Ann-Margret, who turns 82 on April 28, just released her first new music in over a decade, and it’s also her first classic-rock album. Born to Be Wild is a collection of covers of hits from the 50s through the 70s, including the Everly Brothers’ 1957 “Bye, Bye Love,” with Pete Townshend, 77, and the 1954 hit “Teach Me Tonight,” with Pat Boone, 88. She tells AARP that though her famous contralto has become duskier with age, it only helps the album tap into the rock ’n’ roll heart of a singer whose first hit, 1962’s “I Just Don’t Understand,” was covered by the Beatles. Townshend and Boone also chime in on their collaborations with her on the album.
Why she chose these tunes
“Oh, man, Manischewitz! They’re songs that make me happy!” she says enthusiastically, her voice rising from its usual kittenish purr. Recording them made her feel half her age. “Oh yeah — 40!” She sent her renditions to her all-star collaborators. “All of the people who did the album, they decided what they wanted to do.”
She still gets her motor runnin’
The come-hither cover photo of the Born to Be Wild album finds her astride a motorcycle in a silver lamé jumpsuit, setting the tone for her version of Steppenwolf’s 1968 hit. “‘Born to be Wild’ certainly makes me feel wild, oh, yes,” she says. “It's everything about it, the rhythm and the guitars, the lyrics, and I mean, it's me being on my bike!” Her husband and manager of 50 years, 77 Sunset Strip star Roger Smith, didn’t like her riding her beloved Harley-Davidson, but since his death, she’s been racing around her Los Angeles neighborhood, where she lives in Humphrey Bogart’s old house.
“What can I tell you? I love my motorcycle. It’s lavender, and it's got little daisies that go around each letter, Harley-Davidson. My uncle Calle, mother's brother, in Sweden, had a big, huge motorcycle. And I always jumped on the back with him. We lived 10 minutes away from Norway. You’d see the mountains on one side, and then way, way down, the fjords of Norway. That never left me. I love speed. The speed and the danger. Vroom! Vroom!”