40 Over 70 #00

Photo:  Roger Reuver

Photo: Roger Reuver

A couple of years ago, as I watched Leonard Cohen skip off stage around midnight, after his third some-odd encore, I had a simple realization: these are the people to watch. He's approaching eighty years old, had just released a fantastic record of new songs, and was in the middle of his second major tour in recent years. If that wasn't enough–he actually appeared to be fully energized and having a great time doing it all.

It’s pretty clear we live in a culture that is entranced by youth. We celebrate the greatest achievements in the shortest amount of time through competitions like the “Top 40 Under 40” and “30 Under 30.” I’m not immune to this stuff–I mean it is remarkable to see young people make a bee line to brilliance and excellence. What I realize more and more as I get older however is that, while it’s remarkable, these aren't necessarily the stories that hold my interest.

The more I examine how people tick the more I notice that, of the interviews, articles and biographies that I read or watch, the ones that I have the most aha moments, involve people much older than myself. It seems to me that you just don’t get the kind of refined rebellion or truly genuine and earned irreverence from the under forty crowd. I'm not saying that young people can’t offer anything in this regard, but I’m just not sure there is any shortcut to the kind of wisdom that a person in their seventies or eighties, with a career spanning a number of decades can offer us. This kind of knowledge is the result of experience slowly simmered over time.

I find myself drawn to examining these people and, in order to examine them, I've begun a small side project called "40 Over 70." My simple goal is to take a look at one of these people each week in the form of a brief profile along with the best resources I can find about them. My criteria for subjects has fluctuated over the time I’ve been mulling this. Initially it was "40 Over 80" but after losing both Lou Reed and Saul Leiter in the last six months it's become clear that selecting from a pool of octogenarians might just be too slippery a slope. In terms of my area of interest, the people I select to highlight will be primarily artists who are both alive and still actively working. 

In a time when humans are generally living longer lives, what does the long game look like? What does the work and the broader practice look like in the later acts? I know that we can learn by studying and honouring our elders so I'm dedicating a bit of my time to highlighting these amazing people who are thriving in long, vibrant creative lives.