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10 Musicians Who Have Retired and Stayed Retired

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signing the Social Security Act into law.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signing the Social Security Act into law.

Though it isn't marked by a specific holiday, today is the anniversary of the day that the Social Security Act was enacted, 78 years ago in 1935. That means babies born on the day the bill was signed into law are currently reaping the rewards of the system they paid into for years. For many, this is their only remaining source of income, and it's a lifesaver.

In honor of those retirees, I thought I'd take a look at some of the musicians who have taken their retirement from the music business over the years -- even though I don't think many of them probably needed Social Security checks, given their success by the time they retired.

For the sake of brevity, I'll ignore the fake-out retirements I've discussed in the past and focus just on those who left the biz permanently.

Robert Fripp Retired in 2012, the founding guitarist of King Crimson admitted that music had become a "joyless exercise in futility" for him, mostly due to problems with record labels. Therefore, he announced his leave from the business once and for all.

Bill Bruford Bill Bruford, Fripp's longtime drummer in King Crimson, member of the classic era of Yes, briefly the drummer for Genesis when Phil Collins took over on vocals, and a member of many, many other projects, formally retired in 2009. He has since released an autobiography.

Phil Collins Like his former bandmate and fellow drummer Bill Bruford, Phil Collins called it a day in 2011. Following the final Genesis tour in 2007, Collins had been experiencing nerve problems which forced him to have neck surgery and caused him to be unable to play drums.

He released one more album in 2009, the hit Motown covers collection Going Back, where he sang and managed to play drums with the sticks taped to his hands, but gave it up to focus on his Alamo obsession.

List continues on the next page.

 

Captain Beefheart Legendary weirdo bluesman and frequent Frank Zappa collaborator Captain Beefheart, real name Don Van Vliet, passed away in 2010, but he hadn't played music since 1982, when he retired to become a successful painter. Unfortunately, any potential return to music was most likely halted by his diagnosis with multiple sclerosis, which left him in a wheelchair by the end of the '80s and ultimately caused his death.

Syd Barrett Also stunted by health issues, Pink Floyd's first front man Syd Barrett was forced into retirement due to mental health issues in 1972. A brief return to the studio occurred in 1974, but otherwise Barrett never performed publicly again before his death from cancer in 2006.

Grace Slick The former Jefferson Airplane front woman had a much less depressing reason for retiring after the '80s. In her own words, "all rock-and-rollers over the age of 50 look stupid and should retire." While many would exasperatedly disagree with her and still try to pull it off well into their 70s (looking at you, Mick), I respect Slick a lot for her decision. She's stayed in the spotlight since as an artist.

John Deacon Aside from three performances with his old band Queen after the death of front man Freddie Mercury, bassist John Deacon must have been fairly prescient about the way things were going to go if the band continued without Mercury. He subsequently retired in 1997 and had no part in the ridiculous further exploitation of the Queen name with Paul Rodgers and others.

List continues on the next page.

 

Billy Joel Billy Joel is not quite as retired as the rest of the artists on this list, but don't hold your breath for a new studio album from him. He's publicly said he'll never record another one, and has only recorded two new songs since his final album, River of Dreams, in 1993.

He still tours regularly though, preferring to pull from his deep back catalog than to write anything new. He has, however, released on classical album in 2001, though that's surely not what his fans are looking for.

Bill Withers Even though hopes were high that legendary soul man Bill Withers would return to the fold after the release of the 2009 documentary on his life, Still Bill, was released, the 75-year-old former singer and guitarist has reiterated that he has no interest in returning to the music business that he retired from in 1985.

Linda Ronstadt Country-pop star Linda Ronstadt made no big deal of her retirement, announcing it quietly in her hometown newspaper in 2011. Her final major performance was a 2007 appearance at the Newport Folk Festival.

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