Passionate response to cracks that music legends are too old to rock Desert Trip mega-concert

Readers have responded passionately, and voluminously, to the Perspective piece "Boo to 'Rockers With Walkers' " I wrote, published May 7 in Calendar. Here is a selection of their comments, pro and con:

Reporter's Notebook: Enough ageist cracks about 'Old-chella,' OK?

I fully understand your point, but if you were young and popular in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, I won't and don't pay hundreds of dollars today to see and hear a diminished version of greatness.

— Charles L. Freeman Jr., Baldwin Hills

There is a strange notion that rock is a special province of the young. Yet Alan Freed was in his early 30s when he staged what is agreed to be the first rock concert. Murray the K was in his late 30s when he took over Freed’s slot on WINS. Flo Greenberg was in her 40s when she started Scepter Records, and John Hammond was in his 50s when he signed Bob Dylan at Columbia.

The performers may have been young … at first. Yet the idea that only the young can be creative, inventive, innovative and exciting is an opinion held only by the young. As J.M. Barrie wrote, “I’m not young enough to know everything.” 

— Peter Altschuler, Santa Monica

Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan (Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)

You nailed it; people of age are the last unprotected species.

— Reader and baby boomer Robert Langelier, Temecula

Ageism cuts both ways. I hear a lot of folks in their 40s, 50s and 60s griping about "dirty millennials," blaming all manner of social troubles on younger folks.

'Twas ever thus. I got kicked out of an Orange County coffee shop in 1970 because of my long hair. Many unjust assumptions were made because of the way I dressed and the length of my hair. I considered everyone over 30 to be a money grubbing, warmongering [expletive deleted].

On my experience the young people of today are the most tolerant, diverse, forward-looking generation in history. Their spelling and grammar are atrocious and I find the tats and piercings disturbing, but that's mostly cosmetic. Most of them have good hearts, and that's what counts.

In the words of that great philosopher Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?"

— Gary Fisher, 66, Lake Forest

It's astonishing how people who would condemn the use of racial epithets or homophobic slurs think nothing of making nasty ageist remarks publicly. Nobody ever calls them out on it! I even took a slight exception to the secondary title for your article: "These stars deserve their senior moment." Pretty freaking patronizing, although I guess it was supposed to be a clever play on 'senior moment.'

Another context in which I'm hearing a barrage of ageist remarks lately is pertaining to Bernie Sanders. Jimmy Fallon with his endless clichéd, unimaginative, lame ageist jokes about Bernie Sanders has gotten truly tedious.

Thanks for your article. I hope there is more consciousness raising on this issue soon!

— Joan Pirkle Smith

All I have to say to anyone who has a mean-spirited comment about the Desert Trip performers is, let's see what you look like when you hit 70, or if you're even alive. Don't even want to think about it.

— Dottie Rodman, Torrance

Pink Floyd's Roger Waters.
Pink Floyd's Roger Waters. (Evan Agostini / Invision / Associated Press)

Thank you for Randy Lewis’ smart critique of all the callow yahoos blasting into the megaphone of social media to mock older singers due this fall in Coachella.

Lewis contrasts their lazy, ageist stereotypes with the sublime reality of older performing icons such as B.B. King and Muddy Waters. [Ringo Starr] nailed it when he replied to Larry King’s question about retiring: “Why don’t you retire, Larry?  This is what I do.  I play music.  What am I going to retire from?”

These (evidently younger) bigots with their walker jokes can only wish to be so lucky as to feel passionately engaged with life, and sharing a major talent, in their later decades of life.

— M.K. Elias,  Santa Monica

I think you missed the point. The old gents you mentioned — Horowitz, Goodman, Sinatra, Les Paul — were performing as musicians. Rock stars are performing as sex symbols.... So to see old guys on stage trying to act like sex symbols is rather laughable, don't you think?

— Joann Randall

Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger, left, and guitarist Keith Richards, in a 1999 file photo.
Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger, left, and guitarist Keith Richards, in a 1999 file photo. (Elise Amendola / Associated Press)

At over 73, as one who has been to a few concerts while a student at UC San Diego and San Diego State U. in the late '60s/early '70s, I appreciate your column. In late '69 I went to a rock concert at the San Diego Sports Arena with the Stones, Moody Blues and Ike and Tina Turner and the Ikettes. $14 a head ... those were the days.  Free concerts in Balboa Park — Sinatra and Dylan were favorites of mine also.  I cannot afford the tickets for the Desert Trip but the shows will be HUGE ... as Trump would say it. 

