81-Year-Old Man Walks into a Guitar Shop & Starts Playing a Sublime Solo: Ignore the Talents of the Elderly at Your Own Peril

Last spring, I caught a Who concert in Oakland, California, on what happened to be songwriter/guitarist Pete Townshend’s 71st birthday. Five songs into their set, the band played “My Generation”–yes, the song best known for the line “I hope I die before I get old”–and I couldn’t help but think: Townshend’s playing with more inspiration now than when I first saw The Who play in 1982. Biologically, he’s supposed to be over the hill. Musically, he’s still playing a very fine rock guitar.

The same thought crossed my mind at Desert Trip, the October mega concert held in Indio, California. Featuring The Rolling Stones, The Who (again), Paul McCartney, Neil Young and Roger Waters–in short, musicians all over the age of 70–Desert Trip became more colloquially known as “Oldchella.”

Even, Mick Jagger called it “the come and see us before we die tour.” And yet. And yet. Despite the jokes, they’re all still playing with verve, putting on tight, rousing shows. (I’ll admit that Bob Dylan is the notable exception.)

So what’s the takeaway? We can’t stop the clock. Eventually, we get old. Nothing we can do about that. But if you’ve got your health, if you’ve got the desire, if you’ve spent decades refining your craft, then there’s no reason you can’t still do great work. That applies to musicians. (Witness 81-year-old Bob Wood above). It also applies to other parts of life, including our professional lives. Our culture hastily writes off the talents and accumulated experience of an entire generation of people. But stop for a second. Watch the video above and extrapolate it to other parts of life. Then think about all that gets needlessly lost.

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