To commemorate Lullaby Renditions of Jay-Z joining our Rockabye family, this random facts edition of Before They Were Rock Stars is dedicated to the Hova himself!
5 Things You Might Not Know About Jay-Z
1. He taught himself how to ride a bike at the age of 4.
2. The moniker, Jay-Z, is a variation on his childhood nickname, “Jazzy.”
3. His mom bought him a boombox for his birthday, hoping it might keep him out of trouble but what it really did was peak his interest in Rap & Hip Hop
4. He went to high school with Notorious B.I.G and Busta Rhymes.
5. He used to wake up his siblings with his “drumming” on the kitchen table.
Seventy-one years ago to the day, singer and bassist of The Beatles, Paul McCartney, was born. To celebrate his birthday in our next installment of “Before They Were Rock Stars” series, let’s take a look back at Macca before he was a rock star.
James Paul McCartney was born in Liverpool, England, to parents James and Mary McCartney. His mother was a nurse and his father was a cotton salesman who was also the pianist and leader of local Liverpool group, Jim Mac’s Jazz Band. Paul had one younger brother, Michael, who was two years his junior. Though the two were baptized in the Catholic Church, education was emphasized more in their household than religion.
As a musician himself, James Sr. encouraged both of his sons to be musical, keeping a piano in a front room of their home. James once gave Paul a trumpet for his birthday, but as rock ‘n’ roll became more and more popular, Paul traded it in for an acoustic guitar, concluding it would be easier to sing with a guitar than with a trumpet.
At age 14, when he lost his mother to breast cancer, the devastated Paul turned to music for comfort and solace from his grief. It was the following year, in July of ’57, that Paul met future bandmate John Lennon at a church festival where Lennon’s band The Quarrymen were playing. It didn’t take much for the two to hit it off. And before long, John invited Paul to join the group as the rhythm guitar player. Paul soon after persuaded Lennon to let his schoolmate, George Harrison, join the band as well.
One of rock’s most outspoken personalities, Morrissey, celebrates his 54th birthday today! To commemorate the occasion, let’s take a look back at what Steven Patrick Morrissey of Manchester, England, was like before he was a rock star.
Was Moz always so opinionated? Did he ever go through an awkward phase? Were there any signs in his childhood that he’d be destined to write songs about shoplifters and comas?
To answer the first two questions, yes. The young “Smith” was raised in a Catholic household and, apparently, a shy kid. He had an older sister, Jackie, and their mom, Elizabeth, who worked as a librarian and father, Peter, who worked as a security guard. They divorced when he was 17, at which time Morrissey also left school. It’s probably no surprise to anyone who has heard his music and lyrics; he wasn’t the most cheery of young men and dealt with depression.
Morrissey started writing music and poetry in his teens, but that’s not all. He also made his POV on music of the day known to the publications Melody Maker and NME via many letters. (Wouldn’t it be great to get a hold of one of those!) His greatest early fan was his mother, who was supportive of his passion for words: “If I needed a typewriter, she’d get me one because she believed I had talent,” he’s been quoted as saying. He had considered becoming a music journalist, and, in the early ’80s, even penned a book about the band New York Dolls, as well as a book on James Dean.
To get by, Morrissey had worked as a clerk and did stints at a hospital and record store, but it was when he met Johnny Marr in 1982 that everything changed.
Smiths and Morrissey fans, care to tell us what happened next?
Add Lullaby Renditions of the Smiths to your bedtime routine. We can help you get what you want: a good night’s sleep.
Happy 48th birthday to our favorite industrial rocker, Trent Reznor!
To celebrate, we have a few fun facts about Trent’s childhood before he was a rock star/record producer/movie score composer, etc., etc., etc. The catch: Some are true . . . and some are false! Do you think you can differentiate fact from fiction? Answer them all correctly, send your guesses to firstname.lastname@example.org and you could win a copy of Lullaby Renditions of Nine Inch Nails!
True or False: 5 Facts (or Fake Facts) You May Not Have Known About Trent’s Childhood:
1. His real name is actually Michael. His father had the same name, so to avoid confusion, he went by his middle name, Trent.
