Chubby Checker's 'The Twist' Turns 50

Checker talks about his legacy and signing up for Social Security.


Chubby Checker's iconic song "The Twist" is turning 50 this year. The track first topped Billboard's charts in 1960 and popularized a dance that has been performed by people of all ages for half a century. Checker, 68, can now be seen swiveling his hips in a new Social Security Administration commercial. He is promoting a "new twist" in the government program that provides low-income and disabled seniors with help paying their prescription drug bills. U.S. News asked Checker what it's like to twist again—during the traditional retirement years. Excerpts:

[See America's Best Affordable Places to Retire.]

When you first recorded "The Twist," did you ever think that people would still listen and dance to it 50 years later?

The twist is dancing apart to the beat, and the minute we did that, people have been dancing that style apart ever since. It became a permanent fixture on the dance floor. You're not talking to an antique. What we bring to the dance industry you did two weeks ago. The style of dancing—this is what we brought to the music industry.

Do you ever get tired of doing the twist?

Does Walt Disney ever get tired of showing people Mickey Mouse? It is unique in all the world. "The Twist" is probably the most important song that was ever recorded. I could go on the dance floor and boogie with you, no problem. If you are 75 or 14, I come on the floor and nothing is new to me. You are doing all my steps. Everyone loves to do the twist.

[See Social Security Administration Sees Stars.]

Have you signed up for Social Security?

I'm 68. Yes, I signed up at 65. You work all these years to get your money; you might as well get it. When I was young, Social Security was like a maze, and I didn't know that much about it. When I was coming up, we didn't have any way of finding out what it was all about. Now with the Internet, and me being a guide to take you there, you can help out your grandmother and father and mother along with their Social Security benefits.

Did you claim Medicare as well?

Yeah, I signed up. Would you want to pay for health insurance if you didn't have to? If it costs you $200 a month, that's very good. You live all these years; you need to get what you can get. When I go to the movies, if you're 65 and older, you get a break. I get the break. I'm in favor of the government spending all the money they can to take care of the people that support the government. If it's going to cost you another $25 a year or $150 a year out of your paycheck, so what? I am really sympathetic to people that don't have anything.

[See Patty Duke Show Reunion Planned.]

Do you have any plans to retire?

Rock-and-roll is all old people. Everyone who sings rock-and-roll is over 60. The youngest person who sings rock-and-roll might be [John] Mellencamp. If you still have it when the music comes on, there is no reason why you shouldn't be doing it. When it comes to Chubby Checker, it's got nothing to do with age. You notice I never use past-tense words. I always use the present. It has to do with involving yourself in the moment.