How the Biggest Names in Music History Entered Retirement

June 27, 2019

Rock stars, they’re just like us, right? Unless your day job takes you around the globe to perform in front of thousands of adoring fans day after day, maybe they are a little different than us. One experience that many of the world’s most famous musicians has in common with the rest of us, however, is retirement.

Retirement comes in many forms in the music world, from long farewell tours to hastily-arranged one-off farewell shows. No matter what form these final performances take, the end result is always a performer stepping away from the stage (for a little while, at least).

At AAG, we care about all people in retirement, including the most famous retired musicians. With legendary artists like Elton John, Ozzy Osbourne, and Paul Simon embarking on retirement tours this year, we decided to take a closer look at the finales, encores, and farewell tours for some of the biggest names in music history.

Number of shows retiring musicians perform

How the Biggest Names in Music History Entered Retirement | AAG

We wanted to find acts that performed a final tour or similar and researched lists of the top performers in music history from a number of sources, including Rolling Stone magazine and a ranking of the most profitable artists in history. We referenced the career history of notable artists to see if they had performed a final tour or show, focusing on those that had done so explicitly in name and allowing room for those that did so in spirit, like the Beatles.

In all, we found 24 of the biggest names in music history and collected data on their retirement tours. This includes the year(s) those tours took place and the number of shows they performed. The collected research is represented in the graphic above.

Retiring musicians that visited most cities

While many artists chose to play one final show before calling it quits, some legendary acts continued their show on the road for longer. Mötley Crüe signed a legally binding agreement preventing them from ever touring again with the Crüe name after the end of The Final Tour, which took place during 2014 and 2015. The band made the most of their last hurrah, visiting 151 cities and playing 158 shows in that time.

That doesn’t quite measure up to Tina Turner, who made stops in 185 different cities while performing close to 200 times in 2000, during what she continually called her “last big world tour.” While she did eventually put on another tour of that magnitude, she stuck to her word for 8 years beforehand.

However, both road warriors pale in comparison to Cher. Between 2002 and 2005, the diva’s Living Proof: The Farewell Tour included 297 tour stops and 326 shows all around the globe. The hard-working singer would eventually return to a national tour a decade later in 2014, and can currently be seen in Las Vegas and Washington, D.C. as she performs concert residencies.

Highest grossing retirement tours 

All three of those tours were massive financial successes, gathering in $86 million for the glam metal legends of Mötley Crüe, $122.5 million for Tina Turner, and a remarkable $260 million for Cher. The final totals put them in exclusive company, joining Kiss, Barbra Streisand, and Phil Collins as the only acts included in our survey to break the $50 million mark in terms of revenue generated on a farewell tour. Elton John recently began his own multi-year retirement tour and is predicted to take the top spot on the list with an estimated $400 million in revenue expected to come out of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour.

Bands that toured more during retirement

Sometimes, the desire to get back on the road proves too great for bands that have announced their retirements, leading them to tour again. As a result, the return to the road lasts longer than the pre-retirement stretch. Such is the case for the artists profiled above, led by Elton John, who first retired in 1977 after 14 years as a performer before returning to the tour life in 1979. While he is currently in the midst of a massive international retirement tour, the 39 years he spent on tour after his first retirement is more than double the length of his first run.

The bands above are not the only ones that returned to touring after retirement, but specifically includes artists that did so the longest. Upon research, 2/3rds of the 24 artists came back to performing on the road again. On average, the artists spent 2.6 years in retirement before the desire to perform again became too great to ignore.

While a third of the acts examined played a single farewell show before retiring their instruments, the rest had long enough goodbyes to bring an average number of over 55 shows played on a retirement tour. That is plenty of time for some last hurrahs!

These musicians have dedicated their careers to entertaining millions of fans worldwide. While most of the performers have finished their tours, other legendary music icons still have a desire to entertain – a perfect opportunity to catch them live while the rock still rolls.

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