Living Legends: Oldest Heavy Metal Icons Who Continue to Rock

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 11: Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses performs onstage during the "Not In This Lifetime..." Tour at Madison Square Garden on October 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation)

The birth of heavy metal can be traced back to the 1970s when Black Sabbath emerged from the music scene, redefining the concept of heaviness in rock and roll. Their influential sound paved the way for numerous heavy metal bands that followed, owing their education in metal to the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Bill Ward, Geezer Butler, and Tony Iommi. While the genre has since expanded and diversified, heavy metal remains popular to this day. Amidst the evolution, a group of esteemed elder statesmen continues to wield their guitars and ignite stages worldwide. Let’s dive into the lives and careers of the oldest living heavy metal legends.

TONY IOMMI – The Undisputed Godfather

When one mentions heavy metal, the name Tony Iommi instantly comes to mind. Born in Birmingham, England, in 1948, Iommi is a founding member and the driving force behind the pioneering band Black Sabbath. His influential guitar riffs and dark, heavy sound laid the groundwork for the genre, forever altering the course of rock music. Despite facing personal challenges, Iommi’s resilience and creative spirit continue to inspire countless musicians and fans around the world.


ROB HALFORD – The Metal God’s Enduring Voice

Rob Halford, born on August 25, 1951, is renowned as the charismatic frontman of Judas Priest, a band synonymous with heavy metal excellence. Halford’s powerful vocal range, leather-clad image, and unwavering stage presence have made him an immortal figure in the genre. His ability to deliver electrifying performances even after decades of touring showcases his dedication and unwavering passion for heavy metal.


MICK MARS – The Guitar Wizard

As the enigmatic guitarist of Mötley Crüe, Mick Mars played a pivotal role in shaping the sound of 1980s glam metal. Born on April 4, 1951, Mars’s distinctive guitar riffs and solos became the backbone of iconic anthems like “Kickstart My Heart” and “Dr. Feelgood.” Despite battling health issues, Mars continues to inspire with his remarkable talent, proving that age is no barrier to rocking out.


OZZY OSBOURNE – The Prince of Darkness

Ozzy Osbourne, born on December 3, 1948, has earned his rightful place as a heavy metal icon. As the original lead vocalist of Black Sabbath and later as a solo artist, Osbourne’s unique voice and captivating stage presence have made him an enduring symbol of metal rebellion. Despite his tumultuous journey, Osbourne’s music continues to resonate with fans worldwide, showcasing his unmatched impact on the genre.


BRUCE DICKINSON – The Air Raid Siren

Bruce Dickinson, born on August 7, 1958, possesses one of the most recognizable voices in heavy metal as the lead vocalist of Iron Maiden. His operatic vocal style and energetic stage performances have solidified his status as an iconic figure. Dickinson’s contributions to Maiden’s vast catalog of hits, combined with his solo endeavors, highlight his unwavering commitment to delivering powerful and melodic metal.


JOE ELLIOTT – The Defiant Voice of Def Leppard

As the frontman of Def Leppard, Joe Elliott has been a driving force behind the band’s success since its inception. Born on August 1, 1959, Elliott’s distinctive voice and songwriting prowess have played a significant role in Def Leppard’s rise to prominence. With anthems like “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Photograph,” Elliott continues to captivate audiences with his dynamic stage presence and timeless music.


DAVE MUSTAINE – The Thrash Metal Pioneer

Dave Mustaine, born on September 13, 1961, stands as a legendary figure in thrash metal history. As the co-founder and lead guitarist of Megadeth, he has crafted an influential catalog of aggressive, politically charged music. Mustaine’s technical prowess and songwriting skills have earned him immense respect among metalheads worldwide, cementing his place in the annals of heavy metal.


DAVID LEE ROTH: Diamond Dave

Born on October 10, 1954, in Bloomington, Indiana, David Lee Roth has long been one of heavy metal’s most iconic singers and frontmen. Roth made his mark performing in Van Halen, where he managed to carve out his own unique niche despite standing next to one of the most legendary guitarists in music history. His voice was ferocious and electric, complementing guitarist Eddie Van Halen’s pop-oriented heavy metal riffs. In addition to his incredible voice, Roth imbued the heavy metal lifestyle with his flamboyant dress and eccentric stage theatrics. Heavy metal hits like “Hot For Teacher,” “Runnin’ With the Devil,” and “Panama” would not sound nearly the same without his iconic voice.


AXL ROSE: W. Axl Rose

As the at-times volatile lead singer for heavy metal band Guns N’ Roses, Axl Rose is as controversial as his voice is golden. Born on February 6, 1962, in Lafayette, Indiana, his high-pitched wails on the band’s debut album, “Appetite for Destruction,” instantly turned songs like “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “Welcome to the Jungle,” and “Paradise City” into instant all-time metal classics. However, after a string of successful albums, Guns N’ Roses fell by the wayside in the 1990s, fading largely into obscurity with Rose as the only original member. Despite a few reunions in the early 2000s, it was not until 2008 that they released a new album, “Chinese Democracy,” which Rose had been working on for years.



Since the early 1980s, thrash band Slayer has redefined what it means to be truly heavy in heavy metal. Led by bass player Tom Araya, born on June 6, 1961, in Viña del Mar, Chile, Slayer became one of the biggest names in 1980s heavy metal within a few years of their debut. Their brand of metal was much faster, much more raw sounding, and featured Araya’s trademark screams for vocals. They were the antithesis of the glam and hair metal bands that dominated the mainstream, carving out a solid following within the underground before eventually tasting mainstream success in the 1990s.



Though males have largely dominated heavy metal since its beginnings, there have been many female rockers that managed to make a serious impact on the genre. For example, Lita Ford, born on September 19, 1958, in London, England, is one of the most legendary and recognizable female heavy metal icons of all time. Ford got her start in the rock band The Runaways with fellow future female icon Joan Jett. After the band split, Ford embarked on a solo career, shifting from rock to heavy metal of the glam/hair variety.



Fans of industrial heavy metal have long known the name Al Jourgensen, the founder of the band Ministry. Jourgensen was born on October 7, 1959, in Havana, Cuba, and got his start in music playing new-wave-oriented pop with the band Special Effect. In 1981, he formed the band Ministry, which first played mainly electronic music before becoming darker with the addition of more metal riffs and heavier vocals, creating industrial heavy metal in the process. Their true breakthrough was their third album, “The Land