In his 2005 song “Tin Pan Valley,” Robert Plant sang, “My peers may flirt with cabaret/some fake the ‘rebel yell’/Me — I’m moving up to higher ground….”
A handful of elder statesmen, like Mr. Plant, are still inspiring us with vital and surprising work. What can we learn from the likes of Jeff Beck, Judy Dyble, John Hiatt, Paul Simon, and the late David Bowie? Sometimes I get to ask them.
David Crosby partly attributes his creative rebirth to working with new collaborators.
“They're young writers and excited with life,” he told me during a recent conversation with the Monitor. “They widened my world.”
When I interviewed Mr. Plant, he explained why he’d rather create exciting new music than reunite Led Zeppelin. “An old pal of mine said, ‘Hey, Robert, why do you keep turning your back on the obvious?’” Mr. Plant said. “Because I really love music. I don’t like repetition and tedium.”
Phrased differently, artists should avoid comfort zones. A creative rut may mean one is stuck in old ways of thinking.
Steven Wilson, a British progressive rock artist, has a theory about why some older artists lose their edge.
“I believe that curiosity is the most underrated and undervalued human attribute,” he told me. “Curiosity is that admission to yourself that there’s something you don’t know and you don’t understand, but you would like to know more about it. The majority of people, when they grow up, associate that with being a kid and [think] they should somehow be above that.”
Mr. Wilson’s final advice? “Stay in touch with your inner child.”
Stephen Humphries, Culture writer