If you google information about longest running bands, there seem to be conflicting accounts, like U2, ZZ Top, Rolling Stones, etc, which depend on the criteria used (no gaps, same members, etc). These tend to focus on rock bands, but surely there are other music genres, or even soloists (e.g. Dave Bartholomew or Bob Dylan), who might have lasted longer, or are still playing music.

So, I guess to properly answer this, we need some precise definitions. I propose:

Who is the (i) singer and (ii) band that:

  1. was active for the longest period, without interruptions, but not necessarily with the original members
  2. was active for the longest period, without interruptions, with the same original members
  3. is still active for the longest period, without interruptions, but not necessarily with the original members
  4. is still active for the longest period, without interruptions, with the same original members

It might be worth mentioning those who fit the above, albeit having had some interruption in their career. Yet, for the moment the above is enough.


11 Answers 11


For a solo singer, you're going to have to live a long time to beat Tony Bennet

First hit, 1951 with Because of You - still touring in 2017
I spotted a poster for this outside the Albert Hall last week - http://www.royalalberthall.com/tickets/events/2017/tony-bennett/

That's 66 years.

If you are considering only the life-span of actual chart success with only new material qualifying & no re-releases, then Cliff Richard is probably up there, first hit Move it, 1958; last qualifying hit 2008 with a new & original song Thank you for a Lifetime

That's 50 years.

  • He retired in 2021, and died last year. RIP
    – luchonacho
    Commented Jan 6 at 13:58

The Isley Brothers are the only group to have hit the US Top 100 every single decade between the 50's and the 2000's. That's six decades and counting(!) Lead singer Ron Isley (age 76) has already added on the most recent decade, if you count the R&B/HH charts. ("My Favorite Thing," 2013, and Kendrick Lamar's "How Much a Dollar Cost", 2015, which peaked just under the US Top 100.)

Fun trivia --Jimi Hendrix started out as a backup guitarist for the Isley Brothers, and one of the Beatles' earliest hits was a cover of their "Twist and Shout."

According to Wikipedia, the following singles reached the Top 100 of the US or UK Pop Singles Charts:

Year Single US US R&B UK
1959 "Shout" 47
1962 "Twist and Shout" 17 2 42
1966 "This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)" 12 6 3
1968 "Behind a Painted Smile" 5
1969 "It's Your Thing" 2 1 30
1969 "I Turned You On" 23 6
1969 "Put Yourself In My Place" 13
1970 "Love the One You're With" 18 3
1972 "Pop That Thang" 24 3
1972 "That Lady (Part 1)" 6 2 14
1974 "Summer Breeze" 60 10 16
1975 "Fight the Power (Part 1)" 4 1
1975 "For the Love of You" 22 10
1976 "Harvest for the World" 63 9 10
1977 "The Pride (Part 1)" 63 1
1977 "Livin' in the Life" 40 4
1978 "Take Me to the Next Phase (Part 1)" 1 50
1979 "I Wanna Be with You (Part 1)" 1
1979 "It's a Disco Night (Rock Don't Stop)" 90 27 14
1980 "Don't Say Goodnight (It's Time for Love) (Parts 1 & 2)" 39 1
1983 "Between the Sheets" 101 3 52
1996 "Down Low (Nobody Has to Know)" (R. Kelly featuring The Isley Brothers) 4 1 23
2001 "Contagious" 19 3

Other long-running groups that have remained influential and active (without necessarily hitting the charts) include the Jolly Boys (formed in 1945, still includes 3 original members, named by Errol Flynn!), and the Blind Boys of Alabama (formed 1939, still includes 2 original members, the remainder are deceased).


Dame Vera Lynn has clearly beaten everyone else by several decades. Behold the facts -

  • First solo record release 1936
  • Debut US chart single 1948 (only US because there wasn't a UK chart for a few more years)
  • Debut studio album 1949
  • Most recent UK Album Chart entry 'Vera Lynn 100' (celebrating her 100th birthday on 20 March 2017) which charted 17 March 2017

I make that comfortably an 81 year career, and counting.

