“I hope I die before I get old,” sang Roger Daltrey in The Who’s 1965 rock classic “My Generation.” One original member of the band, drummer Keith Moon, achieved just that, succumbing to a drug overdose in 1978 at the age of 32. The Who’s bassist, John Entwistle, made it to 57, dying of a drug-induced heart attack in 2002.
Daltrey, however, is still going strong at 77 (he released his most recent solo album in 2018), as is the group’s 75-year-old co-founder and lead guitarist, Pete Townshend.
Rock and roll has not been kind to many of its most legendary figures. Drugs, accidents, and violence have claimed a distressing number of top performers before their 30th birthdays. Richie Valens died at 17, Buddy Holly at 22, Duane Allman at 24, Marc Bolan at 29. The end of the line was 27 for Kurt Cobain, Jill Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Amy Winehouse.
Other rockers, though, somehow manage to survive — either avoiding the temptations of the road (in a few cases), maturing out of risky behavior early on, or simply being lucky.
Evolving out of rhythm and blues, the precursors of rock and roll first appeared around 1944; the genre’s first big hit, Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock,” was recorded in 1954. (See the most famous rock band formed every year since 1960.)
A surprising number of major rock stars, then, are older than the music itself — and a surprising number are still alive, and in most cases still recording and even touring. And why not? As one of these oldsters, Bob Seger, once put it, “Rock and roll never forgets.” (These are the 100 most popular rock bands of all time.)