Updated January 26, 2018
Twenty DJs Over 50 Who Still Top The Bill
While it can often seem to the public that DJing is a “young man’s game”, there are plenty of examples showing otherwise. Many of the music genres that sort-of “came of age” alongside DJing are still very well represented by the pioneers that helped create them.
If there are any shining examples of the old adage, age ain’t nothing but a number, it’s these guys. Between them, they’ve seen it all: the development of scratching, the rave glory days of the 90s, the advent of hip-hop… the list goes on.
Here are twenty influential DJs in the “Over 50 Club” who still rock out (in alphabetical order):
1. DJ Jazzy Jeff (53)
Whether you know Jeffrey Townes as one half of the Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince duo, as “Jazz” on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, or as a true champion of turntablism… there’s no denying the impact that he’s had on the DJ community.
Jeff has been a hard-working DJ since the early 1980s, and shows no signs of slowing down. He still tours all over the place, gives great interviews talking about the state of DJing, and even performed some scratch overdubs for the 2015 film Straight Outta Compton.
Over the course of his career, “The Magnificent” has received many accolades, including a DMC Championship and multiple GRAMMY and American Music Awards and nominations.
2. Ben Watt (55)
One half of the duo Everything But The Girl, Ben Watt is not only a DJ… he’s a singer, songwriter, author, and musician too. As the son of a jazz musician and a showbusiness writer, perhaps he was destined for a life in music.
Ben also established successful music labels, including the well-known outfit Buzzin’ Fly. This independent deep house and techno label fostered the careers of then up-and-coming DJs such as Justin Martin.
3. Carl Cox (55)
What can you even say about Carl? He’s a techno and house icon, a monthly DJ for BBC Radio One’s Essential Mix, owner of two record labels and even has his own stage at various festivals where he performs.
In fact, Carl Cox & Friends celebrated their 10 year anniversary at Ultra. Across the two days, Carl was joined on his own stage by the likes of Pete Tong, Dubfire, Marco Bailey, UMEK, Luciano, and Loco Dice.
The gap-toothed smile of this dance music legend is etched into the minds of thousands of club-goers and music-lovers the world abroad.
4. David Morales (56)
David is a grammy-winning producer/remix artist, and former owner of Stereo nightclub in Montreal. He is often considered to be one of the first “superstar DJs”, and was hugely influential in the US/UK markets as well as in Ibiza.
I still drop “How Would You Feel” here and there, when I think the crowd needs a little feel-good house music!
5. Derrick May (54)
May is credited with creating a colder, “futuristic” variant of house music that would later be dubbed techno… alongside his friends Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson. For two years (2003-2004), he was in charge of the famous Detroit Electronic Music Festival and is credited with renaming the festival to Movement.
Today, Derrick May describes his sound as Hi-Tek Soul, or “George Clinton meeting Kraftwerk in an elevator”. He continues to operate within a rigorous international touring schedule.
6. DJ Hell (55)
German house & techno legend DJ Hell has been responsible for many of the big dance records that came out of Berlin in the 90s. He’s also seen as the main initiator of the 80s-inspired electroclash movement.
Personally, I was primarily introduced to DJ hell through the controversy in 2009 which also involved Felix da Housecat and P Diddy (Sean Combs). Felix announced that DJ Hell’s track called The DJ, which featured Diddy, used content which was taken without permission.
But it wouldn’t be fair for this to define DJ Hell’s legacy, as he is no stranger to receiving accolades and awards for his work. In fact, he was even crowned “Man of the Year” by GQ Magazine in 2002.
7. DJ Kool Herc (62)
Jamaican-born Clive Campbell is often credited for helping develop the idea of “rapping” and as having huge influence in hip-hop in general, but it’s important to not dismiss his huge contributions in the realm of DJing.
Kook Herc had a propensity for hard funk records, which was a natural progression from the waning disco era for clubgoers. He developed a style of playing music using two turntables, and often used two copies of the same record to elongate the instrumental “breaks” in funk records.
Thus, hip-hop was born… as was our modern concept of DJing.
8. Giorgio Moroder (77)
Giorgio is not simply an experienced DJ. He’s also a songwriter and producer with one of the best resumes in music history. Not only has he worked with some of the biggest names to ever exist in the business (such as Donna Summer), he’s credited with helping to pioneer electronic dance music. Yes, like, in general.
Mr. Moroder is also credited as being the oldest (and possibly, most influential) person on this list.
A few years back, Giorgio had a resurgence in popularity due to his work on Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories… which even contains a namesake track dedicated to him.