2. When living with his grandparents after his parents’ divorce, his grandmother considered pulling him out of school to focus on his piano playing in the hopes he would become a classical pianist.
3. He has an older sister named Theresa.
4. Trent was a very talented viola player and played in his school’s orchestra from junior high and on.
5. In high school, Trent played Judas in a school performance of Jesus Christ Superstar and landed the leading role in The Music Man.
Curious what The White Stripes were like before they were rock stars? Megan White grew up the younger of two children in Grosse Point Woods, Michigan, and was remembered by high school classmates as a quiet, artsy type.
While John Anthony Gillis (Jack White), who also was from the Detroit area, was the youngest of 10 children. He was raised in a Catholic household, served as an altar boy and, apparently, at one point during his early teens, considered becoming a priest. But music obviously was his true calling. He actually started playing drums in the first grade and went on to also learn the guitar and piano. Before even starting high school, Jack was a one-kid band, recording his own songs.
Young Meg, on the other hand, didn’t befriend a drum set until she was in her twenties. And guess who brought them together? Her then husband, Jack. She’s been quoted as saying that when she started playing drums with him in those early days “it was childlike.” Turned out that childlike style combined with Jack’s was just the sound the world wanted to hear.
So let this “before they were rock stars” story be an inspiration to us all: You’re never too young, or too old to start rocking. And if you don’t have an instrument, we have a few DIY instruments to make some noise with.
Before Stevie Wonder was ripping it on the clavichord with “Superstition,” he was just a kid, playing songs for Motown CEO/producer Barry Gordy, with dreams of making it big despite his lack of sight.
Born Stevland Hardaway Judkins, Wonder was found by Gerald White of the band The Miracles, who pestered his brother Ronnie to check out this amazing kid. He had heard Wonder at a friend’s house and finally got Ronnie to see the talented boy perform. Reportedly, Ronnie was so impressed he took Stevland to Gordy who dubbed the boy Little Stevie Wonder because he was “the eighth wonder of the world,” and signed him at age 11.
Wonder would go on to record several albums under the name, until the mid-1960’s when he’d drop the “Little.” Beforehand, he had a few hits, most notably “Fingertips (Pt. 2),” which featured Marvin Gaye playing drums.
Here are some videos/songs from that time in Stevie’s life:
Little Stevie Wonder in a film called Bikini Beach
Elvis Aaron Presley was born on January 8, 1935 in East Tupelo, Mississippi, the only son of Gladys and Vernon Presley. His twin, Jesse Garon, was stillborn. It was in the middle of the great depression and times were hard. Gladys worked at a garment factory and Vernon performed odd jobs. Vernon built a home on Old Saltillo Road for the new family. When he was eight, Elvis sometimes sang on a local radio broadcast called Saturday Jamboree that let the audience participate. At age ten his school teacher entered him in a children’s talent contest at the state fair where he sang “Old Shep” and later got a spanking from Gladys for going on a carnival ride. Gladys gave him his first guitar for his eleventh birthday. He wanted a rifle. Elvis occasionally performed for his classmates throughout junior high, but when his idol Mississippi Slim invited him to perform on his show, Elvis apparently had acute stage fright. He eventually got over it and the rest is history. Here are some remarkable images of The King as a wee prince.
Elvis with his parents, 1938
A very young Elvis Presley, 1939
Elvis, Age 6, 1942
With His Parents in 1943
Elvis and Gladys Presley
Elvis in the 7th Grade, Milam Junior High
In honor of Lullaby Renditions of Elvis Presley, out yesterday, it’s Elvis week on the blog. Stop by each day for fun stuff including a free Rockabye Baby Elvis coloring page, activities, and more!
Can’t get enough baby Elvis? Listen to an exclusive full-length sneak peek of “Love Me Tender” (lullaby style) here.
Oh, and by the way, we’re giving away five Lullaby Renditions of Black Sabbath CDs! Enter here.
Ex-Black Sabbath frontman and prominent foul-mouthed madman Ozzy Osbourne recently decided to dedicate his body to science when he dies because, in his words, “It’s amazing I’m still alive.” Before the dark prince bit the heads off doves, bats, and whatever else he could get his hands on, the man was known as John Michael Osbourne.
