As technology allows DJ culture to become more egalitarian, it’s commonplace nowadays for a teenage DJ to have their tracks go viral and quickly translate the buzz into a career even though they’re not even able to legally drink in most countries. While this trend has indeed fostered a new wave of talent, a contingent of DJs over 50 are continuing to innovate and decimate dance floors, using the skills and know-how they learned in their analog days. As the 50 jocks on this list remind us, age ain’t nothing but a number.
1. Giorgio Moroder (73)
Not only has this disco innovator/pioneer been enjoying a renewed interest in his career thanks to appearing on Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, the maestro made his debut behind the decks at Output in New York City in May. And more gigs are in the works.
2. Annie Nightingale (73)
The BBC’s longest serving broadcaster, Nightingale might be old enough to have witnessed ’60s icons become international stars, but she’s been all about the dance floor and the underground for decades. Her appetite for bass seems to be insatiable, making her not only a national UK treasure but a proponent for young producers from all over the world.
3. David Mancuso (68)
The innovator of the invite-only Love Saves The Day loft party’s career dates back to the ’60s, Mancuso was innovating long before clubs became a global business. One of the most influential DJs of all-time, Mancuso never wanted to be a DJ, preferring to be viewed as a “musical host.”
4. Junior Vasquez (64)
From ten-hour sets at Sound Factory and Palladium in the ’90s to remixing everyone and later beating a potentially devastating addiction to crystal meth, Vasquez continues to spin and break new music in New York City.
5. David Rodigan (62)
One of the best-known reggae DJs in the world, Rodigan (pictured below) is one of the genre’s foremost purveyors of good riddims. Currently hosting a program on BBC Radio 1xtra, the master regularly tours all over the world.
6. François Kevorkian (59)
Known for his flawless house signature and remixing/producing everyone in the ’80s and ’90s, his Wave Music indie imprint in tandem with his international DJ sets and Deep Space weekly in NYC keep FK quite busy.
7. Frankie Knuckles (58)
All hail the Godfather of House Music (pictured below)! One of the nicest guys in music continues to spread the gospel all over the world with his smooth, soulful grooves.
8. Kool Herc (58)
When Kool Herc started DJing in the ’70s in the community room of a residential building in The Bronx, he got the idea to isolate “breaks” on funk and R&B tracks, inadvertently helping to invent hip-hop. Having recovered from a serious illness, Herc is back in action and recently DJed at Central Park this month.
9. José Padilla (58)
One of the pioneers of the true sound of Ibiza and known for his brilliant Café del Mar sets and chillout compilations, 2013 marks the release of Padilla’s Binary Sun project and 40th year as a DJ.
10. Nicky Siano (58)
Though he’s traveled the world bringing house music to the masses, Siano started his DJ career at home in NYC as a teenager, DJing at club meccas like The Loft and Studio 54. These days he continues to spin and hosts a popular podcast.
11. Arthur Baker (58)
Known for his production work in the ’80s with Afrika Bambaataa and New Order, Baker doesn’t DJ too often these days while dividing his time between London, Ibiza and Miami but he still keeps his ears to the dance floor.
12. Peter Hook (57)
It seemed like a logical progression for notorious New Order bass player to transition to the decks… except for the fact that he was accused of faking some of his sets a few years back. Now focused on his own music after splitting from New Order, Hook’s more recent daliances in the DJ booth have gone much better as he concentrates on his band, The Light.
13. Afrika Bambaataa (56)
Utilizing drum machines and computer sounds when computers were the size of refrigerators, Afrika Bambaataa created electro-funk, a sound that took the world by storm with 1982’s breakthrough smash “Planet Rock.” Bambaataa’s sound has influenced nearly every style of dance music, from breakbeat to electro. In 2012 Afrika Bambaataa was appointed to a three-year term as a Visiting Scholar at Cornell University, where his vinyl collection will reside as part of the Cornell University Library Hip Hop Collection, the largest collection on hip-hop culture in the world.
14. Kool DJ Red Alert (56)
New York hip-hop legend continues to hold it down with club shows and on the air. Check out The Koolest Legend on East Village Radio’s which aired back in March to taste his New York flavor.
15. Jellybean Benitez (55)
John “Jellybean” Benitez has done it all: music producer/remixer, A&R man, indie label mogul. Benitez’s passion for DJing is stronger than ever, as evidenced by his SiriusXM Studio 54 Radio program and regular spate of gigs around New York City.
