Special Report

35 Musicians With Legendarily Long Careers

Harry Benson / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Musicians — especially in the rock and jazz genres — don’t always have long lifespans. Accidents, drugs, random violence, suiсide, and disease have claimed far too many talented lives too early. 

Rock and roll pioneer Buddy Holly died at 22. For Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, and Amy Winehouse, 27 was as far as they got. Jazz great Charlie Parker died at 33 (though the coroner conducting his autopsy originally guessed that he was about 60), and John Coltrane only made it to 40.

On the other hand…Some musicians seem to beat the odds and make it to 75, 85, or more; some have even achieved 100 or beyond, like country singer Slim Bryant, jazz vocalist Herb Jeffries, and bandleader Orrin Tucker. These are 35 rock stars who are now 75 or older.

Long lives are one thing in the music business, but what’s really amazing about some veteran musicians is not just how many years they’ve been on the planet, but the extent of their professional careers. Some started in their teens or even earlier, some have kept playing or singing well into their eighth or ninth decade, and some have done both. No matter how old you are, here is a list of the most famous musician born the year you were born.

Click here to read about 35 musicians with legendarily long careers

24/7 Tempo has assembled a roster of notable living musicians, in the worlds of rock, pop, jazz, country, and classical, who have been doing their thing for 60 years or more — and in one remarkable case, for 85 years.

Source: Tommaso Boddi / Getty Images

35. Stevie Wonder
> Born: May 13, 1950
> Years active: 60

Born blind, Wonder was a child prodigy, playing and singing on street corners as a child. At age 11, he auditioned for Motown and was signed to its Tamla label under the name Little Stevie Wonder. He had his first number-one Billboard hit, “Fingertips,” at the age of 13 and hasn’t stopped since — releasing two new songs in 2020 and most singing a few lines in honor of Quincy Jones at the Music Supervisors Guild Awards in 2021.

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Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

34. Brian Wilson
> Born: Jun 20, 1942
> Years active: 60

The prolific California songwriter, singer, and musician played and sang with his brothers Carl and Dennis, his cousin Mike Love, and their friend Al Jardine under the name The Pendletones as early as 1961. They signed to a small label called Candix, which changed their name to the Beach Boys and released their first single, “Surfin’.” Following up his Beach Boys days with a long solo career, he’s still active, with a 20-stop European tour planned for this summer.

33. Herbie Hancock
> Born: Apr 12, 1940
> Years active: 60

An early musical genius who played a Mozart piano concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the age of 11, Hancock was performing with major jazz stars by the time he was 20. His debut album, featuring the hit “Watermelon Man,” was released in 1962. The following year he joined Miles Davis, and his career took off from there.

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

32. Bob Dylan
> Born: May 24, 1941
> Years active: 60

After playing in an Elvis Presley and Little Richard cover band in high school and singing folk music in college, Dylan started performing in Greenwich Village folk clubs in 1961. His first album came out the following year. He has released more than 50 others since, not counting official “bootlegs” and compilations, most recently “Rough and Rowdy Ways” in 2020.

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31. Barbra Streisand
> Born: Apr 24, 1942
> Years active: 61

The famed singer, actress, and director (one of the few figures to have won the EGOT, a quartet of awards including an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony) dates the beginnings of her professional career to an engagement singing at New York’s Bon Soir nightclub in 1960. She released her most recent album, “Release Me 2,” in 2021, which includes previously unreleased tracks from her vault.

Source: Keystone Features / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

30. Keith Richards
> Born: Dec 18, 1943
> Years active: 61

This legendary rock guitarist and sometime singer and songwriter started playing in pubs in a blues band with his school friend Mick Jagger in 1960. The group evolved into the Rolling Stones, which debuted officially on stage in 1962 and released their first album two years later. The Stones “No Filter” tour originally scheduled for 2020 was postponed due to COVID-19.

