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Type ‘British music legends’ into Google and top of the list appears the singer-songwriter Sir Elton John, Brian May, iconic guitarist and songwriter with rock group Queen, followed by fellow bandmate and drummer Roger Taylor.
These artists, all in their 70s, still have what it takes to entertain and captivate the attention of adoring fans. They are leaving their mark today, just as they have done throughout their long lustrous careers. Never has the phrase ‘age is just a number’ been more fitting.
In no particular order, but starting with the legendary Sir Elton, here’s a list of rock and pop stars past their 70th birthday (with one joining the club later this year), many of whom are still recording and planning tours.
Famous for: being a musical prodigy with an outlandish collection of glasses
Sir Elton is one of the most prolific, talented and beloved musicians of all time, so much so that his life story has been made into a film: Rocketman. If you’ve seen the blockbuster then you’ll appreciate how he’s managed to sell over 300 million records, making him one of the best-selling music artists in the world.
• Elton taught himself to play the piano at the age of three and won a coveted Royal Academy of Music scholarship in London at just 11 years old.
• It’s no secret that he changed his name – he was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight, but fell out of favour with his nickname Reggie and became Elton Hercules John in 1972.
Age: 74 ( born 25 March 1947)
Famous for: being Britain’s answer to Elvis Presley and the best selling artist of all time in the UK.
With a rock and roll career spanning over 60 years, Sir Cliff Richard has achieved more UK Top 20 success than any other artist. He has had 67 UK top ten singles, the second highest total for any artist behind Elvis Presley. Some of Richard’s most well-known songs include: ‘Devil Woman’, ‘We Don’t Talk Anymore’, ‘Move It’, ‘The Millennium Prayer’ and ‘Mistletoe & Wine’.
• Since March 1966, Richard has followed the practice of giving away at least one-tenth of his income to charity and remains one of the world’s most notable philanthropists.
• Following the release of his smash hit ‘Move It’ in 1968, John Lennon reportedly said that before Cliff ‘there had been nothing worth listening to in British music’
Age: 80 (born 14 October 1940)
Famous for: his distinguished raspy voice
Sir Rod is arguably one of the greatest popstars of all time having sold over 100 million records worldwide including chart-topping singles: ‘Maggie May’, ‘You Wear it Well’, ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy’ and ‘The First Cut is the Deepest’.
• Rod recently became the oldest male solo artist to have a number one album in the UK. He topped the charts to beat the considerably more youthful Stormzy, Harry Styles and Lewis Capaldi.
• He holds the record for the largest free gig of all time, when he performed to over 3.5 million people in Brazil in 1994.
Age: 76 (born 10 January 1945)
Rod once famously said: “I think, with suits and clothes, if you keep them long enough, they all come back in fashion.”
Pop culture has shaped fashion over the years and Queen was certainly one band to make its mark; frontman Freddie Mercury used to say that his performances where like fashion shows.
Famous for: being the guitarist of legendary British rock band Queen
The Bohemian Rhapsody rocker’s most famous songwriting credits for the band include: ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘Who Wants to Live Forever’, ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ and ‘I Want It All’ to name but a few. Outside of Queen, he has released two solo albums: 1992’s ‘Back to the Light’ and 1998’s ‘Another World’.
• May is a doctor (but not the medical kind). He was awarded a PhD in astrophysics from Imperial College London for work started in 1971 and completed in 2007.
• He made his first electric guitar with his dad in 1963, when he was 17, using materials they had lying around including a then 100-year-old mahogany fireplace and the dock markers came from his mum’s button box.
Age: 73 ( born 19 July, 1947)
Famous for: multi-instrumentalist, best known as the drummer of Queen
We couldn’t very well feature May without Taylor. 2020 was due to be a big year for both of them; not only did they have a series of massive arena shows across Europe lined up during the summer, it also marked Queen’s 50th anniversary.
• Taylor’s drum kit was outfitted with a 60-inch symphonic gong just so he could strike that final note in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.
• He was training to become a dentist before joining Queen.
