Before they were Famous: The Former Jobs of Pop Stars

Jack White
“Jack White (with Stephen Colbert) Live a” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by MHimmelrich

Nobody starts life as a pop star and, arguments for nepotism aside, this usually means a person has to find their feet before they find their voice. Like us, many of the world’s biggest pop stars have endured working regular jobs, from the great to the not-so-great. We spent an afternoon seeking out some of the more interesting examples of this for our readers, and here’s what we found.

Jack White – Upholsterer

The frontman of the White Stripes, Jack White, is celebrated as one of the most influential names to come out of pop in the last few decades, but his pursuits weren’t always so musically oriented. After spending some time training as an apprentice upholstered, White even went so far as to open his own shop.

Going by the title Third Man Upholstery, the store didn’t last once he started selling millions of records. Interestingly though, he integrated the name into a record label he owns which goes by the name of Third Man Records. That’s not all there is to his story either, as equally interesting is when Jack briefly also considered becoming a priest.

Jack White
“Jack White (with Stephen Colbert) Live a” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by MHimmelrich

Madonna – Fast Food Service

As the highest-earning female recording artist in history, Madonna has undoubtedly worked her way to the top. Before hitting the big time, she made her money in New York by working the Dunkin’ Donuts in Time Square. Given she’s now worth nearly $590 million, going back probably isn’t on the cards.

Funnily enough, even if she lost her money from music, she’s also won €120,000 in a lottery to hold on to. If you’re anything like us, you’d probably quit your job if you win the lottery, and maybe seek out fame as screenwriter Dean Weymes did, but Madonna just donated it and kept on trucking.

Elvis – Truck Driver

Speaking of trucking, the king of rock and roll’s legacy is one that will never die, and for good reason. Elvis was called an ‘integrator’ by Little Richard and is heavily credited with introducing elements of rock from artists like Fats Domino and B. B. King into the white mainstream. Of course, a big part of this was practice, and there are few better places to practise singing on the job than out on the open highway.

Straight out of high school in 1953, Elvis took a job driving for Crown Electric. During his time on the road, he even auditioned for music legend Eddie Bond who told the young hopeful to “Stick to driving a truck, you’ll never make it as a singer”.

Elvis
“Elvis Presley Graceland neon sign” (CC BY 2.0) by Mr Littlehand

Kanye West – Customer Service at Gap

Love him or hate him, Kanye’s musical genius is unquestionable. While other aspects of his life and lifestyle might be up for debate, when Kanye dedicates himself to something, he gets it done. When he worked customer service at Gap, we can only guess that he left customers satisfied, and perhaps a little confused. Kanye even gave a shoutout to this job on his song Spaceship, singing “Let’s go back, back to the Gap, Look at my check, wasn’t no scratch”. Pay probably wasn’t as good, then.

Kanye West
“Kanye West @ MoMA” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Jason Persse

Looking at these jobs, the one conclusion we can draw is that there doesn’t seem to be any correlation to future success at all. Rather, like for many of us, jobs can be a way to support ourselves while we focus on the other things we love. Sure, we probably won’t make it on a level as these artists did but, for a sense of solidarity, stories like these are still worth a lot.

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