Brett Favre, man. This guy, once a storied “future Hall of Famer,” is now a cautionary tale of pathos and hubris. An individual less self aware could not be found outside of the Montag/Pratt household. Why play into your golden years? Why undo all the good memories of your prime play? Why not take the advice of Jerry Seinfeld and quit when on top?

But this isn’t about the crybaby quarterback. I know a bit about baseball and the 1984 Olympics, but other than that my sports knowledge is stereotypically girly. So take the Favre tale as a metaphor for a topic on which I have a better base of knowledge and a definite opinion — the world of music.

For every Favre or Steve Carlton or Michael Jordan that plays pro sports a little too long, there is a once-iconic rock and roller who loses luster by merely BEING SUCCESSFUL for too damn long. The whole Stones/Beatles debate is a tale for another time, but suffice to say the four lads from Liverpool are in PART “fab” because their time was so fleeting. 1970, they start to enter their 30s, and they’re done. No more new Beatles music. Nothing to kill the sweet taste left in everyone’s proverbial mouths by Abbey Road and SPLHCB.

Then there are Mick and Keith, still strutting around arenas and charging $300 a head despite the fact that all albums in “recent” years (i.e., since 1983) have been non-events at best and lambasted at worst. And in addition to the Stones, there are 11 other artists (and certainly more) that should have quit while they (or he/she) were/was ahead.

12. Don Henley

The Eagles didn’t change rock and roll, but they definitely added to it, bringing steel guitar and a little bit (of) country to the masses. They DID break up – because Don sucks as a human being, much as he might adore the planet – but got back together, churned out a handful of satisfactory adult-contemporary songs, and toured to the delight of baby boomers everywhere.  Great for nostalgic purposes, admittedly.  In the interim, Henley churned out a few albums that were fine (who doesn’t dig “The Boys of Summer?”) but certainly no Hotel California.

11. Paul McCartney

Speaking of solo projects that were fine but nothing like their former glory … what is there to say about Sir Paul, the “cute Beatle?”  He’s still cute, kind of, he’s a heck of a guy, and he still rocks the house, as I’ve been told. Wings was merely okay, Give My Regards to Broadstreet totally buzz-killed my 10th birthday party, and his starry-eyed romantic non-pre-nup-having self lost a fortune to a one-legged strumpet. It’s a tale that is worthy of a Thomas Hardy novel.

10. The Goo Goo Dolls

This one pains me, but the boys from Buffalo belong on the list. More than 20 years ago, high-school friends John(ny) Rzenik and Robby Takac started a pretty raw punk band. This evolved, by the mid-90s, into a post-punk rock band with elements of grunge and the slightest of pop underpinnings. Superstar Car Wash is pretty flawless from start to finish … and that was 18 years ago. By the time the end of the 90s rolled around, “Iris” and “Slide” were great, but signaled a sea change from college radio toward the space of the dial occupied by light rock. The better Johnny Rzeznik’s hair looked, the more the edge came off their music. I still like a lot of their tunes (new and old), go to their concerts, and find Johnny’s guitar playing uniquely awesome. But they are far from what they once were.

Goo Goo Dolls

9. Aerosmith

In the 70s, we had “Sweet Emotion,” “Walk This Way,” and “Dream On,” one of the first rock ballads and still one of the best. But the guys were tweaked out and f*cked up. They took time off, got sober, and returned with the not-too-shabby Permanent Vacation.  Then there was the catchy but lighter Alicia-Silverstone-soundtrack phase. Then they sang a Diane Warren song for a Bruce Willis movie, for the love.  Steven Tyler will now be a judge on American Idol!  Even the silk scarf around his mic stand is humiliated.

Steven Tyler

8. Elvis Presley

He started rock and roll as we know it. He has had more number-one singles than anyone.  Women wept for days when he joined the army (and for weeks when he got married).  He was the pinnacle of swagger and charm.  He wound up bloated, sweaty, sad, and plagued by addiction.  Gone from this earth too soon?  Almost definitely.  And yet still his career lasted a bit longer than it should have.

Elvis Presley

7. The Beach Boys

Pet Sounds is arguably one of the most inventive albums of the RnR era. “Good Vibrations” alone earns these guys mention in the annals for the foreseeable future.  But multiple member deaths plus a Brian Wilson exodus equals “Kokomo.”  If that weren’t bad enough, John “Uncle Jesse” Stamos is their sometimes drummer. Have mercy, indeed.

Beach Boys

6. Pearl Jam

In the heyday of grunge, there was Nirvana and there was Pearl Jam.  Ten was almost as good as Nevermind, some would argue, and who can forget what a stunner the “Jeremy” video was?  (Still is). But if Nirvana is the Beatles, Pearl Jam is the Stones.  Their legacy is lessened by their prolificness. The misguided cover of “Last Kiss” didn’t help matters.

5. Metallica

The godfathers of modern metal, these guys were ones to be revered and feared. They said Kill ‘Em All, and we believed they meant it! And then … they got … old.  Lars Ulrich sued Napster and came off as a whiney, if not crotchety, little brat. They documented their struggles in therapy (among other things) in Some Kind of Monster and came off as – collectively – whiney little megalomaniacs. Apparently said “monster” was Grover. My Dad met Lars in an airport once and he praised the invention of the Kindle. What else can you say?


4. Snoop (Doggy) Dogg

This dude was straight from the streets, y’all!  He was involved in some dude’s drive-by shooting and didn’t seem to give a sh*t. He wore the pimp title with pride!  And now?  He duets with Katy freaking Perry, appears on a reality show, and guest-starred on Big Time Rush, a show about white boys on Nickelodeon.  Fo shizzle.

3. Ozzy Osbourne

Prince of darkness. Master of excess. Bat-head-biting (crazy) trainwreck. Followed by: Stammerer and stutterer. Failed housekeeper. Pitchman for Pepsi and Samsung. But perhaps a slightly improved husband and father (and friend to flying mammals)?

2. The Rolling Stones

Already noted above. Mick – you’ve got enough money to keep you and yours in fantastic skin cream for decades.  Hang it up. Write a book.  Visit Buckingham Palace.

1. Michael Jackson

Never has a fall from grace been so epic or so sad to watch. The cutest of all precocious talented children emerged as a musically gifted young man, who wrote songs ranging from the silly and catchy to the strong and powerful.  His dance moves weren’t bad, either. He took the art of video (which has also seen an epic fall, now that you mention it) to new heights and showed that pop music could be made successfully by people other than doughy white folk. Off the Wall was good, Thriller was great,  Bad is pretty amazing in retrospect, if underrated at its time. We all know what happened next.  And then after that.  And after that.  And after that.  Rest in peace, King.

Michael Jackson.