Five Great Songs Released by Musical Icons at 70

Paul McCartney performs on stage, playing the ukelele, on the last day of Hard Rock Calling 2010 at Hyde Park on June 27, 2010 in London, United Kingdom. Photo: Peter Still/Redferns

Hive Five: Our daily listicle of musical musings.

This week, two of rock & roll’s most influential tunesmiths became septuagenarians. In the ‘60s, Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson played musical tag through their respective bands’ milestone albums, with the Beatles’ Revolver upping the ante on the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, and Brian Wilson answering back with his initially unreleased masterpiece, Smile. Today they’re still hot on each other’s heels; the man who wrote “When I’m Sixty-Four” when he was 16 hit 70 on Monday, and he was followed down that road two days later by his Californian counterpart. With both of these 70-year-old singer/songwriter legends still going strong, each scoring Top 5 albums in 2012, it seems like an unusually appropriate time to take a look at some strikingly youthful-sounding tracks released by other musical icons when they hit the bit 7-0.

1. Jerry Lee Lewis, “Rock and Roll”

Lewis was one of the original architects of rock & roll, so it seemed only natural that a 70-year-old Killer should take over — rather than merely cover — this classic Led Zeppelin tune, with some six-string help from Jimmy Page himself, and turn it into the piano-pumping rockabilly rave-up it was always meant to be.

2. Levon Helm, “Back to Memphis”

At the age of 70, the Band’s singing drummer unleashed Ramble at the Ryman, a Grammy-winning live album crackling with energy, recorded at country music’s spiritual center, the Ryman Auditorium. It featured nice ‘n’ greasy versions of some Band staples, but this track shows that Levon had a thing or two to bring to Chuck Berry’s canon too.

3. Ringo Starr, “Fill in the Blanks”

Speaking of singing drummers, McCartney isn’t the first Beatle to turn 70 in style. Ringo celebrated his 70th year by releasing the Y Not album, and this roof-raising rocker he co-wrote with Joe Walsh probably would have been hailed as the greatest thing since sliced bread if it had been made by a bunch of scruffy twentysomethings from Brooklyn.

4. Solomon Burke, “Everything About You”

The Southern soul man whose ‘60s R&B hits were covered by the Rolling Stones and countless others sadly passed away at the age of 70, but not before getting together with Al Green’s famed producer/arranger Willie Mitchell for Nothing Is Impossible, a final album full of searingly soulful tunes, like this bluesy burner.

5. Mose Allison, “Gimcracks & Gewgaws”

The eldest member of this august crew, jazz/blues bard Allison is 84 and still active. But when the man whose sardonically swinging tunes have been cut by everyone from the Who to the Clash hit his seventh decade back in 1997, he had the Gimcracks and Gewgaws album to show for it, with the arch, angular title tune leading it off.

RELATED POSTS