“If one of us went down, or if one of us died — God forbid — or got sick...We’re all older now. Then we’d stop. I think that would be the end of it, if someone couldn’t do it.”
These are the words of Tom Petty as he was discussing his band in an interview with the Los Angeles Times on Sept. 27. Five days later, the rock world was shocked by the news of Petty’s sudden death.
Petty and The Heartbreakers had just completed their 40th anniversary tour. Last year, The Who celebrated their 50th anniversary tour. The Rolling Stones are currently on their No Filter Tour, celebrating their 55th anniversary.
Time is catching up with some of the most prolific bands in rock history, marking the beginning of the end of an era.
The rock era began what we know today as pop music. Yet, the environment these rock legends thrived in just decades ago starkly differs from what we see it as today.
Instead of their singles being discovered through apps or websites, their work was discovered through radio. To hear The Who’s newest popular song on demand meant purchasing their entire album. It is quite possible that we will never experience what this era demonstrated ever again.
We all know Justin Bieber’s song “Baby”, but can you recall many other songs on his album “My World 2.0”? For these prolific artists, their bodies of work were, and still are, iconic.
Much of what they’ve done can be cited in context of their albums. But for today’s popular artist, most of what makes or breaks them depends on how well their single performs in the digital world.
This shifts the focus from consistently producing albums, to focusing on how well their next few songs can do independently. Without a lot of downloads or mentions, it may get drowned in the vast amount of online content we are exposed to every day. Their entire body of work can become hardly relevant, if at all.
We are sadly watching our rock legends age. Show postponements are becoming inevitable as medical ailments are plaguing the once young and wild rock stars more and more.
Rock idol Eric Clapton recently had to reschedule his Los Angeles shows due to severe bronchitis. During his last tour, Petty had to postpone his Bay Area shows due to laryngitis.
Indeed, the cohort of rock legends are slowly leaving us. It is without question that their legacy has left a large imprint in music history, but these bands experienced a much different music world than today’s artists. Will we ever exhibit this sort of music environment again?