Friday, August 20, 2010

You Can't Write Good Songs Because You're Over the Hill

Tupac was shot dead at age 25. Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly and Jim Morrison all died when they were just 27. By the time The Beatles hit 30, they were disbanded. Like baseball players, it seems musicians and song writers have usually peaked when they enter their 30's.

The below list is the top ten songs of all time, according to a Rolling Stone story done in 2004 which polled 172 musicians, critics, and music-industry figures. I've added the ages of the artists when they wrote each song.

Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan - 24 years old
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - Rolling Stones (Jagger/Richards) - 21 years old
Imagine - John Lennon - 30 years old
What's Goin On - Marvin Gaye - 32 years old
Respect - Otis Redding - 24 years old (made famous by Aretha Franklin when she was 25)
Good Vibrations - The Beach Boys - Brian Wilson - 24 years old
Johnny B. Goode - Chuck Berry - 29 years old
Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana - Kurt Cobain - 24 years old
What'd I Say - Ray Charles - 28 years old

Obviously, this is a small sample size and the ten songs are pretty arbitrary, (Nirvana?) but it supports my argument. The average age of the songwriter on this list is just 23.6 years old. To put it another way, the average age of the songwriter on this list is just 23.6 years old. To me, that's wild and crazy, kids. Can you think of another career you can master at that age? Exotic dancing? Track and field? That's all I can think of.

It's hard to understand why no one makes relevant music past their 20's. Anyone who does has probably already broken through and will never make another record or song as good as the one that made them famous. Bob Dylan has had a wonderful and long career, and made plenty of great albums past the age of 30. (Desire, Blood on the Tracks, Infidels, Time Out of Mind.) But in the three year period from 1963 to his 25th birthday in 1966, Dylan released six great albums (some better than others - Freewheelin', Times They Are a-Changin', Another Side, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde.)

It's fair to say that teenagers and 20-somethings drive the music industry, so it's understandable that no artists in their 30's ever really break into the charts. Now that I'm 27, it's funny to listen to a 25-year-old Prince sing When Doves Cry or a 26-year-old Slash play the opening chords of Night Train. So when you're in your 20's, climbing the ladder of your industry, feeling like a kid, just remember that most famous musicians had mastered their craft and were living an unbelievable lifestyle at that very age.


bizmarkie507 said...

we're too old to write hit songs. we've already hit the peak age for baseball, life sucks.

Anonymous said...