I have been exploring Bob Dylan's later albums, one in particular, "Modern Times" which is apparently one of three recorded as a kind of trilogy. I have yet to find them in the local stores, but they'll show up sooner or later. What I love about this particular one is the looseness, the lyricality of the whole thing. He's 69 now, and still good. I listen to this and hear shades of Leonard Cohen, Willie Nelson, some of the much younger Dylan, but none of the anger that fueled his first albums. I guess, you get old enough, you stop being angry. It takes way way too much energy.
He also has a Christmas album out, the proceeds of which are going to charity. It's funny, a bit flaky, but the first chrismas album I have ever, ever, bought.
and that got me to thinking about performers and writers who are still producing, singing, writing, well into their 70s and 80s, and still kicking butt. All of them have one thing in common; they are not only dynamite performers, they are also flexible and creative enough to keep changing, morphing, reinventing what they do. They take chances. Every book of W.S. Merwin's is different from the last, both in style and language. The only thing that never changes is his punctuation. Paul Simon is still creating new stuff, (which bodes well for the future) Leonard Cohen, the same.
Ray Bradbury has been writing the same story for ten years, and that's sad. Billy Collins seems to be going the same way, writing "billy collins poems" which no longer invent, they recreate.
It's as if they ran out of gas somewhere along the way, or got scared to take that last step up to the next level. Maybe the rep gets bigger than the talent, and they're afraid of losing that by taking the chance that might hurt the reputation if not the writer. Dunno.