When To Retire QUESTION

Firing the debate is Dylan’s “status as the ultimate music icon, the caretaker of a body of work that, many would agree, stands in contrast to his current sound.”

For some of us, when to retire is dictated by the policies of our companies, our governments, or perhaps, our health, possibly tied to the amount of our nest egg.

But for some, in the fields of music and sports, e.g., when it’s not always that clear. There’s a new movie called The Fighter, which I saw on New Year’s Eve, about a middling boxer who wonders if he should hang up his gloves, or stay in the ring.

In real life Brett Favre, an NFL quarterback has retired for the last three years; this year’s proclamation, playing on a losing team, seemingly will stick.

But I was most intrigued by an article in the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago called When to Leave the Stage, which is about a “generation of music icons…hitting retirement age, along with their baby-boomer fans.” Writer John Jurgensen targeted one particular performer: “Is it time for Bob Dylan to hang up his hat and harmonica?”

“Why single out Mr. Dylan when Judy Collins and other graying veterans are out there touring unmolested? Firing the debate is his status as the ultimate music icon, the caretaker of a body of work that, many would agree, stands in contrast to his current sound. He’s also got a touring schedule that would put some hungry young acts to shame. He’s been doing roughly 100 gigs, year in, year out, since 1988…

“Casual fans, especially, are vexed by Mr. Dylan’s ongoing habit of mutating his most familiar songs.” The latter I know to be true from seeing Dylan myself a couple of years ago, and being totally unable to recognize some of his most famous works.

But should he retire? I contend that he’ll retire when people stop buying tickets to see him and/or stop buying his records; some of his best albums have come out in the past 15 years. So I say no – let the market decide. I had had opportunities to see artists such as Sly Stone and James Brown perform, and I declined, despite loving their music, because their erratic behavior at their concerts had become legendary.

What thinkest thou?

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

6 thoughts on “When To Retire QUESTION”

  1. I get leary whenever anybody gives advice telling someone that they should or should not retire, unless your job is physical, and you have a marked drop in your ability to perform, you should be able to work as long as someone is willing to pay you, and if Bob Dylan wants to change the way he sing or plays his songs that is his choice. The last few years of concerts by Frank Sinatra were not his best, but people came to them to see Frank, and to show their love for him.

  2. Just because someone doesn’t like the later songs of an artist doesn’t mean that others won’t. Maybe if we feel a singer is “past it”, WE should retire as listeners and let the singer do as she or he wants. I mean, really, what business is it of ours when someone else retires, anyway?

  3. It’s utter nonsense when I see this kind of talk – go as long as your legs will carry you. A lot of the old bluesmen worked until they fell down, but because relatively speaking rock is a new genre and we’re just now seeing the stars enter their 60s and 70s, there’s some notion that they should just go away when they reach pension age. Sure, a lot of rock stars will embarass themselves mightily (Steven Tyler I’m looking at you) but others like Dylan, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and many more are showing us how to grow old with grace and intelligence. Rock on!

  4. Back in the 1980s Drew Friedman drew a beautiful, almost photographic cartoon of five wrinkled old men sitting at a bar. He titled it “The Rolling Stones Celebrate 50 Years of Rock And Roll.” That image doesn’t seem shocking anymore.

    As long as Baby Boomers will hobble out of nursing homes en masse to pay two hundred bucks a ticket to see some old fart like them hobble out on stage to lip synch hit tunes from the 1960s, then why retire? Is this example relevant to how we conduct our lives?

    As for Dylan, he should have retired by 1980. Obviously he didn’t have to. But around that time his songs, instead of informing us about the world like his great classic songs did, started preaching annoying ideology, i.e. “You Gotta Be Saved” etc. Lately he has dropped that crap, but now his songs are just plain dull. It’s (Its? Its’?) embarrassing to listen to him croaking like a sore frog and trying to be the great artist that he used to be. Is that another example for us to ponder?

  5. Hi Thanks to welcome to ABC.

    We saw Bob Dylan too & were disappointed. But Joe Cocker now he can perform & no need to retire. Totally amazing that an old fella like Joe can beat out those tunes. He is coming again to NZ soon & we are umming and arrhing to stretch the bucks to go see.

    Love Leanne

  6. Artists have a right to change the arrangements of their songs anytime and anywhere. But based on his Grammy Awards performance, Dylan sounds like his voice is totally shot. Time to seriously think about dialing back public performances.

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