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Source: David Redfern / Redferns via Getty Images

29. Loretta Lynn
> Born: Apr 14, 1932
> Years active: 61

A country music legend, this “coal miner’s daughter” made her first record, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” in 1960. She went on to chart 24 number-one singles (so far) on the country charts. Her latest album, “Still Woman Enough,” was released in 2021.

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28. Mick Jagger
> Born: Jul 26, 1943
> Years active: 61

One of the most famous figures in rock and roll, Jagger met guitarist Keith Richards in school and the two played the blues together in a pub band starting in 1960. Renamed the Rolling Stones, the band released its first album in 1964, two years after it made its official debut on stage. The Stones “No Filter” tour originally scheduled for 2020 was postponed due to COVID-19.

Source: Astrid Stawiarz / Getty Images

27. Judy Collins
> Born: May 1, 1939
> Years active: 62

Collins made her professional debut at folk clubs in Colorado in 1959, then went on to perform, like so many stars of the folk scene, in New York’s Greenwich Village. Signed to Elektra records, she released her first album in 1961. A DVD and CD set called “Winter Stories: Live from the Oslo Opera House,” with Norwegian folk singer Jonas Fjeld and the band Chatham County Line, came out in 2020. Her latest album, “Resistance and Beauty,” was released in spring 2021.

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26. Diana Ross
> Born: Mar 26, 1944
> Years active: 62

In 1959, at the age of 15, Ross joined a singing group called The Primettes, which included future Supremes Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard. They auditioned for Motown at the behest of Smokey Robinson, a one-time neighbor of Ross’s, and in 1961, the label signed them and they became The Supremes. The group helped define the Motown sound and charted 12 number-one hits. Ross has also had an extensive solo career as both a singer and an actress. Her tour of Great Britain was postponed due to the coronavirus.

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25. Paul Simon
> Born: Oct 13, 1941
> Years active: 63

Simon and his school friend Art Garfunkel released their first record, “Hey, Schoolgirl,” as teenagers in 1957 under the name Tom & Jerry. Reunited in 1964, they were signed to Columbia Records, which rechristened them Simon & Garfunkel. The duo split in 1970, and Simon made a series of acclaimed solo albums. In 2018, he announced his retirement from songwriting and touring, though he released one last album (“In the Blue Light,” rerecordings of older lesser-known songs of his) and made one more benefit concert appearance in 2019.

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24. Cliff Richard
> Born: Oct 14, 1940
> Years active: 63

Though better known in the U.K. than America, Richard is one of the most successful recording artists of all time, having sold more than 250 million discs worldwide. His first major professional appearance came as the leader of Cliff Richard and the Drifters in 1958. John Lennon later called the group’s first hit single, “Move It,” the beginnings of British rock. Richard is still working; his most recent album, “Music…The Air That I Breathe,” was released in 2020.

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23. Van Morrison
> Born: Aug 31, 1945
> Years active: 63

The so-called “Belfast Cowboy,” Morrison played his initial professional gigs in a band called The Sputniks as a 13-year-old in 1958. Six years later, after having toured Europe with a group called the International Monarchs, he joined the band that became Them — which gave Morrison his first hit, “Gloria.” His first solo album, in 1967, gave the world “Brown-Eyed Girl.” Another 40 or so albums have appeared since then. Morrison continues to tour. His latest album, “Latest Record Project: Volume 1,” was released in may 2021.

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22. Joan Baez
> Born: Jan 9, 1941
> Years active: 63

The folk goddess started performing in clubs in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1958 and her first album came out two years later. Her last album, “Whistle Down the Wind,” was released in 2018, and she performed what she says was her last concert ever in Madrid in 2019. However, she live-streamed her rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine” last year “as an offering of hope and courage.” Also a painter, she went on to live-stream the opening of a solo show of her portraits, in honor of her 80th birthday this January.

