CHANGING CAREERS / FEB. 27, 2015
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5 Artists Who Wasted Most of Their Lives on Boring Day Jobs

Being an artist and not being able to make the most of your creative potential in your professions is really a shame. Unfortunately, only a few can create art for a living. These five people were exceptionally talented and creative individuals who held a boring day job for years. While some lucky artists won the recognition and fame they deserved late in their careers, others only found recognition after they passed away.

See also: Unusual Jobs: Profile of a Chewing Gum Artist

Here are some of the most prominent artists who spent most of their lives on dreary day jobs:

1. Sixto Rodriguez

The American folk musician had a short-lived career with two little sold albums in the early 1970s and two Australian concert tours. Poor record sales compelled him to quit the music business. He then lived in a derelict house in Detroit which he bought at auction for $50. He worked in demolition and production line work.

Interestingly, the Detroit-based guitarist became a superstar in South Africa but, surprisingly, none of his fans knew anything about him. His songs were revealing anti-apartheid messages and his albums had gone platinum in South Africa. Rodriguez knew nothing about his success in South Africa until his eldest daughter discovered a website about him. After the revelation, he played six concerts, while the documentary dedicated to him. Dead Men Don’t Tour: Rodriguez in South Africa 1998, would go on to win an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2013. Despite his rise in popularity, Rodriguez still lives in the same house and lives a low profile life.

2. Harvey Pekar

The American underground comic book writer and music critic was a college dropout and held a few odd jobs before becoming a file clerk at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital. He kept that job until his retirement in 2001.

Pekar did not remain stuck on this dull day job. He wrote an autobiographical comic, American Splendor, which recounts how hard everyday life can be. In 1987, he released an anthology of American Splendor for which he won an American Book Award. Later in his career, he became a regular guest on the Late Show with David Letterman but got in trouble as he ranted about General Electric, the parent company of NBC.

Pekar maintained his clerical job through his rise to fame and he even rejected a few promotions.

3. Herman Melville

The famous American novelist might be famous for his classic novel Moby-Dick, but only a few know that he was working as a customs deputy inspector at the Port of New York in 1886. He held this job for 29 years and retired when he turned 66. Melville’s first novel Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life sold more than 16,000 copies, while his other books bombed. Moby-Dick was rediscovered in 1920 and has branded itself as an iconic piece of American literature.

4. Charles Ives

Charles Ives was known to the public as a talented pianist. However, his main job was an actuary. He started his career in the actuarial department of an insurance company in New York and then moved to insurance agency Charles H. Raymond & Co. which failed later on. He later became the co-founder of Ives & Co. which he co-owned with his friend Julian Myrick. The true talent of Ives was only recognised a few years before his death. He won a Pulitzer Award for music in 1948 for “Symphony No. 3”.

5. Anvil

The band was formed in 1978 when high school mates Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner began playing music together. Despite the fact that the band has toured with some of the biggest rock bands, including Scorpions, Whitesnake and Bon Jovi, the band was on the verge to blow up. However, 2005 saw the band turning 50 and still performing, mostly at their neighborhood bar. The band has also toured in Europe after receiving a proposal from a European fan, but this move turned out disastrous. The band found their redemption when they performed in Japan and came across a legion of fans.

The band’s history (including the major failures) has been summed up in the documentary film Anvil! The Story of Anvil which was released in 2008.

See also: Lesser-Known Facts about an Artist’s Career

These stories should teach struggling artists to continue doing what they are passionate about without quitting your day job.

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