Ozzy received his nickname in primary school and refused to go by John for the rest of his days. He suffered some learning problems early on, which he claimed were based on dyslexia, and often said that he was molested by older classmates. He attended Prince Albert Road Junior School and Birchfield Road Secondary Modern School during this time period. He would meet Tony Iommi at Birchfield, and would many years later go on to put together Black Sabbath with the future guitarist.
Ozzy always loved music, however, and starred in many school plays. At 14, he became obsessed with the Beatles, which would lead him to leave school at 15 to break out on his own. He was quoted as saying, “”When I left school I wanted to become a plumber. When I heard the Beatles I wanted to become a Beatle.”
He’d take on many odd jobs, such as construction site laborer, apprentice toolmaker, car factory worker trainee plumber, and slaughterhouse worker. He also spent six weeks in jail after not being able to pay a fine for a burglary charge at a local clothing store. Later he would be back again for punching a cop in the face. It was in Winson Green Prison where he tattooed the now famous letters O-Z-Z-Y across his left knuckles, which he did with a sewing needle and graphite.
Soon, after playing in various bands that would go nowhere, Ozzy found success with Iommi by forming Black Sabbath. The rest, as they say, is history.
Did you know that the Nine Inch Nails front man who wrote songs such as “Bite the Hand That Feeds” and “The Perfect Drug” was originally in a high school marching band? Yes, Trent Reznor, born Michael Trent Reznor had an interesting past before making the move to wearing mostly black and getting insanely jacked arms.
Reznor, who used his middle name because his father shared the same name, grew up in a Lutheran household in Mercer, PA until his parents divorced and he went to live with his grandparents. His grandmother pushed him into taking classical piano at age 5 and he showed a great interest in music.
When he hit high school, KISS and David Bowie became his main interests, though he’d go on to join his high school’s marching band and concert band. He played tuba and tenor saxophone. He also showed promise in theater, even having his classmates vote him “Best in Drama” after his roles as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar and the lead in The Music Man. Yes, Trent Reznor was the lead, singing “Seventy Six Trombones” in a school play.
Later, Reznor would head to Allegheny College and join a band called Option 30. Though he’d lose interest in the band quickly and leave college after a year to head to Cleveland. There he joined a band called The Urge and later another called The Exotic Birds.
Still trying to find his sound, Reznor played keys for Lucky Pierre, The Innocent, and Slam Bamboo before landing a job at Right Track Studios as a janitor. During off hours, the owner would allow Reznor to record some demos, which would later gain the attention of several labels and the rest is history.
Tool’s famous front man Maynard James Keenan was born James Herbert Keenan, one of many surprising facts about the man’s early life. But perhaps the most amazing part of his story is the fact that the man who wrote a song called “Stinkfist” not only sang in Glee Club, but also joined the Army at one point.
After a rough upbringing consisting of a stifling stepfather and a sick mother, Maynard was inspired to join the Army by watching Bill Murray muck it up in the movie Stripes. Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t that seem like a bad reason to join the army? Maybe he should have watched Full Metal Jacket. He studied at West Point Prep School and got great marks in English and Math. He also was a singer in Glee Club and was on the cross-country team.
At one point in James’ time at the school, he named himself Maynard seemingly out of nowhere. Later he dropped out of West Point and moved to Los Angeles to pursue his love of animals by working as an interior designer for pet shops. Yes, you read that right.
Maynard’s pet shop design job didn’t last long. He was fired and he ended up in set design. Later he would meet future Tool guitarist Adam Jones and future band-mate Danny Carey, who was his neighbor. Danny heard Maynard yelling at another neighbor in the alley behind his apartment and thought Maynard would make a great singer. Carey wold sometimes fill in for drummers who missed rehearsal at Maynard’s apartment. This would of course lead to the formation of Tool, and the rest is rock history. Maynard, among other musical projects, now also makes his own wine at his home in Jerome, AZ. Not a bad life for an ex-pet store interior designer, eh?