What do I have in common with Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt and these 19 other musicians?

Well probably not a whole lot that I know of, but Sheryl & I were both born in Missouri and now live in the Nashville, TN area. But what we all have in common is that we found success in our own way after the age of 30. Here’s a list of 22 musicians that all found success after the age of 30 (courtesy of Ari Herstand, thanks Ari!)

Debbie Harry – 31

Debbie Harry worked as a secretary and dancer before her breakthrough. She was 31 when Blondie released their first album, and not until a few years later did they see worldwide success.

Bill Withers – 32

After serving in the US Navy for nine years and working on a factory assembly line, Withers released his debut album with the hit “Ain’t No Sunshine” at age 32.

Sheryl Crow – 32

After being a school teacher, jingle singer and backup vocalist (for Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder) throughout her 20s, she released her debut album at 31 and didn’t get a massive hit until a year later with “All I Wanna Do.”

Christine McVie – 34

Christine McVie played in a band with Stan Webb and Andy Silvester called Sounds of Blue and then Chicken Shack. She left Chicken Shack after she married Fleetwood Mac’s bassist, John McVie. She was 34 when Rumours was released.

Rachel Platten – 34

Rachel Platten had been grinding it out in the NYC singer/songwriter scene for over a decade before she released “Fight Song” which hit #1 at age 34.

Matt Nathanson – 35

Matt Nathanson put out seven albums (and one major-label album) before releasing his chart-topping (indie-label) hit “Come On Get Higher” at 35.

John Ondrasik – 35

John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting earned a math degree and worked at his family’s business, prior to his music career garnering a breakthrough. John Ondrasik was 35 when their smash hit “Superman (It’s Not Easy)” took over the airwaves.

2 Chainz – 36

2 Chainz initially garnered some recognition as ½ of Playaz Circle which he was a part of for 13 years before breaking off as a solo artist. He was 36 when his debut album hit #1.

Amanda Palmer – 36

Cabaret indie rocker, Amanda Palmer, released her debut album with The Dresden Dolls at age 27, but it wasn’t until 2012 did she see mainstream success with her record breaking Kickstarter campaign, raising $1.2 million from nearly 25,000 fans.

Butch Vig – 36

Butch Vig was 36 when he produced Nirvana’s Nevermind, and it wasn’t until he was 40 that his own band, Garbage, released their debut chart-topping album.

Dan Wilson – 37

Dan Wilson was 37 when his first hit, “Closing Time,” was released with his band Semisonic (and he was 46 when he won his first Grammy for cowriting six songs on the Dixie Chicks’ Album of the Year Taking the Long Way).

Chris Stapleton – 37

Chris Stapleton was a behind-the-scenes songwriter in Nashville for over a decade and fronted both a bluegrass band and a Southern rock band before he released his debut, award-winning solo album at age 37.

Andrea Bocelli – 38

One of the best selling singers of all-time, Bocelli was 34 when he released his debut album, but it wasn’t until his third did he reach worldwide success with Sogno which went cracked the top 10 in 10 countries.

Willie Nelson – 40

Willie Nelson struggled for years as a singer/songwriter in Nashville before moving to Austin, Texas and started the Outlaw Country movement. He was 40 when Shotgun Willie came out – which cracked the Billboard Hot 100.

Bonnie Raitt – 40

Bonnie Raitt played around Philadelphia for years before she released her first commercially successful album at age 40.

Michael Fitzpatrick – 40

The French Fitz and the Tantrums founder/singer had been working primarily as a recording engineer for years before forming the group. Fitzpatrick was 40 when they released their debut album with the hit “MoneyGrabber.”

Sia – 41

Sia worked as a backup singer for various artists including Jamiroquai and lent vocals to the English downtempo group, Zero 7’s records before releasing albums under her own name. It wasn’t until she was 41 did she get her first #1 single.

Thelonius Monk – 46

Sure, the jazz piano legend played with all the greats (Miles, Sonny Rolins, Coltrane, Art Blakey, Max Roach) over the course of his career, but Monk wasn’t recognized on a massive scale until his Columbia Records release, Monk’s Dream, in 1963. He was 46.

Leonard Cohen – 50

After a failed stint as a fiction writer, Cohen released his debut album at 33, but it wasn’t for another 17 years did he release “Hallelujah” which has been covered (and released) by over 200 artists in various languages.

Charles Bradley – 63

Charles Bradley spent most of his life as a James Brown impersonator and it wasn’t until he was 63 that he released his debut (chart-topping) album.

Louis Armstrong – 64

Louis Armstrong, although a renowned trumpeter-performer for decades, was 64 when his best-selling album Hello, Dolly!, was released.

Seasick Steve – 67

And although a lifelong musician and producer, Seasick Steve was 67 when he released his first multinational charting (major-label debut) album.

And as for myself? I was a late bloomer musically. Played soccer and football from age 6-16. Got injured quite a bit so I took up the guitar at age 16, piano at 20. Worked as a music therapist in my 20s and 30s and then as an academic program coordinator. Released my first album at age 32, but didn’t find ‘success’ until my 40s.

Age is just a number and it’s never too late to find success, even in the later seasons of life.

One Comment

  1. Rebecca October 29, 2019 at 11:26 am

    Thank you. This was really encouraging. I discovered your music via Pandora today and have been exploring your webpage. This blog post I think is really encouraging for those who think this kind of career and success may have passed us by. Looking forward to exploring more of your music and your thoughts!

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