Age: 71 ( born July 26, 1949)
No line-up would be complete without The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. The two iconic bands, known to be friendly rivalries, met for the first time 58 years ago (April 14th, 1963). The Beatles, who were new on the scene in London at the time, had heard about the group through word of mouth and were in the audience at the Stones‘ show in Richmond at the Crawdaddy Club at the Station Hotel.
We had a sort of — a lot of rivalry in those early years, and a little bit of friction, but we always ended up friends.Mick Jagger shared while inducting The Beatles into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 1988
Famous for: being a member of The Beatles and one of the most popular solo performers of a generation
Recognized by Guinness World Records as the most successful songwriter of all time, behind classic songs like ‘Yesterday’, ‘Can’t Buy Me Love,’ and ‘Hey Jude’. There’s no doubt that his work for The Beatles will outlive us all.
Aged 78, during lockdown (or ‘rockdown’ as McCartney calls it), he wrote and recorded the album McCartney III , once again topping the charts.
• By age 16, Macca had already written ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ with the ambition of selling it to Frank Sinatra.
• He wrote the toe-tapping classic ‘Another Girl’ in a Tunisian toilet decorated with traditional Islamic tiles, using the room’s acoustics to help him formulate the tune.
Age: 78 ( born 18 June, 1942)
Famous for: his moves and charismatic stage presence
Described as ‘one of the most popular and influential frontmen in the history of Rock & Roll’, Jagger is the lead singer and co-founder of the Rolling Stones. His career has spanned over 50 years.
• Jagger and fellow band mate Keith Richards were classmates back in September 1950.
• Despite Jagger’s infamous bad-boy lifestyle, he was a model student growing up. According to his grammar school’s history teacher, Jagger was ‘a sober, thoughtful student’.
Age: 77 ( born July 26, 1943)
Famous for: his robust baritone
Sir Tom’s musical career spans over six decades. He is best known for his hits ‘It’s Not Unusual’, ‘What’s New Pussycat’, ‘Delilah and Green’ and ‘Green Grass of Home’, but has more recently sat as a judge on the TV talent contest The Voice for the last eight seasons.
• The Welsh star’s birth name is actually Thomas John Woodward. His manager renamed him ‘Tom Jones’ to cash in on the popularity of the Academy Award–winning 1963 film.
• Contrary to popular belief, he wasn’t fond of women flinging their undergarments onstage at his shows, saying he thought the gesture took attention off of his singing.
Age: 80 (born June 7, 1940)
Famous for: her amazing breath control and vocal dexterity
Best known for recording the soundtrack theme songs of the James Bond films ‘Goldfinger’, ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ and ‘Moonraker’. Oh and she beat Sir Tom to be the first Welsh person to gain a number one single in the UK charts.
• 2007 Glastonbury headline act at the age of 71, Dame Shirley stepped out on stage in a pair of £3,000 custom-designed, diamante-encrusted wellies.
• Bassey left school at 14 and worked in a factory to help support her family.
Age: 84 (born 8 January 1937)
Famous for: being the man behind one of the most famous drum breakdowns in pop history
His biggest hits include ‘In the Air Tonight’, ‘Against All Odds’, ‘One More Night’, ‘Sussudio’, ‘Two Hearts’ and ‘Another Day in Paradise’.
• In his autobiography ‘Not Dead Yet’, he reminisces about the good old days when his family would gather around a Ouija board for an evening’s entertainment instead of watching TV.
• As a teenager, Collins would unpack the chairs at London’s Marquee Club in exchange for free entry to gigs.
Age: 70 (born 30 January, 1951)
Famous for: saying ‘my voice has aged like a fine wine’
The singer, songwriter and philanthropist is famed for being the frontman of The Police, before launching a solo career in 1985.
• Born Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, he got his stage name ‘Sting’ because of a black and yellow sweater he used to perform in that made him look like a huge bee.
• His CV reveals an interesting career history including being a tax collector, a bus conductor, building laborer, an English teacher and soccer coach.
Age: 69 (born 2 October 1951)
Did you see any of these British artists live or are you planning to? We’d love to hear your stories of seeing these legends on tour and if we’ve missed any out that you’d like to see included let us know.