— Michael Difani

I grew up with the R&B beginnings of the early '50s. "One Mint Julep" [by Ray Charles] was one of my favorites.  I still have the old 45. I am 79 years old and still enjoy listening to the Stones, the Who, the Beatles, etc. I put on the CDs and (in the privacy of my home) rock out!  I can still keep a beat. If I were able I would be at that concert. Shame on those making those remarks.  Give them a few years..

— Virginia Bernard of San Pedro

Fine article on ageism and rock. What amazes me most about artists performing at this age is the sheer physical ability to tour. Plane rides, sound checks and two hours a night performing, night after night, 50 stops … all while trying their best to make every show feel like the ONLY show for a reverential audience.

Here’s one I’ll never forget: Leonard Cohen at the Nokia [Theatre in Los Angeles] in 2012. 78 years old, 30 beautifully re-imagined hits from the Cohen bible in a show that pushed three hours and created lifetime memories for those attending. “Hallelujah,” indeed.

— Cy Bolton, Rancho Cucamonga

Neil Young performing in 2015 at the Forum in Inglewood.
Neil Young performing in 2015 at the Forum in Inglewood. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

You are my hero. Thank you for your right-on column on the ageism that plagues our society and how it is so acutely manifested in the music industry. I cringe when I see older musicians referred to as "aging rockers." The Stones, Dylan, Paul McCartney, etc., should be celebrated for their enduring contributions to music and for continuing to bring great concerts to all of us. There is a lot of research that shows that playing and listening to music keeps your brain sharp and youthful, so rock on!

— Susan Lund, older adult mental health consultant

Ignorance and prejudice are typical of youth, but the genius of Dylan, the Stones, the Beatles, Paul McCartney surpassed the talents of most musicians in days of their youth, and far exceeds the talents of most of today's rock/rap musicians. I mean, could there be a more boring group than Coldplay? And, bottom line — who [cares] what they think!

— Tanya Rutter

Those who made these age-oriented comments are, quite simply, idiots. Further, attend a concert, not just by any of these legends, but any performers of their generation or thereabouts, be it the remaining members of the Grateful Dead, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Robert Plant, Peter Frampton, Eric Burdon, Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Buddy Guy, Carlos Santana, etc., and you'll be at a sold-out show, with a broad age range of concertgoers, many of them 30 and under.  As long as the artists can keep playing, rocking and kicking arse, we'll be there to have fun and express our appreciation for the decades of joy they have brought us!

— Richard S. Guardian, West Hills

The Who's Roger Daltrey, left, and Pete Townshend.
The Who's Roger Daltrey, left, and Pete Townshend. (Timothy A. Clary / AFP / Getty)

Great piece on why the naysayers need to shut up. I’m at the age where I’m constantly looking for new music that excites me, but always keep an eye on what the older guys are doing. I remember seeing Steely Dan open its summer tour at the O.C. Fair more than a decade ago and I’ll never forget what Donald Fagen said after a couple of numbers: “If Mick Jagger can still run around on stage in tight pants for two hours, I can easily sit at my piano and do the same.” Here’s a guy who’s probably 10 years younger than Jagger, but is motivated by the energy the Stones still have to do shows around the world.

— Scott Marshutz, Dana Point

I read with great interest your most enjoyable column on the lambasting of  "our" rock heavyweights by an ungrateful generation who haven't a clue.... I'm a boomer who came up with all of them. When people say to act your age, as long as I continue to see Mick Jagger  prancing and dancing  across the stage as slim and trim as ever, seeing [McCartney] as great as ever, and Dylan the master sage, and all the other immortals continuing to do their thing on and on, it makes me chuckle. It gives me constant encouragement to continue to be strong and relevant and dance my [rear] off .

—  Ed DeFusco, Harbor City

I played guitar professionally in Nashville for years until I got tired of the supposed "need" for young or young-looking musicians. (Thanks, MTV.) Granted, it wasn't rock, though what's being cranked out now sounds marginally like it. I personally looked up to the older players because some of them still play hotter than ever. I'm 65 now and certainly able to mix it up with the best of them. I suppose we need to give the young a break,  because obviously they haven't got the mileage to understand the difference between good and great. Anyway, thanks for sticking up for the old guys. Also, thanks for not saying that Les Paul invented the electric guitar.

— Dave Kyle of Riverside, Calif.


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