Flanagan’s empire

By MICHAEL ATCHISON  |  February 5, 2010

AS THE CHARACTERS MOVE INTO MIDDLE AGE AND BEYOND, JACK SAYS, "THE MUSICIAN WHO STARTS TO LOVE GOING BACKWARD MORE THAN MOVING FORWARD WILL INEVITABLY FORFEIT HIS MOMENTUM AND BEGIN THE LONG FALL BACK TO EARTH." THERE ARE A FEW VETERAN ARTISTS — DYLAN, SPRINGSTEEN, U2 — WHO REFUSE TO BE NOSTALGIA ACTS, BUT IT HAS BECOME HARDER FOR OLDER ARTISTS TO GET A FAIR HEARING FOR THEIR NEW MUSIC. IS TRUE MUSICAL LONGEVITY COMING TO AN END? I don't think it's coming to an end as long as these guys are alive. I'm sure we could make a list of 40 artists, probably more, who have been around since the '70s, whose careers are still going along. It's inevitable that whether you're talking about Frank Sinatra or Jerry Lee Lewis or David Bowie, at a certain point, the weight of what you've done, the connection you've forged with an audience over many years, is going to be greater than whatever new thing you do, no matter how good it is. Garth Brooks said something really smart — "There will come a point for every artist when people love you not for what you do but what you did." The challenge is to push that as far down the field as you can. It was unimaginable in the '60s, when Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett and Duke Ellington and Count Basie were looking back at long careers to conceive that the Rolling Stones would still be out there, or that the Who would still be out there 40 years later. It just would have seemed ridiculous. And I'm sure the same thing's true now. If we sat here and said, "I think that Rihanna is still going to be around in 40 years, or Kings of Leon will still be on the road," it would sound silly, but who knows?

I don't have any doubt that Jeff Tweedy, Jenny Lewis, and probably Ray LaMontagne and Bon Iver will probably be out there singing in 30 years. It may be to a small audience. It may be that they have Lou Reed-type careers, where their stature grows as the years go along. I could absolutely see Kanye West being around for decades. He may be someone who gets people really mad, but he's a talented guy who keeps on trying new things and going in different directions.

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