Richest musician stories
The Fiji Times
April 19, 2015
Shawn Carter of Brooklyn's Marcy housing projects never really intended to be the most successful rapper in history. After his father abandoned the family, Shawn "Jazzy" Carter got into the lucrative field of selling crack cocaine, and the rap thing was a side project.
But in the mid-90s people told him he was good at it, so he decided to start a record label with some friends — a label which eventually launched the careers of several now multi-millionaire rappers you might have heard of.
So at some point along the way — when Shawn Carter decided that (allegedly) being shot at while trying to sell crack wasn't as appealing as selling 75 million records and having 17 Grammy Awards and $500 million in estimated riches and being married to BeyoncĂ© — Jay Z was born.
His career radiates a certain sense of effortlessness and assured victory that would have you forget his early struggles in the street ever happened, despite how often his lyrics might remind you otherwise. His latest album in 2013 went platinum, to the surprise of literally nobody.
His $500 million net worth isn't surprising either; but we admit to struggling a bit when trying to imagine this industry magnate dealing on the streets.
Born and raised in rural Ontario by her mother and adoptive Native American father, Eilleen Twain had to cope with food shortages as a child and resort to hunting and chopping wood for supplies.
She sang in local bars when only 8 years old (strictly after last call) to help support the family, who still often relied on aid from Toronto homeless shelters. After high school however, Twain took her talents on the road to develop her singing-songwriting craft.
Despite gaining strong traction early on, she was forced to return home to support her younger siblings after her parents died in a car accident.
Once her brothers grew old enough to take care of themselves, she resumed her career under the Native American name "Shania", meaning "I'm on my way".
Shania was on her way to musical superstardom — the only female artist in history with three consecutive certified "diamond" status albums, and a net worth of $350 million. She is currently working on her first new record in 11 years.
Ringo Starr is a Beatle; therefore, Ringo Starr is immortal. While that logic is infallible, Richard Starkey's early life, more than anyone on this list, provides a strong counterpoint to the idea.
The fact that his father abandoned the family when he was three, leaving them poor and struggling, wasn't the worst of Ringo's early experiences, because he spent most of his childhood in hospitals battling life-threatening illnesses like appendicitis, peritonitis (which left him in a coma), and severe tuberculosis. His afflictions kept him committed to hospitals and sanatoriums for at least three years of his childhood, and his education never recovered.
A blessing in disguise perhaps, because while battling tuberculosis Starkey received a make-shift mallet from the hospital staff to bang his motor skills into practice, and his obsession with drumming began.
Working low-end jobs on the side as a young adult, he rose to prominence as Ringo Starr in a band called the Hurricanes before joining the biggest band of all time at John Lennon's request.
Today, he can count his lucky stars in one of the longest and most influential careers in drumming history, with studio albums as recent as 2010 and a net worth of $225 million.
The stormy upbringing of Marshall Bruce Mathers III has been extensively chronicled during his expansive rap career, and in the popular semi-biographical movie, 8 Mile.
Though some aspects are dramatised (for the sake of art, of course) Eminem did struggle as a teen living in a lower-middle-class Detroit trailer park with his mother.
He faced huge rejection by both the rap industry and a large part of his local community as a white rapper in a largely black industry.
Frequently bullied and beaten, he dropped out of high school without a single grade under his belt, and found himself struggling between rap ambitions and the need to work several jobs to stay afloat.
But when Eminem placed second in the 1997 Rap Olympics, legendary hip hop producer Dr Dre was listening and he took the Real Slim Shady under his wing.
Today Eminem is dubbed the "King of Hip Hop" by some, as the best-selling musician of the 2000s, with over 115 million album sales during the course of his career and a net worth of $140 million.
In her early years, Jewel Kilcher's family was featured on a Discovery Channel show called Alaska: The Last Frontier, about the hardships endured by families living in the Alaskan wilderness.
Jewel's childhood home had no indoor plumbing and an outhouse for a washroom.
Before she started her solo career, she sang with her father in local bars and taverns for income. But the turning point came at 15, when she won a vocal scholarship to an arts school.
She later moved to California to play steady gigs at coffeehouses, where Atlantic Records representatives eventually offered her a record deal.
Not two years later, her debut album Pieces of You brought her folk superstardom, transforming her from coffeehouse hopeful to an opening act for both Bob Dylan and Neil Young.
Pieces of You went on to sell 11 million copies and launch a diamond-studded career of steady hit folk albums, various acting roles, and humanitarian causes.
Her estimated net worth today is $30 million.
BB King has become the undisputed king of the Blues. His life is the definitive portrait of the social-artistic movement that grew out of black poverty in the early 20th century, and influenced arguably every popular style of music since.
Born on a cotton plantation in the segregated south of 1920s America, Riley King struggled to support himself with farming after his parents split and his mother died early. Luckily for the world, he found an early passion for singing at his church and purchased his first guitar at the age of 12 for $15.
He would eventually take his soulful, improvisational style to Tennessee to drive forth the Memphis blues scene, and would begin one of the longest-running and influential careers in musical history.
Today considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time, BB King has given more than 15,000 performances over a career lasting more than 64 years, and holds an estimated net worth of $30 million.
Impressively, King continues performing today at 88 years of age.