  • 2
    All fine and true, but I would notice that her last studio album was in 1984. After that, all are compilation albums. Naturally this does not take away the merit of being, as it seems, the longest currently active singer in the world.
    – luchonacho
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 9:25
  • She died in 2020. RIP
    – luchonacho
    Commented Jan 6 at 13:59

Consider Charles Aznavour. Born on 22 May 1924, with a career starting arguably in 1946 (although he was performing as a child). From Wikipedia:

Charles's parents introduced him to performing at an early age, and he dropped out of school aged nine, taking the stage name "Aznavour". His big break came in 1946 when the singer Édith Piaf heard him sing and arranged to take him with her on tour in France and to the United States.

The next paragraph has more details WRT his early years:

Aznavour was already familiar with performing on stage by the time he began his career as a musician. At the age of nine, he had roles in a play called Un Petit Diable à Paris and a film entitled La Guerre des Gosses. Aznavour then turned to professional dancing and performed in several nightclubs. In 1944, he and actor Pierre Roche began a partnership and in collaborative efforts performed in numerous nightclubs. It was through this partnership that Aznavour began to write songs and sing. The partnership's first successes were in Canada in 1948-1950. Meanwhile, Aznavour wrote his first song entitled J'ai Bu in 1950.

He is currently touring, though this is expected to be his farewell tour. Assuming 1946 as his career's start date, he's been in the business for 70+ years. A 2014 concert announcement says:

With a career spanning over 70 years, garnering over 100 million records sold, 1200 songs, 80 movies, and 294 albums, Charles Aznavour has recorded and performed in 7 languages, and is the longest standing “A list” star, still filling major venues all over the world

A (sad) update: Aznavour died on 1 October 2018 at the age of 94. Which means his career lasted 72 years.


The Stones are definitely up there...having been formed in '62 and still releasing albums in 2016 with many of the same original members. That's a span of 54 years, which is impressive--and perhaps unique in the rock genre.

To add some answers from a different genre, some long lived Jazz entities:


Petula Clark.

Released her first single in 1949, and made a new studio album in 2018. That's 69 years!

  • 3
    Welcome to the site! You might consider updating your answer with some context or citations to sources indicating Petula Clark has the longest running musical career.
    – sanpaco
    Commented Oct 16, 2018 at 20:26
  • 4
    She actually had her first radio broadcast aged 9 in 1942 - & is returning to the stage in 2019 in Mary Poppins - that's 77 years & counting - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petula_Clark
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 11:19

Sons of the Pioneers.

Obviously not a rock band but still going. Started in 1933/4 by Roy Rogers (then known by his birth name Len Slye) with Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer and originally called Pioneer Trio. Hugh Farr then joined and a radio announcer dubbed them ‘Sons of the Pioneers’ because they were ‘too young to be pioneers’ and they were also no longer a trio. Roy Rogers’ son Roy Jnr (‘Dusty’) now performs with them. Obviously there have been many members over the years and all the original members are now dead. Roy Rogers was the last of the founding members to die when he passed away in 1998.


The Blind Boys of Alabama began as a group in the 1930s, although they didn't start recording until 1948.

Stéphane Grappelli began his career in approximately 1928 which lasted almost to his death in 1997.

The Thomanerchor choir has been together for 800 years.


The Royal Danish Orchestra has them all beat. It has been in continuous operation since 1448. As of this post, that's 575 years. A timeline of the orchestra is available on their website.

However, the Regensburg Cathedral choir, in Germany, even has the RDO beat. They're estimated to have been in continuous operation for more than 1000 years. According to Wikipedia:

The boys' choir dates back to 975.

Now, even older than those might be the two oldest, continuously occupied Christian monasteries. The Monastery of Saint Anthony "was built between 298 and 300" (Wikipedia), and the Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great "was founded in approximately 360 [CE]." The "might" is the question of whether or not they chant. Of course, it's possible, even likely, that there are even older "ensembles" of this type in China and/or India.


Willie Nelson. Born in 1933 and performing in his teens. It’s now May 2024 and at 91 years old he just released a new album (not compilation).


I'd have to add Michael Jackson to this list. From the 60's to the early 2000's, he had chart toppers that were actually relevant. His ability to change his music and performance style to fit a particular decade was unique. While there are musicians that attain this status, there are few who were known around the world. It is also Michael Jackson's "Gotta Be Starting Something" that is the "most recognized" song worldwide of all time. When you consider length of career plus popularity...I'm not sure any compare?

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