The biggest surprise for me in the passing of The Cars’ Ric Ocasek was his age. 75? Doing the math means he was 34 when their debut album was released. That means he was 40 when I saw them on the Heartbeat City tour. 34 seems unusually old for a starting rocker. Heck, the Beatles broke up before any of them had turned 30. Ocasek is actually 2 months older than The Kink’s Ray Davies, who had hits 14 years earlier.
So, anyone else start their career at a relatively late age? I know Debbie Harry was 33 when Blondie broke through with their third album Parallel Lines.
He’s not really popular, but Johnny Dowd was 49 years old when his first album, Wrong Side of Memphis was released in 1997. He’s released another 17 or 18 studio albums since then, about half a dozen live recordings, a couple of DVDs and a book of poetry.
For the record, his material is almost uniformly brilliant. Sometimes disturbing, sometimes disturbingly personal, his music often sounds like if The Residents tried to be a country/blues band and they recruited a crank from the Appalachian Mountains to write lyrics and sing for them. Other times he sounds like a earnest would-be songwriter that Nashville would never want anything to do with. And sometimes he just sounds like a cross-genre weirdo.
Nathaniel Rateliff (of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats) was 36 or 37 when he finally broke through with the song “S.O.B.” But, again, he’s another example of someone who had been working at music for a long time before finally getting a hit.
The father of British blues, the great Alexis Korner, was a musical generation older than all his pupils who later formed the British blues explosion, starting with the Stones which he tutored. But he only made his first recording at age 34 in 1962, in the same year as the Stones. Of course he had had an important role and career before and was a man of many talents, and he had brought many American blues greats to Britain (Muddy Waters and Big Bill Broonzy slept in his kitchen) which sparked the interest of British people in the blues.
On review, having checked several online sources, I have to correct two things:
First, Alexis Korner had made already recordings for different outfits before his Blues Incorporated released “R&B From The Marquee” in late 1962. But it was the first album that gave him some publicity, though it wasn’t a great success, and at least it was the first British electric blues album. The following British blues boom gave him some more recognition, but he didn’t have a hit until 1970 with his project CCS with a cover of “Whole Lotta Love”. He also worked a lot for radio and TV, everything blues, rock and r&b related from the sixties to the eighties. I remember him moderating music shows on German TV in the seventies when I was a wee lad (partly of Austrian origin, he spoke German perfectly).
The second error was that of course the first record release by the Stones was not in 1962, but in summer 1963.