9. Grandmaster Flash (60)
Another hip-hop pioneer makes it onto the list, as Grandmaster Flash was hugely influential in the way hip-hop DJing is performed even today. Along with his Furious Five, he was the first hip-hop act to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of fame.
Grandmaster Flash is credited with perfecting the techniques of scratching, punch-phrasing, and the backspin mixing technique.
10. Greg Wilson (57)
Greg has been at it for many years, even accounting for a decade+ hiatus.
He’s also a writer who brought a lot of attention to the contributions of black musicians in shaping modern dance music culture. He still blogs about the music and the culture he knows so well to this day.
11. Jeff Mills (54)
Mills is so well known and respected amongst techno enthusiasts, even Eminem had to give him props. In the song Groundhog Day from The Marshall Mathers LP 2, Eminem says “…and discovered this DJ who was mixing, I say it to this day, if you ain’t listened to The Wizard, you ain’t have a f***ing clue what you was missing…”
Quite a statement from someone who claims that nobody listens to techno!
12. Joey Negro (53)
Barely making it onto the list, Joey Negro (aka Dave Lee) has produced a number of well-known house records over the years, and has even had a few Top-40 hits. Many of his releases were under pseudonyms, or as part of The Sunshine Band.
As an expert music compiler, he has also put together over 20 albums which usually have featured rare club and disco music.
Joey Negro releases House music (and other disco-influenced styles) on his own Z Records label, and continues to DJ regularly in the UK and around the world.
13. Juan Atkins (55)
Back in the early 80s, he taught Derrick May how to mix and formed a DJ duo called Deep Space… and along with Kevin Saunderson, even started a club in downtown Detroit for local DJs to collaborate and mix together.
And of course, let’s not forget all of his iconic work performing as Cybertron and Model 500.
Juan has a lot to do with the existence of the techno music we all love today.
14. Junior Vasquez (68)
Vasquez made a name for himself as a DJ by landing a brief residency at Club Bassline in New York… but only after producing and editing singles by such artists as Madonna, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, MC Hammer, Prince, and Pet Shop Boys .
Vasquez had a conflict with Madonna back in 1996, after the release of an unauthorized single: “If Madonna Calls”. The original version contains what is widely believed to be an actual phone message from Madonna left on Vasquez’s answering machine.
Many underground hits and various residencies later, Junior Vasquez continues to play clubs all over the world.
15. Kevin Saunderson (53)
As one of the Belleville Three, Kevin helped to create what we now know as Detroit Techno (though, he did spend his very early years in New York).
Kevin barely makes it onto the list at age 50, but he’s certainly no stranger to mesmerizing a dance floor.
16. Larry Heard (57)
Also known as Mr. Fingers, Larry Heard is most associated with Chicago house music. A pioneer of deep house, Larry had a way of fusing the dance music of the time with the soulful sounds of early disco.
Larry is also a talented multi-instrumentalist musician, and has been from a young age.
I found out while researching this article that Larry stopped touring fairly recently in order to save his hearing, which he had been struggling with. But, since he had turned 50 before he stopped (and I already did the work), I feel okay leaving him here.
17. Marley Marl (55)
Let’s put it this way… he’s basically the first guy to discover how to sample his records and sequence them to make a rap beat. How’s that for important?
Mr. Magic is also an experienced radio DJ, and to this day, runs his Golden Era Radio on WBLS. He also still tours the world, sharing his love of early hip-hop with his fans.
18. Norman Cook (54)
Ring a bell? It should. Because as a solo electronic act, he’s won 10 MTV Music Awards (as well as 2 Brit Awards). He, along with maybe 3 or 4 other artists, are basically responsible for the “big beat” movement in the 90s.
Just a few short months ago, he played 3 sold-out shows in major venues. At 51, music is still Norman’s Weapon of Choice.
19. Paul Oakenfold (54)
You may be aware of his label, Perfecto Records, and his contributions to the golden era of rave. But did you know that his first gigs involved playing soul music at a wine bar? Or that, as an A&R rep, he was responsible for signing Salt-n-Pepa and DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince? Or that he’s written hits for the likes of Madonna and Cher?
Paul Oakenfold certainly has one of the most seasoned resumes on this list.
20. Pete Tong (57)
He’s also still touring internationally, and holds a long-running residency at Pacha in Ibiza.
Pete Tong is a shining example of a DJ who wears many different hats, and is one of the hardest working guys in the biz.
Unfortunately, due to their passing a few years ago… the legendary Frankie Knuckles, and THE radio personality Casey Kasem, were unable to be on this list. They are certainly worth mention here, however, and it didn’t seem right to wrap up without them.
Rest in peace!