10 Superstar Singers and the Crappy Jobs They Used to Have

Making a living doing what you love is one of the most gratifying but often most elusive accomplishments. When you can rest your head at night knowing that you’ve spent your day exhausting your skills and talents pursuing worthwhile goals and dreams, and while doing so you’re able to bring home the delicious bacon, you’ll know you’ve “made it.” One problem with chasing your dreams, however, especially when they involve artistic expression, is that the process generally involves serving chicken wings or packing turnips into paper bags.

Worthwhile, fulfilling careers usually don’t pay very much (if at all) starting out, so you’ll probably be serving tables to pay the bills while honing and developing your craft (If “making it” was easy, the Los Angeles service industry would collapse). The point is we all have to start somewhere, and very often that starting line is at the bottom. You can never tell who’s gonna go from singing karaoke online to stardom.  The following are some of the world’s most successful singing superstars who started at the bottom. They all needed to make a buck at one point or another, and they worked crappy jobs to help them eventually chase down and catch their dreams.

Rod Stewart grave digger

Rod Stewart

Think your job is lousy? Try digging graves. Would be kind of hard to get through a single work day without thoughts of rotting corpses, and worm-filled eye sockets entering your brain. Where would you take your lunch break? Well before embarking on his four-decade singing/songwriting career, releasing six number one albums with 62 hit singles, Rod Stewart had to dig holes for dead people.

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan Davis embalmer
His songs have always been dark, and I finally discovered why. Korn’s lead singer actually studied mortuary sciences and worked as an embalmer in a funeral home. This is even worse than Rod Stewart’s grave digging. Davis is probably one of the few Six Feet Under fans who relates most with the character Frederico. Not able to get enough of dead bodies, his next job was as an assistant in a coroner department.


You know you’re not in the right profession when you call it your “soul-destroying day job.” This is how Gordon Sumner described his position as a tax officer with the Inland Revenue in Manchester, England, before he took on the name Sting. He later worked as a school teacher, where he became inspired to write two of the Police’s biggest hits, Don’t Stand So Close to Me and Roxanne. Nothing to do with the children, these songs were loosely based on the books “Lolita” and “Cyrano de Bergerac.”

Sean Combs

Establishing his work ethic at an early age, Sean Combs, aka Puff Daddy aka Puffy aka P-Diddy aka Diddy used to wake up at the crack of dawn everyday to deliver newspapers. This was at age 12. At 39 the rapper, producer, fashion designer, dancer and actor is one of the world’s richest hip-hop performers with an estimated net worth of $350 million bad boy bucks.

Puff Daddy paperboy

Ozzy Osborne

When Ozzy finished school his only goals were to avoid working in the factories alongside the rest of his family, and he was taught that learning a trade was the path to success. So when he finished school he worked as a plumber’s assistant (“There seems to be a bat clogging your toilet. ‘Ang on while I bite eets ‘ed off.”) Not thrilled with the work he became a bricklayer. Still not happy. He tried to get into construction, same story. It wasn’t until he heard the Beatles that he discovered his true calling. What’s important is that Ozzy was able to recognize that the work wasn’t making him happy, so rather than just settle because his family told him he should, he kept searching until he found his path: Out of the toilets and onto the stage!


Can you imagine walking into your local doughnut shop for your morning coffee and there behind the counter is freaking Madonna! When the material girl was only 20 she left her home in Rochester Hills Michigan to become a dancer in New York City. She took many low-paying gigs to make ends meet, including a brief appearance at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Times Square.


She has since been entered inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and is listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as “the world’s most successful female recording artist of all time” and the “top-earning female singer in the world” with an estimated net worth of US$ 490 million, having sold over 200 million records worldwide. Also, she was probably the only woman in history to make the Dunkin’ Donuts’ uniform look good.

Pierre Charles Bouvier

The lead singer and bassist for Simple Plan, a pop-punk band from Montreal, Quebec has joked that playing music was their “simple plan” to avoid getting “real jobs.” But before the band earned international fame young Pierre had to barbecue chickens and deep fry french fries at a restaurant called St-Hubert. Many rising stars got their starts in restaurants, and the kitchen is probably the most gruelling position, especially when your restaurant only has four ingredients: potatoes, oil, chicken, and gravy. Mmmmm….gravy.

Chubby Checker

Infinitely worse than cooking chickens would have to be plucking the feathers out of dead ones. Before turning the Twist into a rock ‘n’ roll sensation, Ernest Evans had to rip the feathers out of dead chickens at the Fresh Farm Poultry Market in Philadelphia. His boss nicknamed the teenager “Chubby” and sometimes let him sing to customers over the loudspeaker.

Shania Twain

Growing up in Timmins, Ontario, the Twain family had very little money. One of five children, Shania (Eileen back then) had to do whatever she could to bring some bucks into the household for food. Aside from singing in dingy bars, Shania made the minimum wage working at McDonald’s. Hard to picture the beautiful singer dunking fries and assembling quarter pounders, especially since she would eventually sing Come On Over, the world’s best selling album by a female artist, as well as the best selling album in country music history. Try to supersize that!

Shania Twain McDonald's

Snoop Dogg

East Long Beach, California wasn’t the ideal location to raise a son on her own, but Snoop’s mom did her best. She encouraged his singing in the church choir, and as a teenager he delivered newspapers and packed groceries at the local supermarket. But with street gangs promoting thug appeal right on his doorstep, the dark side was way more attractive than remembering to place the eggs on top. He eventually joined the Crips and began selling crack, a “job” which would get him shot at and would eventually land him in prison. It may have been the right path however, as it was in prison that Snoop honed his rhyming skills, helping him to hit the ground running with friends like Warren G and Nate Dogg after his release. Dr. Dre would soon hear Snoop’s smooth rhymes and the rest is history.

You may be up to your elbows in French fry grease or grimey pipework, handling dead chickens or dead people, shooting newspapers into people’s mailboxes or getting shot. If you start doubting yourself as you watch your friends buy houses and cars and big screen TVs with the money make from their 9-5, mundane, soul crushing jobs, just remember that deep down they would trade all of it to be on the right path just like you. Sacrifice now and you’ll have the last laugh in the end.


Posted by AJ 22. May 2009 at 7:21 am :

Great article Dan!

Posted by Jim 23. May 2009 at 12:28 am :

Madonna should have stuck with Donuts !!!!

Posted by AndrewBoldman 4. June 2009 at 8:29 am :

Great post! Just wanted to let you know you have a new subscriber- me!

Posted by duh 30. August 2009 at 10:18 am :

thought this was supposed to be on really great singers. where the hell is kelly clarkson & her small town job at applebee’s??

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