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Musical Success StoriesWe’ve asked before: Are you too old to make it?

And the answer, no matter your age, is that you’re never too old to make it in music, as long as you define “making it” as creating great music connects with an audience large enough to sustain your independent music career.

That being said, I know the music industry in particular can feel like it revolves around youth. So when I saw a quote on the subject by Miss Mentelle getting shared a lot on Facebook yesterday, I thought it’d be good to post it here. Here it is:

At age 23, Tina Fey was working at a YMCA.

At age 23, Oprah was fired from her first reporting job.

At age 24, Stephen King was working as a janitor and living in a trailer.

At age 27, Vincent Van Gogh failed as a missionary and decided to go to art school.

At age 28, J.K. Rowling was a suicidal single parent living on welfare.

At age 28, Wayne Coyne ( from The Flaming Lips) was a fry cook.

At age 30, Harrison Ford was a carpenter.

At age 30, Martha Stewart was a stockbroker.

At age 37, Ang Lee was a stay-at-home-dad working odd jobs.

Julia Child released her first cookbook at age 39, and got her own cooking show at age 51.

Vera Wang failed to make the Olympic figure skating team, didn’t get the Editor-in-Chief position at Vogue, and designed her first dress at age 40.

Stan Lee didn’t release his first big comic book until he was 40.

Alan Rickman gave up his graphic design career to pursue acting at age 42.

Samuel L. Jackson didn’t get his first movie role until he was 46.

Morgan Freeman landed his first movie role at age 52.

Kathryn Bigelow only reached international success when she made The Hurt Locker at age 57.

Grandma Moses didn’t begin her painting career until age 76.

Louise Bourgeois didn’t become a famous artist until she was 78.

Whatever your dream is, it is not too late to achieve it. You aren’t a failure because you haven’t found fame and fortune by the age of 21. Hell, it’s okay if you don’t even know what your dream is yet. Even if you’re flipping burgers, waiting tables or answering phones today, you never know where you’ll end up tomorrow.

Never tell yourself you’re too old to make it.

Never tell yourself you missed your chance.

Never tell yourself that you aren’t good enough.

You can do it. Whatever it is.

Are you feeling “too old to make it?” Did you find success later in life? Share your stories in the comments below.

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  • I am 58 and have been in the music industry for 30+ years and have so many career shifts and life changes, marriages, kids, grand kids and now I am reinventing myself as a DJ/Engineer/Producer adding to my engineering skills and performing in a different way, solo without a band. Not sure what I would do, if I weren’t doing music but you can’t put me out of pasture just because I am not a spry 19 year boy.

    Onward and upward as people say

    Keith, Kamakaze Krush

  • Nice. Excelsior!


    • I still hit the mosh pits though my wife who is a nurse does not approve. 😉

  • Terry Davis

    Thanks, Chris! Every now and then I need a reminder like this. Pressing on to make music that’s timeless and makes an impact on people’s lives!

  • Robin Goddard

    Gives me hope, thanks…:-)

    • danterry

      Just keep on, keepin’ on.

  • danterry

    At age 73 I’m still rockn’ and rollin” in the mobile business.

  • Great article Chris! Fun read. Where did you find all that data ? 🙂

  • Matt Thorn

    A real artist is like wine, it becomes better and more precious with time.
    MTV 21 year old wonder children are not real artists, but mere trend performers.

    At 21 you are still a baby in reality and don’t know what you really like or want, even though you could think so, and have the intuition of it. It does not mean you have found the true religion of yourself. This comes only with time and experience. Many think it depends on the person, but this is not true. It is the same for all, more or less. Look at children the same age, more or less similar. That is typically in metal, and it always was this way, that’s why you can find many young that after some years they become a completely different individual, because it was only for fun and to look cool and different, and I knew kids that at 19 teen thought they knew it all. Pathetic.
    Metal especially because it is much more than music, it is a religion. Real people in this field remain true to themselves till death, at cost of even incredible sacrifices, condemned or overlooked by society like drug addicts or immature…such a naive vew. The test of time has proven that the real ones are still the same at 60 + . Successful or not.

    But who measures success of an artist on money, is very wrong. Success is when you achieve what you want to create, your vision. Money can help with the material side(recording studios , marketing and all the rest, of course it is important) but if you lack the vision, or a true spiritual path, the music will have no depth, nor inspiration even if super technically performed. Music and art, and a metal creator must be both or thrice( musician, visual artist, poet, Druid or shaman, warrior, general, visionary, dark monk ….and so on…) art generally is about ATMOSPHERE, whether in visual art, music theatre, movies, books or whatever form of art. No atmosphere no emotions.

    Said this, experience is a must, so a child will always lack the depth of time. I have been through this too, and there were so many that were only posers when I was 19 or 21. That is not an artist, artist is like a real monk or priest, devoted to his ideal. But even higher, for he creates his church. That is a true artist.

