28 August 2003


Writing that last post, it's occurred to me how many of the 'elder' statepeople of 'rock and roll' (using that term in its loosest possible sense) have had significant comebacks in the past fifteen years. A few examples:

>> Bob Dylan makes the comeback of a lifetime with Time Out Of Mind, and the album dominates the Grammy awards that year.
>> Carlos Santana has a huge hit with "Smooth," and the source album Supernatural wins numerous awards and finds a suprisingly large audience among younger crowds.
>> Joni Mitchell released Turbulent Indigo to surprise acclaim and audience acceptance. It too wins two Grammys, defeating the likes of Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston in its year.
>> After The Best of Van Morrison, the Belfast Cowboy was marketable again, and found his new albums receiving radio play (with songs like "Real Real Gone," "Have I Told You Lately" and "Days Like This"), and his new songs especially finding their way into mainstream films. The Best Of... spent over five years on Billboards Top 200.
>> James Taylor made quite a comeback with Hourglass, which saw the folkie picking up several awards, too.
>> Ray Charles started getting radio play again in the early 90s with his Grammy winning cover of Leon Russell's "A Song For You."
>> Johnny Cash has actually been through this twice. This last time, audiences pricked up their ears again after his rendition of "The Wanderer" proved to be the best thing about U2's Zooropa album.
>> Not that I can stand her, but Cher made quite the comeback, too, with that fingernails-on-blackboard tripe called "Believe." It went to #1, though, and had people under the age of 20 realizing she actually sang.
>> Leonard Cohen made a stunning comeback at least in Canada, with his multiple-platinum selling album The Future.
>> Eric Clapton's Unplugged and his song "Tears From Heaven" from The Rush Soundtrack were huge hits. "Unplugged" won several Grammys, and was the top selling album of that year.

I'm sure there are many more, and I'm not including here the names of people who more or less didn't fade from public exposure too much (The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, James Brown), or those who were only essentially 'reissued' hitmakers (like the Beatles' and Elvis' remarketing stints). All of the musicians listed above were at least 40 when they made their comebacks, and many were over the age of 50. More importantly, all of the above were at one point or another considered 'unmarketable,' and many faced being cut from their record labels, especially during the 1980s. And all of them seemed to come 'from out of nowhere' with their returns, and many of them found their popularity reignited by associations with film (Morrison, Clapton, and Dylan especially). Interesting.

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