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The unlikely careers of famous musicians after leaving the spotlight

Posted by mandyf on March 5, 2012

Did you ever wonder what some famous musicians have gone on to do after their career in the spotlight has ended? Whatever became of that guy from Nirvana nobody can seem to remember the name of now? What about the one hit wonder that got into computers? Not all famous musicians that left the spotlight have faced bankruptcy and drug problems – those are just the stories that sell. Today, we want to look at the famous musicians that went on to good careers and avoided the pitfalls of fading fame.

Back in the day, Thomas Dolby was blinding us with science and playing studio keyboards for Def Leppard under the name Booker T. Boffington, but his musical career never really attained that high sales level again making him a one hit wonder of the 80’s. Dolby put out more albums, toured for awhile, and still tours on occasion today, but where he really made his mark was when he left music. The odds are, you’ve heard the jingles that Thomas Dolby has created hundreds if not thousands of times and never knew it.

In 1993, Dolby formed a company called Headspace which was responsible for developing the RMF (Rich Music Format) file extension used for music files on the internet. Six years later, he changed the name of his company to Beatnik Inc.  which spawned the company Retro Ringtones LLC, which produced ringtones for cellphones. Dolby is responsible for creating hundreds of polyphonic ringtones including the all too familiar Nokia signature ringtone. If you ever heard a Nokia cellular phone ring, the odds are you heard a ringtone created by Thomas Dolby.

Van Halen front man and rocker extraordinaire in general, David Lee Roth, sold millions of albums and played to sold out stadium crowds. When the music stopped, or more aptly took a break, the high kicking wildman entered into another career – a NYC paramedic. Roth wasn’t broke, wasn’t lacking for chances to perform and he wasn’t bored. He was looking to do something that made a difference in people’s lives. Roth worked the Bronx and Brooklyn which aren’t exactly the cushy spots to work – and he liked it that way.

Roth wasn’t “playing” paramedic – he was one. He went on over 200 rides before the story got out regarding his new career. He had cut his hair and tried to ply his new trade in anonymity because he didn’t want the spotlight – not for helping people. He thought attention would diminish what he was trying to do. Roth had tended to gunshot wounds, shocked a woman back to life with a defibrillator and handled the more routine calls in a manner characterized as the utmost of professional. It is rumored Roth is still working part-time as a paramedic, but he will neither confirm or deny it.

Krist Novoselic, a founding member and bassist of Nirvana, didn’t let moss grow under him when Nirvana ended after Kurt Cobain’s suicide. Novoselic played some music from time to time, but nothing like he had with Nirvana – not even when he played with Flipper or made an appearance with the Foo Fighters. To keep busy and contribute to society in a way he felt was meaningful, Novoselic got political.

In 1995, Novoselic helped found JAMPAC (Joint Artists and Musicians Political Action Committee) to help fight against legislation like the Teen Dance ordinance. He served as the board chair for the political reform group FairVote and is an elected State Committeman in Washington State. In 2004, he was considered a serious candidate for Lieutenant Governor before declining to run. Novoselic is also very active in using social media to help push the political reform agenda and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Former Babes in Toyland bassist, Maureen Herman, stopped playing music, aside from a gig here and there, and began writing about it. She went to J school, refined her chops, and landed a job covering more than just music for Rolling Stone. While having street cred in the music industry helped her land a gig after graduating, Herman proved to be a solid investigative journalist not afraid of tackling tough subjects. She went on to work as an editor at Musician before throwing it in to become the Executive Director of the Project Noise Foundation.

Leaving the center stage doesn’t always mean leaving behind what you love. Artists can choose to step out of the spotlight – it isn’t always a matter of falling off the face of the Earth or being forced out. These are just a few examples that help demonstrate that.


3 Responses to “The unlikely careers of famous musicians after leaving the spotlight”

  1. Randy Duckworth said

    It’s nice to see that some musicians can move on to productive lives after their fame has faded! Great article!!!

  2. mandyf said

    It was fun to do – gotta admit though that it was tough finding a 4th person to round it out.

  3. sallykwitt said

    Interesting Amanda!

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