The Oldest Living Musicians in 2021
These living legends are still touring, recording, and influencing other artists in their golden years.
The entertainment industry can feel like a young person's game, but thinking about the most influential musicians of our time reminds us that that's not especially true. Many of the oldest living musicians are still out there touring, while others are only known to get into the studio these days. After all, you're only as old as you feel, and that definitely must be true of the living legends on this list who are still rocking and rolling well into their 70s, 80s, and even 90s. Read on to find out how old some of your favorite music icons are and how they feel about aging.
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Dolly Parton, 75
Country legend Dolly Parton released her first single, "Puppy Love," back in 1959, and she hasn't slowed down since, despite the fact that she's now 75 years old. In fact, as recently as July 2021, Parton released a single called "Sent From Above" to promote her new fragrance line. And we can't ignore that she's also built herself an empire that includes a theme park, a production company, and various philanthropic projects—most notably of late, donating $1 million toward research that ultimately led to Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine.
While talking to Oprah Winfrey in November 2020, Parton opened up about how she feels about getting older.
"I don't think about my life in terms of numbers. First of all, I ain't never gonna be old because I ain't got time to be old. I can't stop long enough to grow old," Parton said. "I bet you I won't look much different when I'm 95, if I live that long, because I'm like the Gabor sisters."
Mick Jagger, 78
As one of the founding members of the Rolling Stones, 78-year-old Mick Jagger has made his mark on music history. Along with his solo career, a couple of acting stints (he appeared in movies including The Burnt Orange Heresy and Ned Kelly), he and the rest of his bandmates earned their place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. In April 2021, he released a new song, "Easy Sleazy," with fellow rocker Dave Grohl, and is currently back on tour with the Stones.
Paul McCartney, 79
There are only two members of the Beatles still living today, and at 79 years old, Sir Paul McCartney is one of them. Aside from being in one of the most influential music groups of all time, McCartney also founded the '70s band Wings with then-wife Linda McCartney and Denny Laine, and has gone on to have a successful solo career—not to mention the fact that he's amassed 18 Grammy wins so far.
Today, McCartney is still making music and touring, and in August 2021, his latest album, McCartney III Imagined became the first remix album to hit No. 1 on the Billboard US Sales chart in 10 years.
Bob Dylan, 80
Singer-songwriter Bob Dylan is now 80 years old, and he's not letting his age slow him down — in fact, he's set to be on tour through 2024. With songs like "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and "Blowin' in the Wind" among his biggest hits, Dylan has been making music since the '60s and collecting 10 Grammy awards in the process.
In an interview with AARP in 2015, Dylan seemed comfortable with aging, though he did say that he felt it was his time to leave certain things to the young.
"Look, you get older. Passion is a young man's game. Young people can be passionate. Older people gotta be more wise," he told the outlet, via The Washington Post. "I mean, you're around awhile, you leave certain things to the young. Don't try to act like you're young. You could really hurt yourself."
Chubby Checker, 80
Chubby Checker (or Ernest Evans, his given name) turned 80 years old on Oct. 3, and will forever be known for songs like "The Twist," as well as popularizing that song's dance, the limbo, and the pony.
Checker still performs live and loves the wide range of people who come to see him.
"I have people in wheelchairs, and I have people that are just barely able to get into the places that I play," he told State Theater New Jersey in 2019. "The music starts to play, I bring some people on the stage, and it's amazing the age group that's on stage from very old to very young, and they're dancing."
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Ringo Starr, 81
The other surviving member of The Beatles also makes this list. Ringo Starr (whose real name is Sir Richard Starkey) is now 81 years old, and he's also found success as a solo artist and with his own band, Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band.
After fans buzzed about Starr's youthful appearance at the 2021 Grammys, a source told Page Six that his secret is eating "lots of broccoli and blueberries," along with daily meditation and regular visits to the gym, so do with that what you will!
Jerry Lee Lewis, 86
At 86 years old, Jerry Lee Lewis is famous for songs from early in his career, including "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" and "Great Balls of Fire." He was still performing up until 2019, when a stroke sidelined him, keeping him from using his right hand. But in 2020, Lewis began recording a new album of gospel hits which he is due to release soon.
In 2015, he told The Guardian he's pretty satisfied with where his life has led him.
"Yeah. I got my old girl [seventh wife Judith Lewis] here. She's the best of them. Better than all of 'em put together. I done pretty well. I got myself a fine place here. I'm happy now. That's all I know," he said. "I've got a good wife, good friends. I'm a pretty good old boy myself."
Bobby Rush, 87
Now 87, blues musician Bobby Rush doesn't see his age as a barrier to making music—in fact, he was 83 years old when he won his first Grammy award. With a career that goes all the way back to his teenage years, Rush's biggest hits include "Chicken Heads" and "I Wanna Do the Do," and he was eventually inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame for his contributions to music.
