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Four of Our Favorite Musician Success Stories

With the weather getting colder and the days getting shorter, we needed a heart-warming pick-me-up. We thought you might like one too. What better way to do that than to learn about the success of others? From rags-to-riches tales, to formidable physical handicaps, we’re sharing our favorite musician success stories.

4. Stevie Wonder
The third of six children, Stevie Wonder was born six weeks prematurely and lost his eyesight soon after. On top of this hurtle, Stevie’s mother left his father when Stevie was only four, and moved to Detroit to raise her children alone. By the time Stevie was a pre-teen, he was considered a musical prodigy. By the time he was 13, he had a Number 1 Billboard hit and a massive career ahead of him.

3. Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton grew up the fourth of 12 children, in a one-room cabin in the foothills of of the Smokey Mountains. Her family was, as she puts it, “dirt poor”— a theme that appears repeatedly in her songs, most notably, in “Coat of Many Colors” and “In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad).” She was discovered as a teenager, but didn’t quite “make it” until she was in her 20’s. Never to forget her roots, Dolly founded a charity which sends free books to children in need.

2. Jay-Z
Jay-Z, or Shawn Corey Carter, was raised by a single mother in a housing project in Brooklyn. Reflecting on the situation, he remembers, “We were living in a tough situation, but my mother managed; she juggled. Sometimes we’d pay the light bill, sometimes we paid the phone, sometimes the gas went off. We weren’t starving—we were eating, we were O.K. But it was things like you didn’t want to be embarrassed when you went to school; you didn’t want to have dirty sneakers or wear the same clothes over again.” When he was growing up, Carter resorted to selling, drugs, observing that he was thinking only about trying to “survive.” Despite an impossibly rough start, Jay-Z is now considered one of the greatest rappers of all time. He is worth $500 million, owns a clothing line and a club, and is married to the beautiful and talented Beyonce.

1. Rick Allen
This one is our favorite. Better known as the drummer from Def Leppard, Rick Allen joined the band at only 15 years of age. In its early years, Def Leppard saw modest success as a support act from AC/DC, but then something unthinkable happened: when he was only 21, Allen lost control of his vehicle in a street race, and was thrown from his car. He survived, but one of his arms was severed. Instead of giving up his dream forever, he commissioned a custom drumset and went on to drum for Def Leppard at the height of its success. His fans call him Thunder God.

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