musicians who dealt with poverty
Music is an integral part of society as almost every single culture from indigenous tribes to developed societies have some sort of music that binds people together. Today’s musicians are icons in popular culture and while some had an easy path to stardom, others had to walk on a rocky one. These are five musicians who dealt with poverty.

5 Musicians Who Dealt With Poverty

  1. Shania Twain: Regarded as one of the best country singers of all time, Shania Twain had an extremely rough childhood. Twain was born in Ontario, Canada and grew up in the small town of Timmins. Her mother and stepfather worked to make ends meet. Due to financial struggles, Twain and her four siblings often went to school famished. To add on to her struggles, her father was abusive, especially to his wife. In 1987, Twain’s parents both died in a car crash, forcing her to raise her siblings alone. Twain continued to pursue music and Polygram Records eventually signed her. She began her rise to stardom in 1995 after releasing her album, “The Woman in Me.” She went on to release a widely acclaimed album “Come on Over” in 1997, which stood as the number one country album for a total of 50 weeks.
  2. Ringo Starr: The famous drummer for the Beatles, Ringo Starr grew up in unideal circumstances. Born as Richard Starkey in the inner city of Liverpool, Starkey faced many obstacles as a child. His mother worked as a barmaid and housemaid. Poverty and violence plagued Starkey’s neighborhood, but things got worse for him when he contracted peritonitis after an appendectomy and had to live in a children’s hospital for one year. Soon thereafter, he contracted tuberculosis and had to spend two years in a sanatorium. Upon release, he took on menial jobs but still attempted to pursue music. In 1962, Starr officially joined the Beatles. Despite not receiving the same praise as Paul McCartney and John Lennon, Starr was an integral member of the band and serves as a model for drummers across the world.
  3. Nicki Minaj: Minaj, a famous rapper and singer, has the most outlandish wardrobe collection of these five musicians who dealt with poverty. Minaj was born in 1982 in Trinidad and Tobago, the southernmost island in the Caribbean. Her father was a violent drug addict and his troubles impaired the family even after they moved to Queens, New York when Minaj was 5-years-old. The family was immersed in a life of poverty and violence. Furthermore, her father attempted to burn the family’s residence down in an attempt to kill Minaj’s mother. Minaj initially signed with Dirty Money Records, which paved the way for her success by associating her with rapper Lil Wayne. The Young Money label later signed Minaj. In 2010, Minaj won the Best Hip Hop Female at the BET awards and her album”Pink Friday” went triple platinum.
  4. Celine Dion: One of the most acclaimed singers of all time, Celine Dion rose from humble beginnings. Dion was the youngest of 14 children in a poor French-Canadian home in the town of Charlemagne in Quebec, Canada. There was not enough room for the entire family, with three to four people sleeping on the same bed. Her mother and father owned a piano bar and took home less than $200 per week. Despite all this, love bound the family and thus they perceived their financial issues as less severe than they were. Dion earned her first recording contract at the age of 12 with help from her mother. Perhaps her most famous song, “My Heart Will Go On,” alludes to her own life and her perseverance against adverse conditions.
  5. Bombino: Bombino, a Nigerien guitar player and singer, is the least well known of these five musicians who dealt with poverty. He was born as a member of the Ifoghas tribe in Niger. In 1984, a severe drought hit the region, killing a significant amount of crops and livestock. In 1990, the first Tuareg rebellion began, forcing Bombino, his father and grandmother to flee to Algeria in fear of retaliation by governmental bodies. This experience exposed Bombino to music and he taught himself how to play the guitar. Bombino wanted to become a successful musician and traveled back and forth between Algeria and Niger to make his dream come true. The second Tuareg rebellion began in 2007 which killed many civilians. Bombino fled to Burkina Faso and recorded his album “Agadez.” Since then, Bombino has enjoyed success all over the world and uses his work to help secure the rights of the Tuareg people.

Music is emblematic of both the artist and culture it comes from. These five musicians who dealt with poverty are prime examples of musicians who did not receive the greatest hand in life but achieved unimaginable feats with dedication. Music creates a bond between people that may otherwise polarize themselves from each other, for as Billy Joel once said, “…music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.”

– Jai Shah
Photo: Flickr