On Not Getting Old

Last night I saw my friend Linda Hopkins, the legendary blues singer, whose star on the Hollywood walk of fame commemorates her lifetime of entertaining on Broadway, record albums, and in concert halls around the world. She looked luminous. Her big smile illuminated the room, a nightclub on the Sunset Strip where once a month she hosts a celebrity jam session for a youth foundation. Even with a kicking band onstage blowing jazz standards and dozens of animated guests chatting together, you could occasionally hear Linda’s unmistakable laugh cutting through the din. There she was sitting at the center table, sipping champagne, telling stories, and receiving well-wishers, beaming like a beacon. You could see why after all the years in showbiz her nickname has stuck; she’s still “the Kid.”

My friend Linda is 81 years old. And she’s still the Kid.

When she’s not picking up lifetime achievement awards and listening to speeches being made in her honor, Linda still does what she loves best: singing the blues. She continues to pack concert halls in Europe, and in France she’s something of a national hero even though she was born and raised in New Orleans. The concept of retirement seems not to have occurred to Linda. Why stop working if the work is play?

On April 11, Linda Hopkins is going to record a live album with my Tasty Band, at Catalina Bar & Grill, in Hollywood. She views the project as archival history. It’s not like her enormous body of work hasn’t already been documented. But she wants the world to know now (and when she’s gone) that a woman in her 80s can still be a vital, inspiring force — and still blow the roof off a nightclub with the power of her impassioned singing. Linda walks with a cane, and she contends with a host of aches and pains accumulated over the decades, but when she hits the bandstand she’s no longer an octogenarian. She’s timeless.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!” is one of Linda’s favorite exclamations. It’s appropriate. She’s a living affirmation of all the nostrums about growing older that we pray are true.

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