After a certain age, it’s not uncommon for people to have concerns about their ability to start following their musical dreams. It seems that the media is always shining the spotlight on young artists who burst into the music scene straight out of childhood, leaving more mature musicians feeling uncertain about their chances for success. It’s true that age can be intimidating. We’re all familiar with young musical prodigies, like the Beatles who created their entire catalog before any of them turned thirty, and Mozart, who wrote his first symphony when he was eight. But it’s also true that music has no age limit.
Like any dream, aspiring musicians of any age simply need to believe in themselves, show dedication, and find their sound to achieve success. And this can happen just as easily at 50, as it would at age 15. In the list below, we introduce and celebrate some of the most famous musicians who started their professional music journey much later in life.
1. Leonard Cohen
First on the list, Leonard Cohen was already an established novelist and poet at the age of 32, when he first decided to pursue a career in the music industry. Driven by a love of music, Cohen approached numerous industries only to be told to give up, because he was “too old for the game.” However, Leonard persisted and has now enjoyed four incredible decades of musical success. In fact, he’s often cited as one of the most influential artists around for younger and older artists alike. Cohen has even managed to press through the challenges of manic depression in his pursuit of musical success – defining him as a truly inspirational artistic figure.
2. Andrea Bocelli
For fans of classical music, the name “Andrea Bocelli” resonates as a musical paragon. Unlike some of the other artists on this list, Bocelli started learning musical instruments as early as the age of six, though he didn’t find any kind of success with his talents until he reached his thirties.
Despite growing up with a love for all things musical – taking classes in piano, saxophone, flute, trombone, guitar, harp, and drums – Bocelli went to law school in the pursuit of a career as an attorney. At age 30, he became a lawyer for only one year, before giving it all up to pursue music on a full-time basis. He didn’t catch a break until three years later when Zucchero held auditions for an Italian tenor.
3. Sheryl Crow
Today, Sheryl Crow is a beloved American actress, singer, and songwriter, but her career in music didn’t start until she was past her thirties. Before Sheryl went on to release two compilations, eight studio albums, a live cd, and numerous contributions to film soundtracks, she had a career as a music teacher after graduating from the University of Missouri. While her music teaching career allowed her to continue enjoying music from a different perspective, Crow pursued her dreams in alternative venues – writing jingles for commercials and playing gigs on the weekends. She didn’t reach mainstream success until she was 31, when her single “All I Wanna Do” shot to fame. Since then, she’s earned nine Grammy awards, and worked with dozens of musical icons, including Michael Jackson, Luciano Pavarotti, and Bob Dylan.
4. Susan Boyle
A woman who went from complete obscurity to global stardom in an instant, Susan Boyle hurtled into the public eye as an awkward, 48-year-old contestant on the variety show “Britain’s Got Talent.” Though unassuming when she walked on the stage, Boyle left the world awestruck with her stunning rendition of the song “I Dreamed a Dream,” which lead to a standing ovation from judges and crowd members alike.
Since then, Boyle’s album has become an all-time, best-seller in the UK. And since 2012, she’s been estimated to have a net worth of more than $33 million to her name.
5. Debbie Harry
When her career began as a backing singer, Debbie Harry was already in her late twenties. Then she was in her mid-thirties by the time Blondie hit its stride, achieving a number of hit singles and an incredible fan base. Blondie recorded nine studio albums, all with Harry as the iconic frontwoman, launching the group into impressive fame. Today, some people even credit Debbie Harry with providing the inspiration for Madonna’s look.
6. Bill Withers
Bill Withers endured nine years serving his country with the United States Navy before he began to think about a career in the musical industry. Packing up and moving to Los Angeles, Withers began using his own wages to pay for his demo tapes, while performing in local clubs at night to keep his dream alive. During 1971, he released his very first album “Just as I Am,” when he was already 34 years old, and the album featured his amazing hit single “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
This list is an example of just a handful of musicians that found success later in life, which goes to show, music is a dream that can be achieved by anyone, at any age.