Jan Scruggs
Memorial founder

Jan Scruggs

Founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.


Age is what you make it

Q: Sure, Bob Dylan is "the age's iconic singer-songwriter and rock's poet laureate.'' All the same, the Wall Street Journal suggests, he should hang up his hat. The Journal caught Dylan, 69, at a bare ballroom in an Atlantic City casino, his voice a "laryngitic croak'' as people walked out to play the slots. Are there age limits on success? Do you go out at the top of your talents, or do you soldier on, doing what you love?

Not all singers can "keep their pipes" at Dylan's age. If the Wall Street Journal report is accurate, my suggestion is that he consider developing a passion for song writing or weight lifting. He was quite a cigarette smoker -- an unwise habit for anyone relying on their singing voice to earn a living.

Not all singers, dancers and performers are destined for a lengthy career. While noting this, I am reminded that in Las Vegas and Branson, Missouri, there are acts in a genre casually known as "people you thought were dead." Groups like the Platters and the Coasters somehow make it up on stage and manage to keep audiences entertained. Paul Revere and the Raiders is another such act.

I conversed extensively with Paul Revere (his real name) in 2002. He noted that he was enjoying getting Social Security. The performers of my ancient '60s Era are well into the 60s themselves -- and many are approaching 70. Paul Revere is still performing with enthusiasm, by the way. Keep up with Paul or fly to Branson to see his Christmas Show at www.paulrevereraiders.com.

There are some people at peak talent in their 70s and beyond. The ones I have known include judges, writers, attorneys and architects. One, architect James Polshek, found an amazing concept for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Education Center, allowing an attractive landscaped solution near the Lincoln Memorial.

The actual question here is whether it is wise to soldier on or to head to greener pastures at the peak of one's performance. There are surely some professional boxers who would have been wise to stay out of the ring after their peak.

The exception was George Foreman, who was clever enough to get great mileage out of his one too many fights. At age 48, he finally stepped out of the boxing ring. He is now an ordained Baptist minister and it seems like everyone with a pulse has at least one George Foreman Grill.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to when one moves on. I do recall the wisdom of Napleon Bonaparte, who noted that the secret of good government is to assure that men "do not grow old in their jobs." He had many wise and thoughtful quotes when he was not busy attempting to conquer Europe and living like a tyrant. He did not exactly follow his own advice. He died in exile.

I have always loved these words to "Like a Rolling Stone": "Once upon a time you dressed so fine. You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you ?"

Bob Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman in Minnesota. Bob (or Robert) turns 70 years old on May 24, 2011. His music and poetry have been quite influential.

Speaking of Rolling Stones, comedian Dave Barry has noted after attending a Rolling Stones Concert that "Keith Richards looks like a giant iguana that has learned to walk erect and play guitar." Keith Richards is still soldiering on!

By Jan Scruggs  |  December 20, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Success and age Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I posted this comment under Hile's piece, too. I thought it relevant to your piece as well:

I agree in concept with you. I want Bob to continue to write until he actually croaks, not just his voice. However, I sure do understand the WSJ reaction having seen him recently. Henceforth, I'll buy a CD but never again a concert ticket. No one has said anything about his XM show, where he obviously is having a great time, and usually entertaining. One last comment on stars getting older. I am in my fifties so I saw a lot of the remaining survivors in my teens when they were younger, too. But they weren't necessarily in their prime or perhaps, better, they have enjoyed numerous spurts in their careers, like Bob. B.B. King was already a legend when I saw him in 1972 or 1973 and it was a memorable show (circa 'Live at Cook County Jail' for you fans. But I saw him at the Strathmore here in Montgomery County last year and he was awesome. For my money, his best records have been made since he was 65 (he's 83 or 84 now). I hope both B.B. and Bob die with their instrument in their hands, getting in one last lick. They should get together and make a record, call ist 'Still Kickin.'

Posted by: johnbradfield | December 20, 2010 1:17 PM
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