  • Mary Lemanski

    Not to be a pessimist, but NONE of the people mentioned above work in the music industry. Just saying…

    • rockyhardwick

      Then look up Linda Perhacs. Released her first album to little or no notice in 1970. Her sophomore release came out in 2014 at age 70, after that first album was rediscovered. She signed to a label and toured behind it. She’s putting out a third album soon. Michael Penn released his first album at 30. There are many examples.

  • Tom Hendricks

    Well said, good musicians are not failures at any age. But we should know that we don’t have a chance for a career in music either – not while 3 CEO’s control it and only promote generic pop. That’s why I feel that every musician that wants a career must first work together to change a music industry that won’t allow it.

    Here is the main problem with the music industry. 3 men run it.

    Music has jumped the shark, been reduced to pop karaoke, and everyone with talent has been marginalized out of a career. Why? 3 men controld it.

    There are 3 record companies that control 80% of the business, Warners, Universal, Sony. Each has a CEO That’s 3 CEO’s controlling the music industry. They make the music, distribute it, and then give themselves great reviews. 

Do you think 3 people should determine the fate of 80% of the music business? No of course not, but they do now. The 3 have made it clear,

    We only support a generic pop sound. We only promote that type of music, and only for a few. (Swift, Beyonce, Bieber, Adele, Gaga, Perry, and the media flavor of the week.)

    What else are they saying?

    You play folk music? We don’t do folk, so you are out of a career.

    You play heavy metal? We don’t do heavy metal, so you are out of a career.

    You play religious music? We don’t do religious music, so you are out of a career.

    You play classic rock? We don’t do classic rock, so you are out of a career.

    You play classical music? We don’t do classical music, so you are out of a career.

    You play roots music? We don’t do roots music, so you are out of a career.

    You play music and you aren’t a 20 something? We don’t do your music. No career.

    You play kid’s music? We don’t do kid’s music, so you are out of a career.

    You play jazz or big band? We don’t do jazz or big band, so you are out of a career.

    You play instrumentals? We don’t do instrumentals, so you are out of a career.

    You play old style soul, r & b, or rap? We don’t do old style, so you are out of a career.

    You play protest music? We of course never make waves, so you are out of a career.

    You play ???. We don’t do ???, so you are out of a career.


    Here’s what they are saying loud and clear to musicians, and music lovers.

    Musician: Doesn’t matter how good you are. Quality just gets in the way of how we make money on generic music from a tiny handful of over produced, and over promoted 20 something, pop stars. AND

    Music Lover: Doesn’t matter what music you like. You’ll have to search it out on the net, or some small club. You’ll never hear your favorites on the radio stations we control, or in the media we own.

    3 Execs advice to all marginalized musicians:

    Try to find some small record company where you might make about minimum wage with no chance of real success and don’t bother us, you don’t fit the money making formula.

    Then if one of you happens to have a hit, we’ll buy the musician, or the record company, or distribute the record company – and you’ll sign a legal web that promises the musician all, and gives them nothing. We have a long track record to prove it.


    My advice? Don’t listen to them!

    Rebel against this. When 3 people have that much control in music everything is wrong. Choose to do nothing, and you ruin not only the music industry, but just about everyone’s chance at a career in music.

    If Swift, Beyonce, Bieber, Adele, Gaga, and Perry, are as good as the press say they are, over and over and over, then they can stand some competition.

    Time to change the music business to where it’s built on talent not publicity. Can the worst video ever made help lead to a music revolution? It might. You vote thumbs up and help make it so = TeXas Video Showdown. (Musicians, you can also start your own protest in any way you like.)

    Those reading this, if you know a great musician, I can predict that right now he’s out of a career and making close to minimum wage no matter how good he is or how hard he works. Buying a CD or t-shirt won’t help him. Support him by opening music up again so great talent has a chance. Vote for indie musicians.

    Warners: Stephen Cooper, 68

    Universal: Lucian Grange, 56

    Sony: Doug Morris, 77

  • Nice. Glad to share, and glad it was a timely reminder.


  • bodytech

    Amen amen amen. And note: If you define success by gaining the approval of a tiny cabal of record company executives, then your definition of success is WAAAAY too narrow. You have to love music, you have to love your craft, and you have to love yourself. Giving all that power to a narrow minded little industry that is so precarious and volatile serves no artist. Yes, success in music at ANY age should be defined as being able to create, perform, grow, entertain, make people happy and make enough money to live on. Otherwise, what is the point? There are no rules…just molecules. http://www.halleydevestern.com

  • danterry

    I’ve been a Mobile DJ for 45 years. I’m now 73 years of young age. For the past 6 years I’ve gone totally “Oldies.” It’s my Renewed adventure and lovin’ it.

  • I love that last bit of wisdom. Thanks for sharing.


  • I love that last bit of wisdom. Thanks for sharing.


  • That’s a great example of talent shining through despite our culture’s agism. Of course she wasn’t aiming for mega-pop-star success at that point, so that probably helped, but yeah, age doesn’t have to be a barrier to breaking through to a larger audience. Mary Gauthier didn’t get her start until her mid-30’s.

    On another note, hope to see you in Nashville!