From “On Success” Washington Post Column
The Who: aging or ageless?
The Who were on center stage — again — during the Super Bowl’s half-time show. Why are some performers able to sustain their success for decades while others lose their appeal? What are the qualities and skills needed to stay revved up and relevant?
When you’re talking music, sustained success has a lot to do with how complex and difficult your music was to begin with. The Who’s music is not the easiest to replicate. And if we’re being honest here, when you go back and listen to The Who’s recordings, you’ll realize that Roger Daltry’s voice could barely hit the notes back in the day, much less 35 years later live at the Super Bowl.
Another example of this age-old-rockers-who-still-draw-crowds phenomenon can be seen in the Rolling Stones. The Stones didn’t play that well to begin with; so now, as they’re seemingly close to death (I think Keith Richards actually died in 1985 – it’s just that nobody has told him), it’s easier to perform to an appreciative crowd. Mick Jagger has a limited vocal range and it’s easy for him to sing most Stones songs, which never were very challenging vocally anyway. People will say, “Wow, he sounds pretty good for an old guy,” because range and the ability to hold a note fades with age. Even so, not long ago I did hear a live version of the falsetto ridden “Miss You” which caused my dog to bark uncontrollably! Additionally, Aerosmith was so messed up on drugs in the 1970s that they naturally sound fantastic now!
Examples like these emphasize an essential truth: If you keep things simple, you typically have longevity. As a professional speaker, I know that the more moving parts something has, the more likely it is to break down. Drawn from mechanical engineering, this basic principle applies to life and business as well. Still, it’s a difficult thing to watch as our favorite talented people lose their edge. We’re left questioning what sense it makes when giant talents like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin die in their prime, while the Who and other greats have unfortunately lived long enough to suck!
Article in Rolling Stone : Fans React to the Who’s Super Bowl Halftime Performance