The long goodbyes

Is it just my imagination, or is every singer you ever heard of out on a farewell tour? Ozzy Osborne begins his in May and continues to 2020. Elton John’s starts in September and will go for three years at which point he says he wants to spend more time with his family. We’ve heard that excuse before but not usually from a gay man.

Some farewell tours are celebratory. The Tragically Hip, for example, even with Gord Downie’s brain cancer. Others are gut-wrenching, like Glen Campbell with Alzheimer’s, forever captured in the documentary, “I’ll be me.” Was the family really interested in his well-being, or was that tour just one last grab for revenue from sold-out concerts and associated merchandise? Neil Diamond has just quit touring after 50 years but it took Parkinson’s to stop him.

None of this is new. Sir Harry Lauder, the Scottish vaudevillian singer, went to Australia in 1925 for what was billed as his “farewell tour.” He was back four years later for what he jokingly called “another farewell tour.” He retired in the 1930s, sang for the soldiers during the Second World War, and was last on stage in 1947, three years before he died at 79. His most famous song says it all for any singer: “Keep Right on to the End of the Road.”

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