Only two other solo artists have had #1 albums past the age of 60--Louis Armstrong, who was 62 in 1964 when he topped the chart with Hello, Dolly! and Rod Stewart, who was 61 in 2006 when he rang the bell with Still The Same...Great Rock Classics Of Our Time.
Key group members who had #1 albums past the age of 60 are Ronald Isley, who was 62 in 2003 when the Isley Brothers' Body Kiss topped the chart; Ringo Starr, who was 60 in 2000 when the Beatles' 1 hit #1; and Don Henley, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmidt, all of whom were 60 last fall when Eagles' Long Road Out Of Eden hit #1.
I know what you're thinking: How about those old-timers who had #1 albums in the early years of the rock era? Surely they were over 60 at the time. Surprisingly, except for Armstrong, they weren't. (People just seemed older back then.) Lawrence Welk was 58 in 1961 when he hit #1 with Calcutta!, Bing Crosby and conductor Enoch Light were both 54 when they landed their last #1 albums, conductor Mantovani was 53 and "Sing Along With Mitch" creator Mitch Miller was 50.
(Two other legends who were older than Diamond is now just missed hitting #1 with late-career releases. Frank Sinatra was 77 in 1993 when Duets peaked at #2; Tony Bennett was 80 in 2006 when Duets: An American Classic peaked at #3.)
What's going on here? The baby boomer audience is staying connected to the pop scene much longer than their parents ever did. Also, older fans are proving to be the most reliable album buyers. They came of age buying albums and are perfectly content to continue. What's more, if these older fans download an album (Nielsen/SoundScan includes paid downloads in its tallies), they are more inclined to pay than go to a file-sharing site.
I'm not sure how Diamond will react to being called "the oldest living chart-topper." But let's break it down. Certainly, it's good to be living. It's a nice bonus to be a chart-topper. As for being the oldest, well, as they say, it beats the alternative. So take it, Neil, and run with it.
Diamond lands his first #1 album nearly 42 years after he first entered the chart with The Feel Of Neil Diamond. That sets a new record for the longest any artist has had to wait for his or her first #1 album. The old record belonged to Jimmy Buffett, who took a little more than 30 years between first entering the chart in March 1974 and landing his first #1 album, License To Chill, in July 2004.
Diamond's highest-charting album before this week was the soundtrack to Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which reached #2 in 1973. That album also brought Diamond his only Grammy Award to date, for Best Album of Original Score. If you stopped people on the street, most would assume that Diamond has had numerous #1 albums and has won a shelf-full of Grammys. Why he hasn't, I don't know. But maybe that's one reason he has lasted so long: He has never been so white-hot that people got sick of him.
Home Before Dark is Diamond's second collaboration with Grammy-winning producer Rick Rubin, following 12 Songs, which opened (and peaked) at #4 in November 2005. Rubin also produced a series of five late-career albums for Johnny Cash, which culminated in the aforementioned chart-topper American V: A Hundred Highways.
Rihanna, 20, also makes news this week, opening at #1 on Hot Digital Songs with "Take A Bow." Rihanna is the first artist to top this chart four times. She previously led the list with "Pon De Replay," "SOS" and "Umbrella." "Take A Bow" opens with sales of 267,000 downloads. Only two songs have sold that many downloads in their first week. Mariah Carey's "Touch My Body" sold 286,000 and Rihanna's own "Umbrella," featuring Jay-Z, moved 277,000. Ne-Yo, Rihanna's duet partner on the recent "Hate That I Love You," wrote "Take A Bow." This is the eighth consecutive week that the #1 title on the Hot Digital Songs chart has sold 200,000 or more downloads.
Here's the low-down on this week's top 10 albums.
Seven albums fall out of the top 10 this week. Lyfe Jennings' Lyfe Change slips from #4 to #12, Now 27 drops from #9 to #13, Tim McGraw's Greatest Hits 1 & 2 falls from #10 to #20, Portishead's Third drops from #7 to #24, The Roots' Rising Down drops from #6 to #28, Def Leppard's Songs From The Sparkle Lounge falls from #5 to #30 and Mudcrutch's Mudcrutch plummets from #8 to #53.
Two songs from Coldplay's upcoming album Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends (that's a mouthful) enter the Hot Digital Songs chart. "Viva La Vida" arrives at #6; "Violet Hill" opens at #18.
Market Indicator: Now 27 logged eight weeks in the top 10 before slipping this week to #13. Alas, only now, after nine weeks of release, has the album equaled the first-week sales (621,000) of the fastest-selling Now volume, Now 7. That album was released in 2001 when the industry was at its peak.
Rascal Flatts' Still Feels Good jumps from #78 to #37 with an 85% sales increase, the week's biggest for a non-debuting album. The album has sold 1,922,000 copies since it debuted at #1 in October.
I Can Only Imagine: Power Anthems Of The Christian Faith holds at #1 for a fourth week on the Catalog Albums chart, with sales of 17,000. The Time/Life collection would have ranked #37 on the big chart if older, catalog albums were eligible to compete there.
Sinatra first hit the Billboard album chart--which was not yet a weekly feature--in 1946 with The Voice Of Frank Sinatra. Only one other artist on Nielsen/SoundScan's list of the top 200 album sellers first entered the album chart prior to 1955. That's Nat "King" Cole, whose jazz trio was #1 on the very first album chart in 1945 with The King Cole Trio. Cole is the #185 album seller since 1991.
Sinatra has sold 14,872,000 albums in the 10 years since his death (a figure that many current artists would be quite content with.) That number will swell with the release this week of Nothing But The Best. The compilation is certain to become Sinatra's highest-charting posthumous album. That title is currently held by Greatest Love Songs. Released just before Valentine's Day 2002, the album peaked at #32.
Which of today's chart-toppers will still be relevant 60 years from now? Discuss amongst yourselves.
It's Here: My favorite song about May is "The Lusty Month Of May," from the 1960 Broadway musical, Camelot. The show was Lerner & Loewe's follow-up to My Fair Lady. Composer Frederick Loewe has many fans to this day, including rapper Flo Rida, who, on his recent smash, chanted, "Loewe, Loewe, Loewe, Loewe."
- Neil Diamond