16. Grandmaster Flash (55)
“A square peg in a round hole” is the mantra Grandmaster Flash has lived by. Known for innovating scratching, phasing and backspins, the hip-hop pioneer (whose group Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five was inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007) continues to blaze trails and bring down walls between musical genres. Listen to his recent BBC 6 Mix to hear Flash in full groove.
17. Alex Paterson (53)
From roadie for Killing Joke to A&R man at EG Records, Dr. Alex Paterson’s The Orb continues to push ambient house into new directions. The good doctor’s outfit recorded an album with dub master Lee “Scratch” Perry last year, and The Orb will celebrate its 25th anniversary at The Forum in London on October 19. Patterson’s DJ sets are epic, and he’s presently hosting a monthly DJ mix on FNOOB Underground Radio. Here’s hoping the upcoming anniversary tour finds him behind the decks.
18. Shep Pettibone (53)
With a remixography as long as your arm, Pettibone went into the hospitality business and currently owns The Empress Hotel in New Jersey. He regularly spins at its Paradise Nightclub.
19. Marshall Jefferson (53)
In the ’80s Jefferson helped lay the blueprint for house and techno. Decades later he’s still moving bodies on dance floors all of the world.
20. Larry Heard (53)
Known as Mr. Fingers (pictured below) for his dexterity on the keyboards, the Chicago-bred Heard (who is responsible for a litany of classics like “Move Your Body”) now calls Memphis home. Heard has recently stepped away from DJing due to chronic ear issues but he still graces his fans with online mixes.
21. Robert Owens (53)
Known for his vocal work with the aforementioned Larry Heard, Owens was also on the scene when house music came of age in the ’80s. These days he continues to sing, record and has established himself as a DJ on the global stage.
22. Carl Cox (52)
One of the most beloved DJs in the world, this British techno hero (pictured below) has earned generations of fans for this flawlessly energetic sets, boundless energy and big, gap-toothed smile.
23. Pete Tong (52)
If DJ culture were a religion, Pete Tong would be the pope. A DJ, BBC radio presenter and serial entrepreneur Tong breaks new music weekly on his syndicated show airing on the beeb and over various radio airwaves. He is the tastemaker’s tastemaker.
24. Danny Tenaglia (52)
Championing a style he’s dubbed “hard and soul,” Tenaglia’s magnetic personality continues to touch his fans. While some DJs mix in the shadows and rarely interact with those on the dance floor, Tenaglia, who is known for his marathon DJ sets, often likes to get on the mic and chat with his fans. File Tenaglia under a DJ’s DJ.
25. Grandmaster Caz (52)
One of hip-hop’s founding fathers still spins and currently works as a celebrity tour guide for Hush Hip Hop Tours.
26. Boy George (52)
Culture Club’s infamous frontman has proved himself to be quite a DJ. This year his residency at La Troya at Amnesia in Ibiza has been hugely successful, and he continues to spin all over he world.
27. David Morales (51)
One of the biggest DJ/producers in the game, Morales, who is now a grandfather, continues to bring his sexy brand of New York house to clubs all over the world.
28. Saskia Slegers (a.k.a. Miss DJax) (51)
Since founding Djax Records in 1989, Miss DJax (pictured below) has pushed the envelope of techno in every possible way. A scant look at her schedule finds her DJing all over Europe for the remainder of the year. Miss DJax won’t techno for an answer when it comes to her music.
29. Moritz von Oswald (51)
One half of both Basic Channel and Maurizio, von Oswald remains a busy DJ, regularly playing all over Europe. This year he released a brilliant album with Detroit techno pioneer Juan Atkins called Borderland. Buy it.
30. Farley Keith (a.k.a. Farley Jackmaster Funk) (51)
Known for producing early Chicago house tracks under his own name as well as aliases Rude Boy Farley Keith, Farley Funkin’ Keith and Farley Jackmaster Funk, Keith can still hold his own behind the decks.
31. Jesse Saunders (51)
Chicago house pioneer Jesse Saunders has done it all, working as a DJ, music and film producer, remix artist, promoter and entrepreneur. Saunders keeps busy these days making music and running Broken Records.
32. Danny Rampling (51)
Known for his role on the early British rave scene, Rampling has done it all, jetting around the world as a DJ, serving as a radio host and remixing and producing tracks for the dance floor. Rampling announced his retirement in 2005 but his break from the decks was short-lived. This summer he DJed at clubs from Ibiza to New York.
