8 Musicians Who Prove Success Can Come at Any Age

There is no age range for success. Being 20-something is not criteria for “making it” as a musician, or “making it,” period. It just takes hard work, persistence, unyielding belief, and maybe a dash of luck, but a number can’t be tacked onto success.

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Here are eight musicians who have proved success can come at any age.

1. Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Raitt had been making music for nearly 20 years before her breakthrough with her 10th album, Nick of Time. She was in her early 40s at the time of the record’s release and has since skyrocketed into legendary status. In fact, her 21st studio album, Just Like That…, is currently in the running for multiple Grammy Awards this year.

2. Leonard Cohen

Before Leonard Cohen pursued a career in music, he first gave the role of poet and novelist a shot. He did not release his debut album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, until 1967 when he was in his mid-30s.

It would not be until the age of 50 that he wrote and released his most famous song, “Hallelujah.” The tune, a triumph at the time, remains a beloved song in songwriting circles.

3. Thelonius Monk

Jazz legend Thelonius Monk spent his early career backing many of the greats from Miles Davis to John Coltrane. It wasn’t until his 1963 label debut, Monk’s Dream, that he was recognized as a massive success. He was well into his 40s at the time.

4. Sia

Before Sia was a pop star, her early career involved singing backup for various artists in the late 1990s. It wasn’t until 2000 that she began releasing music on her own. She wouldn’t see her breakthrough until nearly 15 years later. By the 2010s, she had garnered some attention with collaborative singles like “Titanium” and “Wild Ones.” However, her sixth album, 1000 Forms of Fear, marked the start of her commercial success just before her 40th year.

5. 2 Chainz

Originally known under the moniker Tity Boi, rapper 2 Chainz gained some recognition within the hip-hop duo, Playaz Circle. It wasn’t until he broke away to pursue a solo career, releasing his debut in 2012, that 2 Chainz became a household name at the age of 35.

6. Andrea Bocelli

Andrea Bocelli wasn’t always a global vocal sensation. In fact, before he pursued a career as a tenor, he was a lawyer. He didn’t release his debut album until his mid-30s and wouldn’t see breakout success until his third release as he neared 40.

7. Chris Stapleton

Chris Stapleton had fronted a handful of bands before his cannonball success came with his 2015 solo release, Traveller, when he was nearing 40. Stapleton hasn’t slowed to this day, heaping on the acclaim with each new release.

8. Willie Nelson

It’s difficult to image Willie Nelson as anything other than a legend, but the outlaw country star didn’t start out as the icon he is recognized as today. By the early 1970s, the singer had all but retired from music, having seen sporadic success within the Nashville circuit.

It wasn’t until Nelson moved back to his native Texas that something sparked within him and he released his acclaimed 1973 album Shotgun Willie shortly after. He was 40.

Photo by Rachael Polack

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