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From Kurt Cobain to Ozzy Osbourne: The unlikely former professions of famous musicians

There aren’t many famous musicians who simply rolled out of school and straight into musical stardom. Many young aspiring performers view music as a potential career because it is a way to express their inner feelings and can drag them out of the humdrum lives into which they are born.

Even today, many young bands and artists fuel their creative endeavours with part-time jobs, usually in the hospitality industry. Of course, they would much rather not work these mostly crappy jobs, but rent must be paid, equipment must be repaired, and studio time must be booked.

Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the most unlikely and peculiar jobs that famous musicians took before they achieved success in order to fuel their early careers. Here we go.

The most unlikely former professions of famous musicians:

Ozzy Osbourne – Abattoir Worker

Black Sabbath‘s Ozzy Osbourne took a job as a young man in an abattoir. He was responsible for slaughtering cattle and removing their hooves, making Ozzy’s dark, evil lyrics even more sense.

“It wasn’t because I was killing animals,” Ozzy said. “It was because when you’d finished the kill, you could go home. You’d get there at six in the morning and, depending on how many cattle you had to kill, sometimes you’d be back home three or four hours later. So you had the rest of the day off. That was better than working nine to five in an office. The money was good as well.”

Jonathan Davis – Embalmer

Jonathan Davis of Korn worked in a mortuary as part of a class in high school called the Regional Occupation Program. Taking part in autopsies, like Ozzy, makes Davis’ obsession with the depraved all the more apparent.

“We’re doing all kinds of stuff, going in the hospital and being assistants, and then the coroner’s office came up, and at that time, I was so – I’ve always just been, I don’t know, something about the dark stuff has always grabbed me,” said Davis reflecting on his CV. “So I’m like, ‘I wonder what’s like to go cut up dead bodies.’ So I went up, I did three interviews to get in – they had to do a psyche background and everything – and I finally got in and started doing autopsies at 17.”

Courtney Love – Stripper

Courtney Love turned to the old-fashioned art of stripping her clothes off in order to fund her band Hole‘s early career. She performed at clubs in Portland, Alaska, Japan and Taiwan.

“I was able to do the kind of stripper economy, which is, for every $5 I made, I would give Eric Erlandson three of them, and that’s how we bought our van, and we bought our backline,” revealed Love about her’s and the group’s origin. “And you have to be really savvy to do it. There was a lot of temptation in terms of drugs back then. I was like, OK, when I make a million dollars, then I’ll do all the drugs I want. Which I did, by the way. It’s a world-class secret, and no one knows it, and it would absolutely ruin my image if you told anybody, but, you know, I did drugs.”

Rod Stewart – Cemetery Worker/Footballer

The rumours that Rod Stewart was a gravedigger are a bit farfetched. It was more the case that he did a bit of handiwork at Highgate Cemetery as a young lad. The Faces singer also had a promising youth career as a footballer at Brentford.

“There were a couple of Saturdays up at Highgate Cemetery, earning a few quid by measuring out plots and marking them off with string,” Stewart confirmed, dispelling the oddly joyful image of the singer as a gravedigger. “You learn a lot about yourself, doing physical work. And what I learned about myself was that I didn’t like doing physical work. […] I wasn’t good enough to be a footballer, although I tried – I had trials at Brentford, but just to keep my dad happy really. Music had entered my soul, and I couldn’t commit to football and the hours – as a musician, you can stay in bed all day.”

Philip Glass – Taxi Driver

Amazingly, the legendary composer and pianist Philip Glass took a job as a taxi driver in New York City to support his family. During his time off in the mornings and afternoons, Glass would sit down at his piano and write.

“Let me tell you something. If you’re in New York City, you might hail a cab. There’s a good chance that the driver would be an actor or a performer,” said Glass, reflecting on the city’s vibrant core. “A lot of day jobs around New York are picked up by people in the arts. I would pick up a car, usually around 5 o’clock in the afternoon, and I would drive till one or two in the morning. I liked the independence of having a car in New York and just driving around. I didn’t want to be in a place where there was a boss telling me what to do.”

Eddie Vedder – Night Security Guard

Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder was a night shift security guard at the La Valencia hotel in La Jolla, San Diego. Vedder was reportedly fired from the job for falling asleep and playing the guitar. He came up with the riff for ‘Rearviewmirror’ whilst driving home from the job.

“I remember working late shift security and getting home, kind of torched at nine in the morning after traffic, and playing because I wanted to play something, but I was too brain-dead to do anything complicated,” Vedder noted about the mindless vocation. “After the first record, I went from being the security guard to being in a band that was recording a record in a really nice place.”

Kurt Cobain – Janitor

Kurt Cobain funded Nirvana‘s demo tape by working as a janitor at the humble age of 17. Krist Novoselic once revealed that Kurt hated every minute of the job. He was actually an incredibly messy person but was determined to raise the money to kick off Nirvana’s career.

Cobain said of the job, “It’s a fine mixture of cleaning solvents, not to be used in the toilet. When I was a janitor, I used to work with these guys, Rocky and Bullwinkle. They’d clean the toilet bowls with their bare hands and then eat their lunch without washing their hands. They were very grungy.”

Moby – Golf Caddy

The electronic chillout pioneer Moby‘s first job was as a golf caddy. He took the job on as he wanted to save money to buy the records of his favourite artist. However, Moby’s slight frame hindered his prospects of ever actually being good at the job.

“When I was 13 years old, I got my first ever job as a caddy, carrying golf clubs,” Moby revealed about his sporting career. “It was a very fancy gold course in Connecticut. I’m not a big person, and when I was 13, I was very small. I was really a terrible caddy because to be a good caddy, you have to be able to carry gold clubs. I would struggle to carry golf clubs. So they would give me the old golfers who moved more slowly and didn’t have a lot of clubs. I stuck with it, and I made enough money to buy two David Bowie albums because he was my favourite musician of all time.”

Serj Tankian – Software Company Owner

Before Serj Tankian took on vocal responsibility in the nu-metal outfit System of a Down, he had a professional career in business and marketing. In fact, Tankian actually set up and ran his own software company in his early 20s.

“When I decided to do business and marketing, it’s not because I was in love with business or marketing,” said Tankian. “I couldn’t think of anything else to do. I had a software company at one point. I’ve done a lot of interesting things that led me to this particular road of music and art, and I don’t regret a moment of it. Someone asked me, “If you could talk to your 20-year-old self, what advice would you give him?” I wouldn’t say a thing.”