Not even a month has passed since the death of great guitarist Robbie Robertson shocked the world of rock. She was 80 years old. In 1978, Robertson had been in charge of announcing that The Band, his group, was ending its 16-year history of touring because its creativity had declined and because “we have realized the dangers of leading this life indefinitely.”
45 years have passed and only one of the original members of The Band remains alive. Four have stayed by the wayside. Garth Hudson, at the age of 86, will have been able to see on the television of the South Stone Ridge residence where the Rolling Stones public appearance in Hackney.
What must have gone through the mind of the multi-instrumentalist from The Band yesterday, immersed in the memory of a glorious but distant past, when he saw some of his contemporaries, also octogenarians, promoting his latest and catchy hit, angrywith the illusion of twenty-somethings and with the same marketing strategies in social networks that Rosalía or Justin Bieber use?
Genetics, chance, and some correction of bad habits in later life are probably the keys to Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Ronnie Wood’s longevity as individuals.
Most bands die from a conflict of egos, why not the Stones?
The reasons why a band as stormy as this one has survived 61 years –and counting– are more than documented. Of course, his extraordinary repertoire and his prodigious live shows are the key to the matter. But the importance of the internal management of the business is not less.
The Jagger biography written by Philip Norman, or the chronicle Traveling with the Rolling Stonesby Robert Greenfield (both in Anagrama) show us the singer as an elegant dictator who takes advantage of his economics studies and the self-destructive weaknesses of other members of the band to establish himself as the undisputed leader.
For this reason, the Rolling Stones have never succumbed to a conflict of egos like the ones that have destroyed most of the groups of their generation, starting with the Beatles. And that between them there have even been punches.
Particularly revealing is that scene described by Greenfield, in the middle of the 1972 American tour, when Jagger, minutes before going on stage to give his all in front of a maddening crowd (while Richards was doing his thing in the backstage), he was coldly negotiating the concert numbers with the promoter and the insurance company representative at an office table.
Richards himself tells in his autobiographical Life (Timun Mas) that when, in his formative years, they visited big stars, such as James Brown, Jagger not only learned musical or dance concepts from them, but also the fundamentals to successfully exercise the role of boss.
Undoubtedly, another element of cohesion that during all these decades has attenuated the tension between the two leaders of the gang has been the conciliatory role of the late Charlie Watts and, from 1975, that of the likeable Ronnie Wood.
By the way, Ron Wood, so lush yesterday in Hockney, participated 45 years ago in the tribute concert for The Band, the one that Martin Scorsese immortalized in his film The Last Waltz.