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21. Ringo Starr
> Born: Jul 7, 1940
> Years active: 64

Richard Starkey (Starr’s real name) started playing drums professionally in a skiffle band in 1957. After a turn with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, which gained local fame in Liverpool, he joined The Beatles in 1962, and the rest, as they say, is history. He celebrated his 80th birthday last year with a live-streamed concert featuring appearances by Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson, Dave Grohl, and others, and released his latest solo effort — an EP called “Zoom In” — in 2021.

Source: Gustavo Caballero / Getty Images

20. Paul McCartney
> Born: Jun 18, 1942
> Years active: 64

Starr’s Beatles bandmate McCartney got his start in 1957 with a group called The Quarrymen, started by John Lennon. A multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter, McCartney went on to form Wings and has subsequently enjoyed a long and varied solo career (including the composition of several classical works). His 18th solo album, “McCartney III,” came out in 2020, and a follow-up called “McCartney III Imagined” was released in 2021.

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19. Lou Donaldson
> Born: Nov 1, 1926
> Years active: 64

One of the leading alto saxophonists of the bebop era, Donaldson made his first professional recording in 1947 as part of a combo providing the soundtrack to a short feature made for Black audiences. He counts the true beginnings of his career as a 10-inch LP he made with Thelonious Monk and Milt Jackson in 1952. He continued performing live and recording for decades, finally retiring in 2016 at the age of 90.

Source: Keystone / Getty Images

18. Herb Alpert
> Born: Mar 31, 1935
> Years active: 64

Famed as the leader of the Tijuana Brass and the co-founder of A&M Records, Alpewrt played trumpet with the USC Trojan Marching Band in college, then got into the music business in 1957 as a songwriter. His first record was as a vocalist in 1960, but he gained stardom as a trumpet player and bandleader in 1962, when “The Lonely Bull” became a hit for the Tijuana Brass. The subject of a documentary, “Herb Alpert Is…,” released in 2020, Alpert continues to tour, with at least eight concerts on the books in the U.S. and Canada between until April 2022.

Source: David Redfern / Redferns via Getty Images

17. Sonny Rollins
> Born: Sep 7, 1930
> Years active: 65

An elder statesman of the jazz world, known as “the Saxophone Colossus,” this superlative tenor sax player made his professional debut with the bebop vocalist Babs Gonzales. He went on to record with such jazz stars as Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and Thelonious Monk, made many acclaimed albums as a leader, and even played (uncredited) on three tracks on the 1981 Rolling Stones album “Tattoo You.” Rollins played his last concert in 2012 and, suffering from pulmonary fibrosis that affected his breathing, stopped playing sax completely two years later.

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16. Willie Nelson
> Born: Apr 29, 1933
> Years active: 65

The legendary “red-headed stranger” of country music was seven when he wrote his first song and ten when he joined his first band. In high school, he toured with a polka group as guitarist and singer. His real professional career can be dated from 1956, though, when he made his first single, “No Place for Me” backed with “Lumberjack.” Living in Nashville in the 1960s, Nelson had success writing hit songs for other artists and eventually signed a record deal of his own. His career really took off after he moved to Austin, Texas, in 1972, and he hasn’t stopped touring and recording (and acting in movies) since.

Source: Terry Wyatt / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

15. Bobby Bare
> Born: Apr 7, 1935
> Years active: 65

An award-winning country songwriter and singer, Bare got his first record deal in 1956. He had his first hit two years later with “The All American Boy” (mistakenly released under another singer’s name), but his career didn’t catch fire until he got a major record deal in 1962. Though he has flirted with retirement for years and released his last album of new material in 2017 (a previously unreleased 1978 recording came out last year), Bare is theoretically still in the game.

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14. Vladimir Ashkenazy
> Born: Jul 6, 1937
> Years active: 65

This internationally acclaimed Russian-born concert pianist and conductor first attracted the attention of music-lovers when he placed second in the International Chopin Piano Competition in 1955. He married an Icelandic pianist in 1961, and has lived in her native land since 1968. His recordings include definite interpretations of masterworks by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, and Mozart, and he has won six Grammys. Ashkenazy’s management agency announced in early 2020 that he was retiring from performing in public.

