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For boomers, ‘R&R’ means rock and roll

Many of music's former No. 1s are getting a musical second life, as rock and roll, once the provenance of the young, continues to gray, along with its audience, which is buying up music like crazy.

The golden oldies are hotter than ever.

A ticket to see Mick Jagger on a frosty night in the Windy City? $450 — and sold out.

Barry Manilow's got the feeling again — an album debut at No. 1. Rod Stewart's enjoying a resurgence, and Paul McCartney is as popular as ever.

These former No. 1's are getting a musical second life, as rock and roll, once the provenance of the young, continues to gray.

Anne Sommerkamp is a 40-something reliving her 20s, a soccer mom kicking it up at concerts.

"In the last year I've seen The Strokes, (Eric) Clapton, George Thoroughood, Gwen Stefani, Black Eyed Peas," she says.

How much has she spent on music in the past 12 months?

"Oh man, probably a couple thousand," she says.

The over-45 crowd is now responsible for 25 percent of all music sales, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, twicethat of any other age group. Hip, younger listeners are no longer the bread and butter of the music industry.

"Since younger folks have found other ways to consume music, rather than buying albums, the older consumer has become more conspicuous on the Billboard charts," says Geoff Mayfield, a senior analyst with Billboard magazine.

Purchases by boomers and beyond are up from 15 percent a decade ago, and aging rockers are embracing technology in its infancy.

"The older consumer is absolutely a force in buying MP3 players, buying digital tracks online," says Mayfield.

"I got rid of all my CDs because I put all my music on my computer, and then I transferred it all to an iPod and that's how I play back my music,"  says baby boomer Joey Ford in Chicago. "I have my favorites from years back. I was a big jazz-rock fan, groups like Chicago, Blood, Sweat and Tears, and The Allman Brothers Band. And I like all the Motown stuff. I think I have pretty much everything the Beatles did."

With more disposable dollars than generations X and Y, boomers are rocking the industry, a musically active group for which R&R is more likely to mean "rock and roll."