Ars Longa, Vita Brevis*
Last week the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) released a report titled “Provisional Life Expectancy Estimates for 2021.” To calculate how things are going for those of us who are, well, living, “Provisional life expectancy estimates were calculated using complete period life tables based on provisional death counts for 2021 from death records received and processed by NCHS as of April 24, 2022; provisional numbers of births for the same period based on birth records received and processed by NCHS as of May 3, 2022; and July 1, 2021, postcensal population estimates based on the 2010 decennial census.”
The results are not good. “U.S. life expectancy at birth for 2021, based on nearly final data, was 76.1 years, the lowest it has been since 1996. Male life expectancy (73.2) and female life expectancy (79.1) also declined to levels not seen since 1996.”
1996 was the year that Lisa Marie Presley filed for divorce from Michael Jackson. Chris Isaak appeared on Friends. Garth Brooks refused his American Music Award for Favorite Overall Artist because he said music is produced by a collective of people, not individuals (something that has only increased geometrically but which seems to be something not talked about). Snoop Dogg was acquitted of first-degree murder, but the voluntary manslaughter charge led to a jury deadlock and consequent mistrial. Alanis Morissette received Album of the Year Grammy for Jagged Little Pill. Phil Collins announced he was leaving Genesis. Sammy Hagar left Van Halen in June and in September the band appeared on the MTV Video Music Awards (we’re going to be getting to that) with David Lee Roth. Kiss reunited and kicked off a tour at Tiger Stadium (which the Tigers exited in 1999). The Spice Girls released “Wannabe,” their debut single. Tupac died. Eminem released his debut album.
Yes, the life expectancy today is what it was back then.
And back then seem quite back then.
Now, those number, 73.2 for males and 79.1 for females, are clearly a calculation predicated upon many factors. What’s more, this is an estimate, not something carved in stone.
That said, it brings to mind that for many performers, they are at or near those numbers.
Bruce Springsteen is 72, so presumably he’s got some road ahead of him. But those who preceded him by a bit are past that NCHS number: Bob Seger, 77; Pete Townshend, 77; Mick Jagger, 79; Paul McCartney, 80; Paul Simon, 80; Bob Dylan, 81.
On the distaff side things are somewhat better.
Stevie Nicks is 74; Cher, 76; Diana Ross, 78; Joni Mitchell, 78; Carly Simon, 79; Tina Turner, 82.
The average age of all of those performers is 77.9 years.
So let’s round it up to 78. Which means that the composite musician was born in 1944.
In 1944 their parents were listening to Bing Crosby, the Andrews Sisters, The Mills Brothers, and Ella Fitzgerald. Clearly a different age, one that musically almost seems like the distant past.
The clock. . .ticks.
*Not the 1968 album by The Nice
Do Teen Moms Have Time for Music?
Also last week the MTV Music Video Awards were presented.
The awards were first presented in 1984, back when MTV was a purveyor of music videos. That first year Madonna rolled around on the stage singing “Like a Virgin” and Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood presented an award to Quincy Jones.
VMA were presented to:
- “China Girl,” David Bowie
- “Legs,” ZZ Top
- “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” Cyndi Lauper
- Thriller, Michael Jackson
- “Every Breath You Take,” The Police
Among others. The selection of both nominees and winners back then were selected by representatives of the music industry.
Here’s something that seems, well, somewhat perplexing. It isn’t entirely clear how the nominees are determined. There seems to be “open” voting, but when you look at the nominees—e.g., Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Harry Styles, Bad Bunny, Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish, Lizzo—and also look at the ubiquity of Paramount+ logos on the VMA website, it seems as though it very well may be predicated largely on commercial interests.
(Realize that Paramount+ has 43 million subscribers while Netflix had 220 million, Disney+ 152 million, and HBO Max/Discovery+ 92 million, so perhaps the Paramount people need ever more visibility in relation to people like Swift, Sheeran and Styles, who move product.)
But what is more puzzling is that videos on MTV are seemingly more random that substantive, with the shows on the channel including “16 and Pregnant,” “Broke A$$ Game Show,” “Catfish” (because you can’t get enough there are also “Catfish: Trolls” and “Catfish UK: The TV Show”), “Double Shot at Love” with DJ Pauly D & Vinny, “Families of the Mafia,” “Laguna Beach,” and “Teen Mom OG,” “Teen Mom 2,” “Teen Mom 3,” “Teen Mom Family Reunion,” “Teen Mom: Girls’ Night In,” “Teen Mom: The Next Chapter,” “Teen Mom: Young + Pregnant,” “Teen Mom: Young Moms Club” and “Teen Mum.”
Are the viewers of those shows selecting who gets the astronaut statuettes?
If so, makes the Grammys seem far more relevant. And that’s a stretch.