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5 Famous Musicians Who Once Had Day Jobs

- October 17, 2018

Kurt Cobain

It’s easy to forget that some of our favorite rockers and musical idols are normal people. They didn’t just fall from heaven and begin making music. They’re humans like the rest of us.

And one reminder of their humanness is that many of the big names in the music world once had day jobs. They lived paycheck to paycheck, coming up with creative ways to make money.

Here are five of those famous musicians who once held down a “regular” job.

Art Garfunkel (Simon & Garfunkel) – Math Teacher

Some people say Art Garfunkel road the coat tail of Paul Simon, that Simon was more talented. That may be true, but Garfunkel could probably crush Simon in a math competition.

The falsetto-singing half of Simon & Garfunkel was attending Columbia University when the duo was signed to Columbia Records in 1964. He completed his undergraduate degree in Art History (yes, that’s funny because his name is also Art) and then actually earned a master’s degree in Math Education.

Oh, and he did this while touring and recording.

In 1970, the two men split after their No. 1 hit “Bridge Over Troubled Water” came out. And what did Garfunkel do? Go back to teaching math of course. He spent two years teaching until he returned to making music for a living.

Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) – Janitor

Kurt Cobain (yes, THE Kurt Cobain) was once a janitor for Lemon’s Janitorial Service. It’s strange to imagine him scrubbing toilets and mopping floors now that we’ve seen him rock on stage and heard his hit songs.

But’s it’s true. In the book Cobain On Cobain, he describes grunge from the perspective of a janitor.

“It’s a fine mixture of cleaning solvents, not to be used in the toilet,” he said. “When I was a janitor I used to work with these guys Rocky and Bullwinkle. They’d clean the toilet bowls with their bare hands and then eat their lunch without washing their hands. They were very grungy.”

Freddie Mercury (Queen) – Used Clothing Salesman

Fred Bulsara (aka Freddie Mercury), along with his future bandmate Roger Taylor, sold used clothing at a place called Kensington Market in Ontario. They also sold Freddie’s paintings.

After Queen’s self-titled album blew up on the charts, the now famous Mercury kept working at that stall in Kensington Market.

“We sold clothes and bric-a-brac and just about managed to earn enough to keep the band ticking along,” Taylor said.

David Bowie – Delivery Boy For A Butcher

Back when Ziggy Stardust was only 13 years old, he got a job as a delivery boy for a butcher. He had to pay for his saxophone lessons somehow.

So if it weren’t for that job with a butcher, Bowie may have never become who he was. And years later, he reunited with his saxophone teacher, the legendary Ronnie Ross, on a song Bowie produced for Lou Reed called “Walk On The Wild Side.” Ross got a solo in the song.

Kanye West – Gap Sales Assistant

When Yeezus was just a teenager, he worked at Gap, like many of his peers. Can you imagine going into a Gap, having a boy named Kanye help you, then one day seeing that boy on TV rapping about his experience at that Gap?

He did just that in his song “Spaceship”:

If my manager insults me again I will be assaulting him

After I f**k the manager up then I’m gonna shorten the register up

Let’s go back, back to the Gap

Look at my check, wasn’t no scratch

So if I stole, wasn’t my fault

Yeah, I stole, never get caught

What’s The Takeaway Here?

I guess the point of this article is this: even if you come from humble beginnings, you can reach the success you desire. 

Even if you work a dead-end job, that doesn’t mean your dreams have a dead end.

Many famous musicians know this to be true, and so should we.