In an interview with The New York Times, Rush said that he thinks he might be the oldest blues singer still living today, adding, "If I'm not the oldest, I'm the ugliest."
Frankie Valli, 87
Frankie Valli became famous as the frontman of of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, which formed in 1960. After releasing hits like "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "December, 1963 (Oh What A Night)," Valli also performed as a solo artist. His group inspired the musical Jersey Boys, which ran for more than 10 years on Broadway.
Valli is still performing at 87 years old, and this July, he told the Green Bay Press Gazette that no plans for retirement are in his future.
"I don't think music has a limit or an age that you stop or start at. It just happens," he said. "You just do what you do and you do it the best you can do it, and fortunately, you build some sort of an audience so that when you do go out to work people come to see you."
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Petula Clark, 88
Today, Petula Clark is 88 years old, and she's been performing since she was a child. The biggest hit of her career is "Downtown," though she also transitioned into being an actor, appearing in movies including Goodbye Mr. Chips and The Runaway Bus.
In recent years, Clark has released a few albums in both French and English, including Living for Today in 2017 and Vu d'ici in 2018, and it doesn't sound like that's the last we'll hear from her, according to what she told AZ Central.
"If I find my voice is not up to scratch anymore or if people don't want to come see anymore, well, those are good reasons," she said. "But those haven't happened. I'm enjoying myself and the audience doesn't seem to mind, you know?"
Yoko Ono, 88
Yoko Ono is often talked about in conjunction with John Lennon and their marriage, which lasted until his death in 1980, but she's also a musician in her own right. Now 88 years old, Ono has hits like "Give Peace a Chance" under her belt, along with an impressive history on the Billboard charts, both with her solo works and her collaborations with Lennon.
In 2015, Ono wrote an open letter to her critics on her Imagine Peace website, asking them not to judge her for her age.
"Let me be free. Let me be me! Don't make me old, with your thinking and words about how I should be," she wrote. "You don't have to come to my shows. I am giving tremendous energy with my voice, because that is me. Get my energy or shut up."
Willie Nelson, 88
It's hard to imagine country music as a genre without Willie Nelson, who is now 88 years old and still performing. Songs like "On The Road Again" and "Always On My Mind" made his career, and Nelson drifted into film too, appearing in movies including Stagecoach and The Dukes of Hazzard.
Now that he's almost 90, though, Nelson isn't convinced he's any wiser than he once was.
"When I was young, I was pretty dumb. And now that I'm older, I'm pretty f***ing dumb. I don't know everything, and I think I do. So there's the problem," he told Slate. "I didn't ever think I'd get this old. I always thought I was lucky to make it past 21."
Loretta Lynn, 89
Another country legend, Loretta Lynn, is now 89 years old. Among her biggest hits are "You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man)," and Lynn also inspired the movie Coal Miner's Daughter, which is based on her life and stars Sissy Spacek.
In March 2021, Lynn released her latest album, Still Woman Enough, and she told the Los Angeles Times that she wants to keep singing so she doesn't lose her voice.
"As long as you keep singing, your voice gets better as you get older," she said. "But if you quit, you won't be able to sing. I've heard people walk on stage as they've gotten older and they couldn't sing their way out of a paper bag. I don't want to be one of them."
Harry Belafonte, 94
Harry Belafonte, 94, is the iconic Jamaican-American singer and actor who brought us "The Banana Boat Song." He's also known for his activism, having earned a spot on the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. He's appeared in several movies including Island in the Sun and 2018's BlacKkKlansman.
Though it doesn't seem like Belafonte does much performing these days, his activism continues.
"I realized early on that beyond my art and my other sets of platforms, nothing was ever going to remove me from the permanent struggle of race. Because America, in the beginning, they killed you with the Ku Klux Klan," he told CBS News in 2018. "Now they have cops in the streets of New York shooting down our kids with impunity. Bobby Kennedy got in on all of this, and he became a force with Dr. [Martin Luther] King [Jr.], and had those men survived, we would be in a very different place. But they didn't. But they left us this legacy, and I will be a part of that legacy until the day I die."
Tony Bennett, 95
At 95 years old, Tony Bennett has a legendary career behind him, singing pop standards and jazz—and collaborating with artists like Lady Gaga, of course. Bennett has earned 18 Grammy Awards during his career, and has been singing professionally for most of his life.
In August 2021, Bennett's family announced that he was retiring from performing, not long after making his Alzheimer's diagnosis public.
"This was a hard decision for us to make, as he is a capable performer. This is, however, doctors' orders. His continued health is the most important part of this, and when we heard the doctors—when Tony's wife, Susan heard them—she said, 'Absolutely not.' He'll be doing other things, but not those upcoming shows," his son, Danny Bennett, told Variety. "It's not the singing aspect but, rather, the traveling. Look, he gets tired. The decision is being made that doing concerts now is just too much for him. We don't want him to fall on stage, for instance—something as simple as that."
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