Debbie Harry, 78
That Debbie Harry was born in 1945 is astonishing enough in itself, but the fact that Blondie didn’t even make it big (with Parallel Lines, their third album) until she was 33, is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Since then, her status as one of rock music’s all time greatest figureheads has never been in doubt – and following the release of Blondie’s most recent album, 2017’s Pollinator (described by the Guardian as “an atomic return”, ba-dum-tish!) her set at 2023’s Glastonbury was one of the highlights of the entire festival… and proved that she remains one of the coolest women on the planet. More shows are already confirmed for 2024.
Chaka Khan, 70
Ten Grammy Awards, seven gold albums and a platinum album, music and download sales topping 100 million, a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, some of the greatest disco-funk bangers ever committed to vinyl… it’s safe to say that Chaka Khan’s 50 years as a recording artist have been pretty successful, all round. And she’s still hungry for more – this year Khan will be curating the 2024 Meltdown festival at London’s South Bank, promising: “We're going to funk it up, rock every crowd, and touch every soul.”
Grace Jones, 75
Without doubt the scariest inclusion on the list, Grace Beverley Jones is also perhaps the most creatively diverse. After a career that began as a teenage go-go dancer in the '60s and supermodel in the '70s, Jones pivoted into music, becoming one of the 1980’s and ‘90s most arresting voices – with a stage act that often had to be seen to be believed. Since then she has continued to push the boundaries, collaborating with artists as diverse as Tricky, Beyoncé and Gorillaz… and has just been announced as headliner for London’s South Facing Festival. Will she still hula-hoop her way through “Slave to the Rhythm”? I wouldn’t bet against it.
Chrissie Hynde, 72
After stints at the NME and Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s boutique SEX as well as a succession of early punk bands, Hynde formed the Pretenders in 1978, and hasn’t looked back since. From their very first release, the single “Stop Your Sobbing”, Hynde’s blending of melody, attitude and her extraordinary singing voice elevated her beyond her peers – and 46 years later still continues to do so. The Pretenders’ latest album, Relentless, was released just last year, and in February and March 2024 they embark on a tour which lives up to the LP’s name, covering 24 shows across the U.K. and Europe in just 35 days.
Joni Mitchell, 80
The doyenne of Laurel Canyon, and one of the most gifted musicians of the twentieth century, Mitchell has been described by Rolling Stone as “one of the greatest songwriters ever” – and is certainly one of the most influential. She found fame almost immediately following the release of her debut album in 1968, but it was the 1971 LP Blue that proved her masterpiece – later described by the New York Times as one of 25 albums that represented "turning points and pinnacles in 20th-century popular music." Although she retired from live performances in 2010, and suffered a serious health issue in 2015, she made a surprise return at the 2022 Newport Folk Festival (where she first played 55 years earlier) and it was recently announced that she would perform at the 2024 Grammy Awards on February 4, as well as the Hollywood Bowl next October.
Diana Ross, 79
The woman who arguably made Motown had her first No. 1 single in 1964 with “Where Did Our Love Go?” and since then, first with the Supremes, and then through a solo career that encompasses 25 studio albums, has shifted over 100 million records worldwide, and scored a top 10 hit in the U.K. in five separate decades. And despite turning 80 in March, she’s still going strong: in 2022 she played the “legends” slot at Glastonbury, and in the summer of 2023, her “Music Legacy” tour, celebrating all her career No. 1s, hit 12 U.S. cities, as well as a rapturously-received concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Somewhat unbelievably, she’s still not done: in February, her “Beautiful Love Performances - Legacy 2024 Tour” will include a show as part of this year’s Austin City Limits festival.
Siouxsie Sioux, 66
The Queen of British Punk, Siouxsie sprang from the chaos and carnage of the late-70s scene seemingly fully-formed – the style, the attitude, the energy and the musical instinct all there, right from the start. “Siouxsie just appeared fully made, fully in control, utterly confident,” Slits guitarist Viv Albertine later remembered. “It totally blew me away. There she was doing something that I dared to dream but she took it and did it.” And as most of her punk contemporaries imploded, Siouxsie maintained critical success through the 80s and 90s, before receiving rave reviews for her first solo album, Mantaray, in 2007. In 2011 she was awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Music award at the Q Awards and last year she returned to the stage with headlining slots at festivals across Europe and the U.S., with more festivals planned for summer 2024.
Patti Smith, 77
She may not be the most commercially successful artist on this list in terms of downloads or record sales, but the impact of Patti Smith on a generation (or two) of musicians, writers and artists has been immeasurable. As a poet, essayist, painter and journalist for Rolling Stone and Creem in early 1970s New York she gained a reputation for startling originality among the more switched-on kids, but it was the release of debut album Horses in 1975 that brought her to the attention of the world. In the 49 years since she has lost none of her anger or energy, and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. In late 2023 she was briefly hospitalized while on tour in Italy, but has promised to return “to fulfill my happy obligations.”
Marianne Faithfull, 77
As the muse of Mick Jagger (among others), Marianne Faithfull’s luminous, doe-eyed, ever-so-slightly louche beauty symbolized the “Chelsea Girl” look of Sixties’ London – but her talent as a singer and actor soon eclipsed her looks. After a period in the 70s in which addiction and health struggles saw her hit rock bottom, she returned spectacularly with 1979’s Grammy-nominated Broken English, before another renaissance with 2002’s Kissin Time and the 2007 show Songs of Innocence and Experience. She remains artistically vital today, with latest album She Walks in Beauty released in 2021, featuring collaborations with Nick Cave, Brian Eno and Warren Ellis.
Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety… Even after over half a century of fame, Cher remains one of the most consistently thrilling female music icons working today. From her loved-up hippy origins with Sonny Bono, through the 70s “Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves” vampish years, to the 80s ballbusting “Dead Ringer for Love” look, a (critically-lauded) sideline in acting, the dancefloor dominatrix of 1998’s 10 million-selling Believe, or subsequent status as an almost-unreal hyper-version of “Cher”, she has not only consistently reinvented herself, but done so with an astute eye on the prize. After December 2023’s “DJ Play a Christmas Song” reached No. 1 in the U.S., she also became the only solo artist to secure a No. 1 song on a Billboard chart in seven consecutive decades.
And an honorable mention to… Madonna, 65
Well, we couldn’t not mention her could we? Only another 36 dates on the world tour to go, Madge!