The other night on American Idol, Mary J. Blige was helping contestants do their best, and she sang a song, too, from her own new album.
Now I first knew about Mary J. Blige in 1992 when her debut album was the jam.
Here it is twenty years later, and she’s still in the public eye, still releasing hit songs, and still popular. That is longevity, folks, and it’s rare that a recording artist enjoys longevity.
Most pop stars have a three year window of intense popularity, when their biggest hits take over the charts, they tour non-stop, and they’re seen on TV and the net. Then, they usually disappear, most into obscurity. Once in a while, they’ll make a comeback, like Tina Turner did in 1984, the Monkees did in 1988, and Van Halen is doing in 2012 with David Lee Roth back on the throne where he needs to be. Generally, though, you rarely, if ever, hear of most artists again, like Thompson Twins, Billy Ocean and Sheena Easton, after they have their three year streak of fortune.
It’s so interesting to me to think that Tony Bennett is still alive and more popular now in his 80s than ever before. I mean Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston are DEAD and Tony Bennett is ALIVE. That is pretty shocking, when you think about it.
Stevie Wonder was popular way back in the 1960s, and he’s still a household name in 2012. That’s pretty amazing. The thing about Stevie, though, is his last real hit, IMHO, was 1985’s “Part Time Lover,” which was decades ago. Yeah, I know he had some minor chart success with “What The Fuss?” in recent years, but if you consider him as a recording artist, people know his hits from the 1970s the best, when he was “the man.” Interestingly, Stevie Wonder may not have lots of new hits in these times we’re living in, but he’s still looked up to by many young artists, and here’s where it gets interesting…I LOVE watching awards shows, and Stevie Wonder is the King of awards shows! Since 1985, he has been on just about every awards show there is, performing a song, playing harmonica, doing a duet, presenting an award, you name it. Stevie Wonder is on TV about every four months on some awards show, and people go NUTS for him on these shows. He is the one everyone else bows to; so he doesn’t need any new chart hits on the radio– he has had several decades of popularity based on appearing on awards shows. That’s longevity!
Other artists who just keep staying in the spotlight include Mick Jagger and his little band, The Rolling Stones, popular since the 1960s, along with that Beatle guy (haha) Paul McCartney, and if we’re being honest, even drummer-singer (:)) Ringo Starr! Add some names like Dolly Parton, Eric Clapton, Lionel Richie, Madonna, and the aforementioned Mary J. Blige, and you’ll see that a lifelong career in music is possible, but those stars are the exception, not the norm.
I spoke with Mary J. Blige in 1998, and she was great to talk to– I’m happy to see that her career worked out the way it did, and that she’s still relevant and popular in 2012.