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10 Famous Music Stars Who Started as Backup Singers

From working multiple jobs to taking odd jobs, music stars have their fair share of humble beginnings. For some, it was being backup singers for prominent stars.

Humble beginnings, no matter how unbelievable they can sometimes be, are parts of the success stories of iconic stars. And they always serve as a reminder that dreams do come true.

For some music stars, taking odd jobs outside the industry was the way to survive, while others fought their way through after being backup singers. Here are some celebrities who fall in the latter category. 

backup singers
image: Pinterest

1. Cher

It is safe to say that anyone would do a double-take at the thought of seeing the ever-vibrant Cher handling a microphone behind the main singer. But that was her story before her 1960s fame. 

The spectacular Cher sang as a supporting vocalist for several stars like the Ronettes and the Righteous Brothers. However, Cher got her big break in 1965 after she formed a music band called Sonny& Cher. 

2. Pink

At just 13, Pink was already sure music was her path, and she wasted no time working towards it. The “True Love” crooner sang backup in musical events, wrote songs, and danced for stars at that young age. Pink later became her own person at the age of 16. 

3. Phil Collins

Phil Collins’ sonorous ballads are unmatched in the world of soulful music and romance. However, it took years of being a backup singer for Genesis to hone his exceptional skills. The “Another Day In Paradise” singer would later take over as lead singer of the band in 1975 after Peter Gabriel left. 

4. Whitney Houston

The late music powerhouse will forever be remembered for her music that defies time and musical evolution. Whitney always had that evergreen voice, even as she sang backup for music legends like Chaka Khan and Lou Rawl. 

5. Mariah Carey  

Mariah Carey has owned the whistle sound for decades and other groundbreaking records in the music industry and entertainment as a whole. But singing backup for Brenda Starr seemed to be her little miracle after working as a waitress. 

In subsequent years, Starr gave her demo to the then-CEO of Sony Music, Tommy Mottola, and Carey’s career took off from there. Carey would later marry Mottola in 1993, making him her first husband. 

6. Mary J Blige

At the age of 17, J Blige caught the attention of some music executives after they listened to her demo track. At the time, she did a karaoke version of one of Anita Baker’s classics, and it landed her a backup singer position in Uptown Records. Blige got her first music credit in Father MC’s 1990’s “I’ll Do4 U.”

The “Live Without You” star continued her endeavors as a supporting artiste for countless stars until her breakthrough album, “What’s The 411?” was released in 1992. This became her pass to becoming the “Queen of hip Hop.”

7. John Legend

John Legend graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1999, before moving to New York City to fulfill his big music dreams. The Grammy-winning singer met Kanye “Ye” West in 2001 and became one of the backup singers for several significant singers.

Besides lending his voice, Legend also contributed piano vocals for stars like Talib Kweli, Black Eyed Peas, and Alicia Keys. Legend was a contributor on Ye’s chart-topping 2004 album, “College Dropout,” and not long after, the rapper created his G.O.O.D record label merged with Sony Music. Ye then produced Legends’s debut album, “Get Lifted,” which began his success story. 

Image: Pinterest

8. Keri Hilson 

Before taking the 2010s music scene by storm, Keri Hilson learned the ropes from singers like Ciara and Usher. Hilson was able to achieve this feat after working with producer Anthony Dent, Diddy, and Destiny’s Child, as a teenager. 

She stopped working for Dent after a while and met rapper Plow da Don, who introduced her to big-shot producer Timbaland. The “Morning After Dark” crooner signed Hilson to his Mosley Music record label in 2006. She did a bit of songwriting, and then in 2009, Hilson dropped her debut album, “In A Perfect World.” 

9. Gwen Stefani

Gwen Stefani had the opportunity to build her music career when her brother Eric started the No Doubt band with his friend John Spence. Eric kept it all in the family as he made Gwen sing backing vocals. However, after Spence passed away in 1987, she took over as the lead singer. 

10. Katy Perry

The “Dark Horse” singer started as one of the backup singers for the Christian Metal band, P.O.D. The singer who went by Katy Hudson got her first music credit when the group featured her in “Goodbye For Now.” Perry later performed the song alongside the band on “The Tonight’s Show With Jay Leno” and was also featured in the music video. 

Ashabi
Ashabi
Ashabi is a writer who enjoys reading and putting her dynamic thoughts on people, places, and concepts into writing. Her range of writing interests includes literary works, creative writing reviews, lifestyle, celebrity catchups, health, travel, world news, and Poetry. Ashabi is a graduate of Linguistics, and she has an avid interest in entertainment, languages, and global history.
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