With Little Richard‘s death today (May 9) at age 87, now just two members of the inaugural class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are still living — Jerry Lee Lewis, who is 84, and Don Everly, the older of The Everly Brothers, who is 83.
The other members of the first class, from 1986, have all died. Three of them were inducted posthumously: Buddy Holly had died way back in 1959 (at age 22), Sam Cooke in 1964 (at age 33) and Elvis Presley in 1977 (at age 42).
But all of the other members of the inaugural class lived to see their inductions and in fact made it into the 2000s, which suggests that rock ‘n’ roll really does keep you young. But not immortal, sad to say: Ray Charles died in 2004 (at age 73). James Brown died two years later (also at age 73).
The pace of deaths has picked up in recent years. Phil Everly, the younger of The Everly Brothers, died in 2014 (at age 74). Chuck Berry and Fats Domino both died in 2017, at ages 90 and 89, respectively. Of the 15 members of the second class inducted into the Rock Hall in 1987, just one is still living—the ageless Smokey Robinson. (He’s 80, but certainly doesn’t look it.)
You have to go to the third induction class to find one where the majority of those honored are still living. These living legends are Bob Dylan, 78; Paul McCartney, 77, and Ringo Starr, 79, from The Beatles; Diana Ross and Mary Wilson, both 76, from The Supremes; Brian Wilson and Al Jardine, both 77, and Mike Love, 79, from The Beach Boys; and Charlie Thomas, 83, from The Drifters.
There were 10 inductions (solo artists or groups) that first year, 15 the second year and five the third year.