If you saw the Stones or the Who at the recent Sandy benefit concert, you probably wondered: Sheesh, how have these guys stayed alive for so long? The answer may be that they stuck with their bands instead of solo careers.
BMJ Open reports that a group of researchers examined the lives—and deaths—of 1,489 rock gods from North America and Europe who achieved fame in the 50 years between Elvis Presley’s first number-one hit in 1956 (it was “Jailhouse Rock”) and 2006. They determined that solo stars were twice as likely to die young as those with bandmates. Almost 10 percent of European solo performers died early, compared to 5.4 percent of those in bands; in America, the numbers were 22.8 percent prematurely dead solo artists to 10.2 percent of group members. Katy Perry, you better hook up!
The researchers dug into authorized and unauthorized biographies and websites, Top 40 charts and more and wound up determining that 137 members of their sample died over the 50-year span. Short-lived Americans outlived short-lived Europeans, with the former dying at an average age of 45, compared to 39 for the latter. (So much for socialized health care.) Neither gender nor the age at which an artist hit it big affected life expectancy, but ethnicity did: Non-white stars died at an earlier age.
The researchers noted that fame increases access to risky behaviors like drug abuse, but also that such early-life stressors as sexual abuse or living with a mentally ill or substance-abusing parent doubled the odds of early death. The good news for Jagger and Daltrey et al.? After 25 years in the limelight, European rock stars live just as long as their fans do. The same didn’t hold true, alas, for their American counterparts.