34. Steve “Silk” Hurley (50)
Working his way up spinning on Chicago’s WMBX in the ’80s, Hurley dominated the ’90s remix scene, reimagining tracks for the biggest pop stars of the day. These days the four-time Grammy nominee helms house Chitown label S&S Records and remains busy making magic in the studio.
35. Marley Marl (50)
Straight outta Queensbridge, NY, Marley Marl established himself as one of the most talented DJ/producers in hip-hop with the Juice Crew. He went on to release of spate of classic records and is still lethal behind the wheels of steel.
36. Grand Wizard Theodore (50)
A hip-hop icon who also pioneered scratching, Theodore’s style has influenced countless turntablists. Theordore still rocks it and continues to innovate.
37. Joey Negro (50)
The alias of British DJ/producer, Dave Lee has spawned a litany of dance floor dalliances over the span of three decades. Lee took his moniker in 1990 when he released “Do It Believe It” on indie house label Nu Groove and needed a moniker. In 2012 he released The Secret Life of Us artist album. He runs Z Records and has DJ gigs from China to Spain this year.
38. DJ Hell (50)
Munich/Berlin mixmaster DJ Hell (pictured below) has 30 years of spinning under his belt yet doesn’t live in the past. Regularly playing the best techno and house clubs all over the world, he continues to refine his skills. Hell recently issued a brilliant mix CD, Kern Vol.2, featuring top cuts from Joey Beltram, Inner City and Robert Hood.
39. Jeff Mills (50)
Since his days running the elusive Underground Resistance collective in Detroit with “Mad” Mike Banks, Mills has established himself as one of techno’s most brilliant artists. Having worked with orchestras and known for his three-deck sets, Mills continues to break ground for his chosen genre.
40. DJ Krush (50)
Despite his early days as a yakuza henchman, Japan’s DJ Krush decided to leave the gangster world behind when he decided to make a go of it as a hip-hop DJ/producer. Krush continues to bring his beats all over the world and shine the spotlight on rising young talent.
41. Andrew Weatherall (50)
Venerable British DJ/producer/remixer continues to break down musical barriers, producing and remixing for amazing talent and bringing his eclectic musical sensibility whenever he’s on the decks.
42. Paul Oakenfold (50)
Vegas to Ibiza is not only the name of his latest mix CD but it’s also two places where Oakenfold maintains DJ residencies. One of the most in-demand DJs in the world, Oakie’s star-studded new album, Pop Killer, is due out this year.
43. Nicky Holloway (50)
Regarded as the first superstar DJ, Holloway has had his fair share of personal ups and downs over the years but he’s been known to show up behind the turntables every so often.
44. Norman “Fatboy Slim” Cook (50)
Known for too many hits to mention, Cook (pictured below) remains a fixture of the global club scene. After holding down a residency in Las Vegas, Cook recently had a change of heart, stating that the city’s blossoming scene wasn’t really for him. As he jets around the world playing upbeat music for the masses, he just opened the Brighton Beach Café in his beloved hometown of Brighton, England.
45. Ben Watt (50)
Known as one half of Everything But The Girl, Ben Watt has worked as a DJ, producer, remixer, label owner and radio presenter. Watt’s prowess behind the decks is well known in the deep house world, though he’s decided to focus his career as of late on writing books.
46. John Morales (50+)*
One of the masters of the re-edit — a technique where an existing song was altered for the dance floor — Morales is a demon behind the boards. A DJ since the ’70s, this fall finds him spinning his grooves in Germany, Lebanon, France and Austria.
47. Kenny Carpenter (50+)*
Brooklyn’s house hero has done it all as a DJ, touring all over the world and helming mix shows on various radio stations. Though his sound is rooted in the ’70s and ’80s, Carpenter continues to champion new music in his sets as he crisscrosses the globe.
48. Tony Humphries (50+)*
Home Fries! A true global champion of deep house, Humphries has remained true to his sound in the wake of fleeting musical fads. Having toured all over the world, he remains hugely popular in Italy where he often spins.
49. Graeme Park (50+)*
The numbers don’t lie: Graeme Park has worked as a DJ for over 25 years and over 15 years of experience on the radio. After establishing himself at The Haçienda in Manchester, Parky has gone on to tour everywhere and remains widely popular in the UK.
50. Lil Louis (50+)*
The Chicago house master famous for hits like “French Kiss” recently celebrated 39 years as a DJ! Still playing local shows, Louis regularly spins in clubs in Paris, London and all over Europe. No wonder he got a shout out from Daft Punk in the song “Teachers” from theHomework!
* exact age unknown
Image by Dubassy / Shutterstock