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Seniors in the entertainment industry are going strong October 17, 2011

Posted by Alan Yu in Music, Pop and Rock.
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No sooner had I finished uploading my blog post about a crop of young female pop talent came the news that veteran singer Tony Bennett had broken a record: at the end of September he became the oldest singer to have a number one hit on the Billboard top albums chart.  Hermione Hoby of the Guardian in the UK says the album sounds like “a fantasy birthday party in full swing”; and Mikael Wood in the LA Times says “it’s a beautiful bummer to hear Winehouse do her best Billie Holiday…”

In fact, as far as chart success goes, 2011 seems to be the year of the seniors.  Earlier in the month, Doris Day had just become the oldest artist to have reached the UK top 10 with new material.  Unlike Bennett, whose album consists of material recorded recently, Day didn’t go into the studio to record new material.  Her CD My Heart consists of tracks recorded between 1951 and 1994.  Even then, at 87, she is two years older than Bennett, for the record.  Reviewing the album for the Daily Telegraph, Neil McCormick says: “If someone stepped up on X Factor singing like this, they’d be unbeatable.”

Bennett and Day are not the only senior artists in recent years to taste chart success.  In September 2009, the BBC reported that Dame Vera Lynn, a favourite entertainer for the British forces during World War II, became the “oldest living artist” to top the UK album charts.  She was 92 at the time, and the album in question was We’ll Meet Again – The Very Best of Vera Lynn.  Again, this was not new material, but remarkable as it had knocked Arctic Monkeys off the top.

Other artists, of course, have topped the charts at an advanced age.  Actor Clive Dunn, famous for his role in the sitcom Dad’s Army, was 51 when he had a surprise hit called Grandad , which topped the UK chart in 1971.

Frank Sinatra was almost 54 when his hit My Way spent 75 weeks from April 1969 to September 1971 among the top 40 in the UK, but it never went to number one.  Perry Como’s It’s Impossible in February 1971 became his first song to reach the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 in more than 12 years, peaking at number ten.  He was 59.  Later in the decade, in 1973, when he was 61, his song And I Love You So reached number 3 on the UK singles chart.

In an age of rapid technological advances favouring the young, it’s good to see that seniors in some industries are still showing the way, with help, no doubt, from supporters among the growing legion of baby boomers.  One of the pioneers of rock and roll, Chuck Berry, turns 85 on October 18th.  I have it on good authority that he usually performs one Wednesday each month at Blueberry Hill, a restaurant and bar located in the Delmar Loop neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri.

In the entertainment business, the seniors are going strong.

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