5 Artists with Great Late Career Albums | Features | MN2S

We look at some of the best music released by artists decades into their careers.

 
Chuck Berry has just turned 90, and to everyone’s surprise, he announced he will be releasing his first album in 38 years in 2017. If Berry wants to keep releasing music right up until he passes, nothing should stand in his way, because some artists have released some of their best music later in their careers. They don’t call it maturity for nothing. So here are 5 artists who have kept on putting out great records for decades.
 
1. George Clinton

 

 
George Clinton is unstoppable. He tours constantly with his Parliament/Funkadelic motley crew which now includes three generations of his family. The live shows are still as freewheeling and funky as they were in Parliament’s late 1970s peak, and the work in the studio is as funky and leftfield as ever.

2014’s First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate was three discs long with 33 tracks, mirroring the 33 years between the last official album released under the Funkadelic name. Amongst these tracks are some of the most exciting of Clinton’s career, including collaborations with fellow veteran Sly Stone and a P-Funk anthem for the ages, ‘Baby Like Fonkin’ It Up’.

Track 5 of disc 1 is pertinent to this article. Titled ‘Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You?’, the song has others ask Clinton if it’s hard to be funkin’ for so long. His response: ‘I was hard when I started/I’ll be hard when I get through’.
 
2. Leonard Cohen
 

 
As Chuck Berry announced his first new album in around thirty last month, Leonard Cohen quietly released his thirteenth studio album You Want it Darker at the tender age of 82. Cohen’s age actually adds something to his music. His baritone has lowered with each decade, and his arcane knowledge and mystique is amplified.

With fellow 60s singer-songwriter Bob Dylan opening up the Nobel Prize in Literature to musicians this year, Cohen should be next in line.
 
3. Mavis Staples

 

 
Mavis Staples began her career singing with her father and sisters in the group The Staple Singers in the 1960s. The four piece gospel group often opened for Martin Luther King Jr. at rallies, performing Civil Rights anthems such as ‘I’ll Take You There’ and ‘Why? (Am I Treated So Bad)’.

When the group stopped touring due to Pops Staples’ health, Mavis Kept going, beginning an illustrious solo career that would see her bring a gospel influence to other styles. In the 2000s and 2010s, as she entered her seventh decade alive, Mavis Staples signed to ANTI Records and released four albums that match any of her career; The Ry Cooder-produced We’ll Never Turn Back, the Jeff Tweedy-produced You Are Not Alone and One True Vine (which features Tweedy’s best song—’Jesus Wept’) and her most recent album, 2016’s Livin on a High Note.

Based on these stellar releases, and her hugely acclaimed summer tour with Bob Dylan, Mavis isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
 
4. Johnny Cash

 

 
For those who grew up before the new millennium, Johnny Cash was the archetypal Nashville singer-songwriter whose upbeat hit country songs made him perhaps the most famous artist in that genre of all time. But younger listeners grew up knowing Johnny Cash as the grizzled, world-weary singer of tear-jerking minimalist ballads.

This transformation came courtesy of super-producer Rick Rubin, who teamed up with Cash to record the American series of albums. Though he had recorded 80 or so albums before them, American I-VI defined Cash’s signature sound for a generation, and won him many accolades in the process.

Often utilising a more stripped-down approach and including covers of contemporary songs, Cash’s American series solidified his legacy as a folk and country legend before he sadly passed away.
 

5. David Bowie

 

 
It is still difficult to process David Bowie’s all-to-recent death. He released his final studio album Blackstar on 8 January this year to much acclaim. The album, daring and experimental, was hailed as one of Bowie’s best. Two days after its release, he died from previously undisclosed liver cancer.

Then people listened again, and it became clear that Blackstar was intended as a swansong. Bowie knew this would be his last release. It should have been obvious. The single ‘Lazarus’ featured the artist lying in a hospital bed in the video, singing ‘Look up here, I’m in heaven.’ The themes of facing death became more poignant, and the album reached classic status. Bowie may be gone, but thanks to the artistry that led to Blackstar, he will never be forgotten.

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