Before They Were Famous: Rock Star Day Jobs

We tend to think of music stars as untouchable icons without much semblance of humanity, but in reality those limelit icons are flesh and blood human beings with many of the same common faults and flaws the rest of us share. There’s a backstory to the superstars, however, a human element often overlooked in our admiration. Below we roll through Rock Star Day Jobs, featuring a number of the biggest names in music today in an entirely different lens.


Jack White – Furniture Upholstery Apprentice

The Third Man Records nucleus got some good miles on his budding work ethic as a teenager, when he worked at an upholstery shop in his hometown of Detroit. The former White Stripes frontman later started his own one-man business, called Third Man Upholstery. His slogan was “Your furniture’s not dead.”

Kanye West – The Gap 

Before he became a legendary hip hop icon and turned into the most overblown musical menace in history, Kanye was previously employed as a Gap employee. From his track “Spaceship,” the struggling sentiment is clear: “Let’s go back, back to the Gap / Look at my check, wasn’t no scratch.”

Bjork – Fish factory worker

Icelandic weirdo goddess Bjork didn’t spring up from some ethereal mist in an elfin forest – she actually quit school at 15 and supported her punk-band habit by working in a fish factory, reportedly pulling worms out the fish with tweezers. 

Kurt Cobain – Janitor

Somehow it’s poetically perfect: the most sardonically cynical songwriter of our time, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain worked as a custodian for Lemon’s Janitorial Service. Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic explained how his dedication to sanitation actually helped get Nirvana off the ground: “Here was a man who would never clean his kitchen or take out the garbage, or do those kind of chores, but Kurt Cobain was not a lazy person. Basically he cleaned toilets – that’s how he paid for that demo.”

Mick Jagger – Porter in a mental hospital

Several decades ago, the ageless Rolling Stones strutter was a student at the London School of Economics and made spending money by putting in hours running errands at a mental hospital.

Jonathan Davis: Funeral Home Embalmer

It’s not much of a reach of the imagination to picture Korn frontman Jonathan Davis embalming corpses early in his career. Davis worked with the dead in a funeral home in Shafter, before taking a comparably morose job as an assistant in the Kern County Coroner’s Department.

Joe Strummer – Grave Digger

Before reaching iconic status as the beloved spirit of The Clash, Joe Strummer used to dig graves. He passed the off-hours playing with his early band the Vultures, though soon traded out the shovel for a job as a carpet salesman.

Sting – Tax Officer

While working in a morgue and digging graves is certainly cause for dark nights of the soul, but former Police frontman Sting took one step further down the sanity ladder. In his early adult life, the singer worked as a tax officer in Manchester, England, a gig he described as a ”soul-destroying day job.” He also put in time as a school teacher and construction worker