It's quite an accomplishment just to be alive at age 80. To make a list of the most powerful octogenarians in America? That would really be something (and most of us still have several years to work on it!)
Slate's "80 Over 80'' list for 2009 is available at:
What triggers this conversation is not heavy hitters like former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, evangelist Billy Graham or Playboy kingpin Hugh Hefner (who dropped four spots this year to No. 19). You'd expect to see their mug shots here. What's great is to view the musicians who made the list. Here they are:
22. B.B. King, 84
35. Tony Bennett, 82
42. Pete Seeger, 90
46. Dave Brubeck, 88
63. Pinetop Perkins, 96
I don't know that "powerful'' is the right word to describe these splendid musical artifacts. It's just great to see them on any list of living people. We caught glimpses of Seeger during the Inauguration and on the occasion of his 90th birthday, and B.B. is an ageless wonder.
What I didn't realize is that Brubeck is still tickling the ivories like it's 1959 and he's recording "Time Out'' (which is going in the player today). That classic -- which became the first jazz album to sell 1 million copies -- itself turned 50 this year.
Jerry, a colleague at my new job, recently took his wife to Branson to see Johnny Mathis. I thought: Johnny Mathis is still alive? Apparently Mathis is alive and well and still packing them in. Of course he's a mere 74 -- a spring chicken compared to this group.
Here's to cool cats who keep on keepin' on. Hell, the average age of this group is 88. Play on!