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Aging boomer acts keep on rockin' in Atlantic City and elsewhere

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Aging boomer acts coming to Atlantic City’s casinos include, clockwise from upper left: Diana Ross, Rick Springfield, Billy Ocean, Rod Stewart, Alice Cooper and Tom Jones.

Baby boomers are more likely to have numerous chronic health issues compared to earlier generations, a new study has claimed. The new research claims baby boomers exhibit a greater number of health issues than people born during the Great Depression. The study is based on data of adults aged 51 years and older originally collected by the 'Health and Retirement Study.' Baby Boomers also reported two or more chronic health conditions at younger ages than generations before them. The study concluded that more recently born generations are more likely to live with more chronic conditions. This is despite the number of Americans living past the age of 65 being projected to increase by 50% by 2050. The study was published in 'The Journals of Gerontology.'

Just like the 1950s rock-and-rollers who came before them, baby boomer favorites — the pop, rock, R&B and soul acts who had their first hits during the 1960s and 1970s — increasingly find their time on the road entertaining audiences coming to an end.

When Steve Gietka first arrived in Atlantic City in 1985 to work at the former Trump Castle, Las Vegas-style casino showroom acts and doo-wop vocal groups from New York were all the rage. Only Tony Bennett, 96, is still alive from that era.

Now, casino patrons are so enamored of 1960s and 1970s artists that customers are willing to buy tickets to hear a tribute band called Magical Mystery Doors play the music of the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and The Doors on Sundays through Sept. 4 at Ocean Casino Resort, where Gietka is currently the director of entertainment.

“For classic rock acts, going out and playing live is their bread and butter,” Gietka said.

Of the notable nine 1950s early rock ‘n’ roll and soul acts — Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Elvis Presley — only Lewis, 86, is still alive, and his last live performance could have been more than three years ago, according to the website setlist.fm.

Meanwhile, since the start of 2020, popular baby boomer music acts who have died include Bill Withers, 81; Helen Reddy, 78; record producer Phil Spector, 81; Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, 80; Monkees guitarist Michael Nesmith, 78; Meat Loaf, 74; Bobby Rydell, 79; and Olivia Newton John, 73.

Michael Woodside, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City’s vice president of entertainment and marketing, said his casino has been fortunate that many of the biggest music legends from the ‘50s and ‘60s, including Frankie Valli, The O’Jays, the Temptations, the Four Tops and Gladys Knight have performed there.

The most memorable concert from a boomer group Woodside experienced was Earth, Wind & Fire for two nights in December. Founding member and bassist Verdine White and two early members, vocalist Philip Bailey and percussionist Ralph Johnson, are all 71.

“It’s always a party on and off stage when they’re in the building. We look forward to having them back again soon,” Woodside said.

The boomer favorite Woodside would most like to see live again is Ringo Starr, who will be at his casino with his All Starr Band on Sept. 24.

“He’s a Beatle, an icon, and there’s really been a lot of excitement about this tour, especially since the Beatles documentary came out a few months ago,” Woodside said.

Starr, 82, is one of a surprising number of acts from the 1960s and 1970s, who are still touring.

“Mick Jagger turned 79 on July 26. Elton John has embarked on his ‘Farewell Yellow Brick Road’ Tour. I recently attended his Philly Farewell in July. He remains a master showman at 75,” said Steve Raymond, program director at WZXL-FM 100.7, a classic rock radio station based in the West Atlantic City section of Egg Harbor Township.

Raymond’s two most memorable concerts by boomer favs were Aerosmith in 2010 and Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band in 2011, both at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. The act he would like to see live one more time before they lose another original member is the Rolling Stones. They are now down to Jagger and Keith Richards, who is 78.

“I have seen a live show on every tour beginning with the Steel Wheels Tour in 1989,” Raymond said.

Some music acts that first found success during the ’60s and ’70s have not toured since the COVID-19 pandemic started, with no indication when they will return to the road. They include AC/DC, Fleetwood Mac, Heart, Neil Young, Peter Gabrieland Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour.

Sean Patrick, a DJ on active rock radio station WMGM-FM 103.7 based in Linwood, said his most memorable concert from a boomer act was Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, 78.

Patrick saw Waters on “The Wall Live Tour” in 2012 at Yankee Stadium in New York City and the “Us + Them” Tour in 2017 and the “This Is Not a Drill” tour earlier this month, both at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

“During ‘The Wall,’ a wall was built from flag pole to flag pole. If you are a Pink Floyd fan, he plays all the songs you want to hear,” Patrick said.

The boomer favorite Patrick would like to see one more time is Aerosmith. He last saw them and Cheap Trick in 2012, back when Ocean Casino Resort was known as Revel Casino Hotel.

“Steven Tyler (the lead singer) was very energetic and sounded great,” Patrick said.

Besides deaths and the acts who have avoided the road since COVID, others have either announced their retirement from touring or just haven’t played concerts in years.

In 2018, Neil Diamond, 81, and Paul Simon, 80, both announced their retirement from touring. Robbie Robertson, 79, solo artist and lead guitarist and songwriter for The Band, has not played live in almost six years, according to setlist.fm. Guitarist, singer and songwriter Dickie Betts, 78, a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band and leader of the Dickey Betts Band, has not played live in four years.

Despite all these obstacles, people who love the music from the ‘60s and ‘70s will still have an opportunity to hear it in the Atlantic City casinos, Woodside said.

“There are many great tribute acts and revue shows that will continue to feature music from legends long gone or retired to ensure fans can enjoy music from all eras,” Woodside said.

When the musicians and artists from the ’60s and ’70s retire or die, Raymond believes the void will be filled by established, younger and up-and-coming contemporary acts.

“1980s rock acts, i.e. Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Guns N’ Roses and others ... 1990s acts, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Foo Fighters and others, will continue to travel, tour and perform,” Raymond said. “There are so many talented acts that have cross-generational success, and many will fill the touring void by their influence and fanfare from today’s social platforms.”

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