13 Artists Who Have Long and Great Careers

Longevity. It’s the key to greatness, in many ways.

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Sure, sometimes there are flash in the pan artists who have a song or two that remain seemingly forever in the pantheon of great music. Songs that last.

But those artists don’t have careers like the musicians we’re highlighting below.

If greatness is truly defined by performing at one’s peak for a long duration—anyone can have one hit song but to have hit songs over 50 years, that’s incredible—then these folks are at the top of the list of great composers.

Here are 13 artists who have had long and great careers.

1. Dr. Dre

When it’s all said and done, Dr. Dre may be known as the most important man in hip-hop music. He’s worked with everyone from Jay Z and Snoop Dogg to Eminem and 50 Cent. Dre. released his debut solo album in 1992, but prior to that he was in N.W.A. and working with big names like Ice Cube and Eazy-E. The group released its debut LP in 1987. In total, Dre has been working for 35 years and counting, with likely, much more on the way. And while Dre hasn’t been around as long as the folks below, it’s important to remember neither has rap. So, comparatively speaking, he’s a veteran.

2. Neil Young

The bane of Spotify, Neil Young has been on the scene making waves way before he fought the streaming giant and, in his words, their “misinformation.” Regardless of that battle, Young has been a mainstay in music since his self-titled debut LP in 1968. He’s approaching his sixth decade in music. Young released 45 LPs with more on the way. In 2022, it seemed Young dropped a handful of albums. Watch out for much more.

3. Dionne Warwick

Dionne Warwick released her debut LP even before Young did in 1968. She dropped Presenting Dionne Warwick in 1963. That’s 60 years of music from the artist, who is still going strong today, releasing new songs, new documentaries and becoming the Queen of Twitter seemingly overnight. What can’t she do? With hits like “Say A Little Prayer” and “Walk On By,” even after she’s departed this Earth, she will be loved for decades more to come.

4. Dolly Parton

A recent American Songwriter cover star, Dolly released her debut solo album in 1967. 55 years later, Parton released her latest album, Run, Rose, Run, to go along with a novel of the same name, a new Christmas special (Mountain Magic Christmas), and more products for home and pets than you can shake a blonde wig at. She’s also one of the only people nearly everyone in the world can give a “thumbs-up” to. To date, she boasts more than 60 albums.

5. Mavis Staples

The last surviving member of The Staples Singers, which released its debut album in 1958, Mavis has gone on to a decorated solo career. She released her self-titled debut LP in 1969, earned a courtship from Bob Dylan, which she turned down, and she continues to sing, record, and perform today. She was also on Buddy Guy’s latest LP, released in 2022 (more on Guy below).

6. Patti Smith

The 76-year-old artist has been a mainstay in New York since her debut LP, Horses, dropped in 1975. She’s a voice of wisdom in these modern times. With only one big single to her name, Smith has managed to remain one of the most important figures in American culture. Recently in 2019, she also featured on the Soundwalk Collective album, Mummer Love. She’s a wizard and probably immortal when it comes down to it.

7. Paul McCartney

Paul was just 15 years old when he co-founded the band that would become the Beatles. Now, 65 years later, McCartney is still putting out work at 80 years old. He’s been active as an artist since 1957 and between his work with the former Mop Tops, the band Wings, and as a solo artist, he’s one of the most prolific musicians of all time. A master of melody, even the Christmas song ditty, “Wonderful Christmastime,” is a mainstay every year.

8. The Rolling Stones

Formed in London in 1962, the Rolling Stones are still touring today. The group released its latest album, Blue & Lonesome, in 2016 and there will probably be more new records to come. Fronted by the ageless, hip-swinging singer Mick Jagger and backed by guitarist-pirate extraordinaire, Keith Richards, the band is redefining what a group can do if it stays together for 60-plus years.

9. Robert Plant

When most people think of Robert Plant, they think of the man with locks of curly blonde hair and tight jeans as he fronted the legendary blues-rock band Led Zeppelin, which released its debut album in 1969. But Plant is a Grammy winner in this century, too, as he’s released two standout albums with country singer Alison Krauss. As a duo, Plant and Krauss are blissful and every track on their two albums together (one in 2007, one in 2021) is like an afternoon in the sun.

10. U2

The Irish rock band from Dublin, formed in 1976, is still putting in the work today. Fronted by Bono and backed up on guitar by The Edge, this group has fused social activism and popular rock and roll for decades. Their newest album, Songs of Surrender, is set to drop on March 17 and their first album, Boy, was released in 1980. That’s quite an expanse of time, which includes many hit tracks along the way for the fellas.

11. Elton John

The British-born songwriter, piano player, and glam legend released his debut album, Empty Sky, in 1969. In 2022, John concluded his time as a touring artist. In between, he released dozens of albums, including his The Lockdown Sessions LP in 2021 with the likes of Eddie Vedder, Lil Nas X, Charlie Puth, Dua Lipa, Stevie Wonder, Stevie Nicks, and many more.

12. Buddy Guy

The 86-year-old artist came up under blues legends like Muddy Waters. Today, he does everything he can to keep the American genre alive in his shows, new albums, and interviews. Guy released his debut LP, Left My Blues in San Francisco, in 1967. And he released his latest, The Blues Don’t Lie, in 2022. That album featured the likes of Mavis Staples and Jason Isbell. He’s one of our last links to the past when the blues were coming into their own as a popular, significant musical form in the mainstream.

13. Bob Dylan

The Bard may outlive us all. The 81-year-old, who is considered the best lyricist of all time by many, released a new book in 2022 and his latest album in 2020. Dylan released his first self-titled album in 1962 and has helped to change the world of music as we know it today. Yes, the times they are a-changin’ but perhaps Dylan’s status as the icon of songs never will.

Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage

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