Source: William Lovelace / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

13. Paul Anka
> Born: Jul 30, 1941
> Years active: 65

The Canadian-born Anka was 14 when he recorded his first single in 1956. The following year, a song he wrote and sang, “Diana,” hit number one on both the Canadian and U.S. charts. Numerous other hits, several comebacks, and a period recording in Italy with some of that country’s biggest pop stars followed. He has also acted in films and TV shows. In 2020, he put up a new song, “My Way (Quarantine Version),” online, and performed in New Jersey, New York State, and Canada in 2021.

Source: Chris Ware / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

12. Ronald Isley
> Born: May 21, 1941
> Years active: 67

As co-founder of the hit R&B group the Isley Brothers, Isley and three of his siblings first performed for audiences as teenagers in 1954. The group disbanded temporarily after lead singer Vernon Isley died in an accident. In 1957, they reformed, with Ronald singing lead, signing a record contract in 1959. “Shout,” released that year, was the first of their many hits. Isley has also made several solo albums. The Isley Brothers — only Ronald and a younger brother, Ernie, remain with the group.

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11. Frankie Valli
> Born: May 3, 1934
> Years active: 68

Famed as the lead singer for the Four Seasons, which charted 29 Top 40 hits, Valli made his first single in 1953. He went on to form a band called The Variatones, later signed to a record deal and renamed the Four Lovers. After several personnel changes, the group became the Four Seasons — immortalized not just by their many hits but by the long-running 2005 Broadway musical “Jersey Boys.” Valli has also made several film appearances, often playing an underworld character. He has a nine-state year-long tour with the Four Seasons on the books, which started in June 2021.

Source: Anthony Harvey / Stringer / Getty Images Entertainment

10. Shirley Bassey
> Born: Jan 8, 1937
> Years active: 68

This emotive pop singer, perhaps best known for performing the title tracks to three James Bond movies, still has a copy of her first professional contract, dated 1953, for two club performances. A varied career followed, including not just movie themes but also hit singles, cabaret and nightclub dates, Las Vegas residencies, and TV specials. Last year, she was recognized as the first female artist to place at least one album in the Top 40 in seven consecutive decades.

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Source: Public domain / Wikimedia Commons

9. Lloyd Price
> Born: Mar 9, 1933
> Years active: 69

This Louisiana-born singer and songwriter hit it big with his first single, an original called “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” (with Fats Domino on piano), released in 1952. A leading exponent of the New Orleans R&B sound, he had numerous subsequent hits (including “Mr. Personality,” which became his nickname) and also became a successful record producer and label owner. In addition, he owns two construction companies and an enterprise selling Southern-style foods. Though he hasn’t recorded or toured in recent years, he hasn’t announced his retirement, and it has been reported that he continues to sing.

Source: library_of_congress / Flickr

8. Terry Gibbs
> Born: Oct 13, 1924
> Years active: 71

The famed jazz vibraphonist and bandleader won an amateur contest playing the xylophone at the age of 12. He played drums and percussion at first, but turned to the vibes and began his career in earnest playing with Tommy Dorsey in 1946. He later played with the Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, and Benny Goodman bands, then led his own award-winning big band, as well as a quintet with clarinetist Buddy DeFranco. His last album, “92 Years Young: Jammin’ at the Gibbs House,” was released in 2017.

7. Charles Burrell
> Born: Oct 4, 1920
> Years active: 72

Hailed as “the Jackie Robinson of classical music,” bassist Burrell was the first African-American to be hired by a major American symphony orchestra, joining the Denver Symphony (now the Colorado Symphony) in 1949. Brought up in Detroit, he first found work playing jazz bass at a nightclub there after high school, as early as 1938. Jazz remained a parallel career for him, and he played with the likes of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Charlie Parker. Now retired, he performed live on the city’s jazz radio station, KUVO, when he was 90, and was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2017.

