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The greatest rock band still survives

Brian Viner of the London Daily Mail drew world attention when he trashed the Rolling Stones for being old. They are, and we should have fun with that. Viner did.

"The last time the Rolling Stones wowed a West Country crowd quite like they did at the Glastonbury Festival on Saturday night was when they played the Stonehenge opening ceremony in 2,300 BC," Viner wrote.

"That, at any rate, was the joke doing the rounds on Twitter late on Saturday, not that you could find anyone at Glastonbury making cracks about superannuated rock stars."

Matt Drudge, the Internet's city editor, gave Viner's review an online link with a provocative headline, "PAPER: 'NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD'," which certainly drew the ire and attention of thousands of people around the world who resemble that remark.

The pictures of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger on the Drudge Report were devastating and new. Oh dear, they are older than Hillary Clinton.

But moobs and paunches aside, the Rolling Stonehedge, to steal a line, still rock at the aggregate age of 276.

"Mick Jagger might be a knight of the realm who turns 70 this month, and Keith Richards might now sport something resembling an old man's paunch, but they, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood (at 66, the baby of the band, and also the new boy, having joined as recently as 1975), put on a show that the teenagers in the audience will tell their grandchildren about," Viner wrote.

They will.

I saw the Stones in Frankfurt in 1976 when they were pebbles. I will.

The Rolling Stones became the greatest rock 'n' roll band ever by surviving and prevailing. They have hung together through drug busts, prison, death, marriages, divorces and two members who detest one another.

In his autobiography, Richards ridiculed the size of Jagger's manhood, an insult worthy of a duel two centuries ago, but there they were on Saturday night on stage playing songs that stretched back a half-century to 170,000 fans.

That is three times Charleston's population.

Compare the behavior of Richards and Jagger to the breakup of the Beatles over Paul McCartney writing what John Lennon called "granny songs."

They had grown up and they split up. To be sure, the breakup led to wonderful music by Lennon, McCartney and George Harrison (sorry, Ringo) in the aftermath, but the band died more than 40 years ago, a passing fad.

Led Zeppelin came and went too, like a feather in the wind. Their music may have eclipsed the Stones in the 1970s, but the death of their drummer, John Bonham, also killed the band.

The Stones took the death of their founder in stride. The show must go on.

Over the years, the Stones paced themselves and changed with the musical tide without forgetting their rock 'n' roll roots. Whenever they lost their way, they returned.

The group survived the chaotic and psychedelic "Their Satanic Majesties Request." Once they listened to the album, they awakened from their head trip, and the Stones recorded "Beggars Banquet" with its "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Street Fightin' Man."

Two years later came, "Sticky Fingers," their best album and one of the few albums by any group that hits every right note through all its tracks.

The Stones have rocked on for half a century because it's only rock 'n' roll and they like it.

True, the music made them millionaires many, many times over, but the music also will make them take the stage 10 years from now, even if they need walkers.

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