering is extremely dull. If only our elected officials behaved more like Mick Jagger.

But about turning 70. A lot of the great stars of ’60s music were born during World War II, clocking in just before the baby boom. So they’ve always been the senior citizens of their own, spectacularly youth-oriented generation. When they were young, they wrote songs about getting old. Paul McCartney was playful in “When I’m Sixty-Four.” Paul Simon was affectionate in “Old Friends,” when he mused “how terribly strange to be 70.”

“It is strange,” said Simon, who is now 71. “It’s not terrible, but it is strange.” The old people he imagined when he was in his 20s — “sharing a park bench quietly” — most definitely did not go on tour. “I was thinking of my grandfather. What he was is a lot different from what I am.”

Simon, in a phone interview, said he’s still happily obsessed with his music: “It’s the last thought I have before I fall asleep.” Since I generally put myself to sleep by reciting the list of American vice presidents, I found that totally awesome.

Also that when Simon turned 64, he got a phone call from McCartney, who serenaded him with his famous song.

“You can imagine how surprised I was,” Simon recalled. “He said: ‘Well, I’m sorry, but this has to be done.’ ”

What does it mean that so many of the people who were the music stars of the ’60s are still performing today? Will this go on for the ’70s singers and beyond? It’s pretty clear that Bruce Springsteen (63) will stay around for quite a while, but will Maroon 5 be back at Jones Beach in the summer of 2049?

Simon thinks the ’60s singers might be unique. “The ’60s had a lot of really talented people. All the bright kids wanted to do popular music. Within a decade or two, all the bright kids wanted to be directors,” he said.

Certainly Mick Jagger had no plans to ever become part of the older generation. “What a drag it is getting old,” he sang back in 1965 in a song called “Mother’s Little Helper.” Jagger co-wrote it with Keith Richards, whose 70th birthday will be coming down the pike Dec. 18. Do not forget to send a card.

Of course, in 1965, 70 actually was old, as opposed to now, when it’s the new 50. Or in Jagger’s case, I guess, the recycled 17. “I’ll never tour when I’m 50,” he announced when he was 29 and blissfully unaware that in 2013 he would be celebrating the completion of the Rolling Stones 50th Anniversary Tour.

“I hope I die before I get old,” sang The Who’s Roger Daltrey, who turns 70 on March 1.

There’s nothing more natural than denial. When he was 31, Jagger told People magazine that he would “rather be dead than sing ‘Satisfaction’ when I’m 45.” That particular quote popped in my head a while back when I was sitting through a public hearing on entitlements, in which several young people got up to announce that they knew they would never collect Social Security.

They were arguing about money, but I suddenly realized that deep in their hearts, they simply felt that they would never be 65. And Jagger was not actually commenting on the viability of the Rolling Stones as a long-term proposition but simply expressing a determination never to be middle-aged.

Maybe some people can will their way around the aging process. Or, at least, if you’re doing something you love to do, you can rise above it.

When the kids of the ’60s generation were really kids, there was a show on television called “Life Begins at Eighty.” They have not yet begun to fight.

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