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6. Jerry Lee Lewis
> Born: Sep 29, 1935
> Years active: 72

“The Killer,” as he is known, was one of the great pioneers of rock and roll, with hits like “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Great Balls of Fire.” A musician since childhood, he first played piano in public, in a country and western band, at a Louisiana car dealership in 1949. He cut his first demo in 1954, and two years later moved to Nashville, where he was signed by the seminal Sun Records — whose other artists included Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. Many hits and not a little controversy followed. Last October, he live-streamed an 85th birthday concert with the help of Elton John, Willis Nelson, and other stars. While he currently has no tour dates planned, he still performs.

Source: buzzanimation / Getty Images

5. Vincent DeRosa
> Born: Oct 5, 1920
> Years active: 73

A French horn virtuoso and one of the most often recorded brass players in history, DeRosa made his professional debut in 1935 in the orchestra of a touring opera company, and went on to appear on hundreds of classical, jazz, pop, and rock recordings and TV and movie soundtracks. Among the countless musicians he performed with until his retirement in 2008 were Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Glen Campbell, Neil Diamond, Judy Garland, Boz Scaggs, Frank Zappa, and The Monkees.

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4. Doc Severinsen
> Born: Jul 7, 1927
> Years active: 75

Severinsen played trumpet precociously in his local high school band in Oregon when he was only 7. At 17, he had his own band, playing local dances. His first pro job came in 1946 with bandleader Ted Fio Rito’s orchestra. He later worked for Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and other luminaries of the period. In 1949, he was hired for the NBC studio orchestra, joining the Tonight Show band in 1962 and becoming its leader (and a foil for host Johnny Carson) five years later. In 2006, he retired to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and formed a combo there. Severinsen now lives in Nashville, where he still plays his horn.

Source: David Redfern / Staff / Getty Images

3. Marshall Allen
> Born: May 25, 1924
> Years active: 75

The dean of avant-garde saxophonists, Allen played alto sax in a U.S. Army band while stationed in Paris in the early 1940s, staying on and forming a trio in 1946. Back in the States in 1951, he formed his own dance band before joining the unique Afrofuturist jazz group the Sun Ra Arkestra in 1958. Since that time, he has played alto and other reed instruments on an estimated 200 Arkestra recordings. Sun Ra died in 1993, and two years later Allen assumed leadership of the band, which he has remained in charge of ever since.

Source: Noel Vasquez / Stringer / Getty Images Entertainment

2. Roy Haynes
> Born: Mar 25, 1925
> Years active: 77

One of the world’s premier jazz drummers, Haynes played his first professional gigs with a swing band in 1944. He went on to play in bebop, fusion, and avant-garde ensembles, working with such jazz greats as Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Bud Powell, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, and many more. In the early 2000s, he formed his Fountain of Youth quartet, featuring musicians roughly 50 years younger than him. Until 2020, he celebrated every birthday by performing at the Blue Note jazz club in New York City, and would have done it in 2021, too, had it not been for COVID-19 restrictions.

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1. Tony Bennett
> Born: Aug 3, 1926
> Years active: 85

This legendary jazz and pop vocalist was singing in public at the age of 10 (he performed at the opening of New York’s Triborough Bridge) and got paid for his talent for the first time when he was 13, working as a singing waiter in Queens. After World War II, he was discovered by singer Pearl Bailey who got him a job touring with Bob Hope. In 1950, he was signed to Columbia records, launching a tumultuous but ultimately incredibly successful career. “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” recorded in 1962, became his signature song. In recent years, he has recorded with such considerably younger artists as Carrie Underwood, Queen Latifah, and Lady Gaga. Bennett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016, but continued performing and recording until the advent of COVID-19. His latest collaboration with Lady Gaga, an album called “Love for Sale,” won a Grammy in 2022 for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.

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