We’ve known for some time that it’s hard for a rocker to age gracefully. Long before rock ‘n roll as a genre could envision even middle age, Pete Townshend wrote “Hope I die before I get old.” But old rock ‘n roll and rock ‘n rollers have gotten. Perhaps no rock ‘n roller has done a better job of preparing for the inevitable point of complete irrelevance (or worse) than Elton John. Among some of the key steps that he has completed are the following:
- Public self-awareness? Check. The man’s been publicly examining his life for much of the last 30 years. He’s been open about his sexuality, his addictions, his attempts at maintaining a facsimile of hair… I’m pretty sure he’s published an autobiography, cried for Barbara Walters, and so forth.
- Acts of international healing through the power of song? Check. Let us not forget “Candle in the Wind.”
- A move toward austerity? Check. Elton dumped his sequinned suits and oversized glasses in the ‘8os. He’ll never be caught wearing jeans and an Oxford shirt, but he’s at least scaled back to the point where he wouldn’t seem out of place at a Pentacostal wedding.
- Teaching moments for younger, troubled artists? Check! The guy’s played big brother to Axl Rose and Eminem, for crying out loud. He’s also helped rehabilitate the image of Robert Downey Jr. by letting the post-rehabbed actor lip-synch a new single in a video. Teaching moments, healing moments… We can only hope his mentoring of Eminem is more successful than his work with Axl.
- Parenthood? Check.
- Paying back the artistic debts to his own elders/teachers? Check plus! Elton is sincerely paying homage to one of his greatest influences, Leon Russell, while Leon hangs on through old age and some tough times.