37 Famous Only Children in Music
Call Them Singletons, Not "Lonely Onlies"
Being an only child is like starring in a one-man show, complete with all the blessings and burdens. You have your own private audience to adore you. (Standing ovation!) Conversely, you also have no understudy, no one to share the spotlight with or to lend a quick assist with lines when you flub onstage. The focus is 100% on you.
Call them "singletons" rather than "lonely onlies." Only children often enjoy grown-ups' company and the focused attention of their parent(s). As youngsters, they more often have imaginary friends and are typically more content with being alone.
Some of the biggest stars in the music industry grew up this way. Being an only child undoubtedly impacted the artists' creative experiences and career opportunities. A portion of them grew up in traditional nuclear families or single-parent households. Others had parents who split up and later gave them half-siblings they never knew about, or half-siblings who were born when the star was a teen or adult. Families are more complicated now than they've ever been before. Learn what famous musicians are only children. You may be surprised!
Powerhouse English vocalist Adele Laurie Blue Adkins is now such a household name that she only needs one name. Adele was born in 1988 to an English mother and a Welsh father who left them when she was only two years old. As a four-year-old child, Adele became obsessed with voices, then as a teenager she enrolled in the prominent the BRIT School for Performing Arts & Technology. Rather than being interested in singing, she was more focused on scouting and developing other musicians' careers. At the school, she was a classmate of Jessie J and Leona Lewis.
Adele became the first honoree of the Brit Awards Critics' Choice and set the world on fire with her blue-eyed soul sound. She has garnered multiple Grammy and American Music Awards, and the popularity of her tunes has set a number of Guinness World Records. Adele often writes and sings about relationships and heartbreak, and her music uniquely touches an emotional chord among listeners. Some of her most notable Top 40 Billboard Hot 100 hit include the following:
- "Chasing Pavements" (2007)
- "Rolling in the Deep" (2010)
- "Someone Like You" (2011)
- "Set Fire to the Rain" (2011)
- "Rumour Has It" (2011)
- "Skyfall" (2012)
- "Hello" (2015)
- "When We Were Young" (2016)
- "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)" (2016) and
- "Water Under the Bridge" (2016).
2. Alicia Keys
Born as Alicia Augello-Cook in 1981, Alicia Keys has always been a girl on fire. She owes much to the single mother who raised her alone from age two onward. Her mother was a paralegal and part-time actress. Keys was effectively raised as an only child, although her estranged father, a flight attendant, had two children by other relationships. Keys did not grow up having relationships with any of her other family members, however, as an adult, she tried to build those connections.
While her mother struggled to work three jobs, Keys was exposed to the violence, drugs, and sexual propositions of their gritty Hell's Kitchen neighborhood. Keys' authentic, lived experiences have influence both the themes and sound of her music, which blends R&B, pop, and classical vibes. She is trained as a classical pianist.
Among the accolades that the songstress has been showered with include multiple Grammy Awards, NAACP Image Awards, and being named to the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Keys' Top 10 hits from the Billboard Hot 100 include the following:
- "Fallin'" (2001)
- "A Woman's Worth" (2002)
- "You Don't Know My Name" (2003)
- "If I Ain't Got You" (2004)
- "Diary" (2004)
- "My Boo" (2004) and
- "No One" (2007).
3. Elvis Presley
The King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Aaron Presley, remains the best-selling solo musical artist of all time. His beginnings, however, were humble. Elvis and his identical twin brother were born in 1935, in a two-room shotgun house in Tupelo, Mississippi. Although Elvis survived, his brother Jesse was stillborn and subsequently buried in a shoe box in an unmarked plot.
As an only child, Elvis was close to both parents but particularly to his mother, Gladys. He was an average student who was not especially popular. Elvis was teased by peers for being trashy, a mama's boy, and for playing hillbilly music. Additionally, young Elvis was given feedback by teachers that he had no musical aptitude.
The family's move to Memphis was instrumental in molding the young musician's future career plans in that it exposed him to the R&B musicians of Bealle Street. This substantially influenced his style, commercial breakout, and ongoing legacy as a cultural icon. Elvis performed in a variety of genres, including gospel, rock and roll, country, rockabilly, and R&B. His 18 chart-topping mainstream pop hits on the Billboard Hot 100 include these memorable tunes:
- "Heartbreak Hotel" (1956)
- "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You" (1956)
- "Don't Be Cruel" (1956)
- "Hound Dog" (1956)
- "Love Me Tender" (1956)
- "Too Much" (1957)
- "All Shook Up" (1957)
- "(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear" (1957)
- "Jailhouse Rock" (1957)
- "Don't" (1957)
- "Hard Headed Woman" (1958)
- "A Big Hunk o' Love" (1959)
- "Stuck on You" (1960)
- "It's Now or Never" (1960)
- "Are You Lonesome Tonight" (1960)
- "Surrender" (1961)
- "Good Luck Charm" (1962)
- "Suspicious Minds" (1969)
4. Frank Sinatra
Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1915, Frank Sinatra was the only child of Italian immigrants. With a birth weight of 13.5 pounds, he was such a hefty infant that he required a forceps delivery, resulting in a ruptured eardrum and scarring on his cheek, neck and ear. The ailments affected him throughout his life, and the perforated eardrum disqualified him from serving in World War II.
Sinatra's mother was a strong driving force in his life. As a youth, he developed an interest in big band music, particularly idolizing Bing Crosby. He began to sing professionally as a teen, learning music by ear. He never acquired the ability to read music.
As his confidence and finesse as an artist rose, Sinatra transitioned from a lead singer to a soloist and became a teen idol. Throughout his career, he became known for his colorful personal life and artistic perfectionism, typically recording his songs in one take. Sinatra was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a Presidential Medal of Freedom, alongside many other accolades. His number one Billboard Hot 100 singles include:
- "You'll Never Know" (1943)
- "Oh! What It Seemed to Be" (1946)
- "They Say It's Wonderful" (1946)
- "Mam'selle" (1947)
- "Learnin' The Blues" (1955)
- "Strangers in the Night" (1966) and
- "Somethin' Stupid" (1967)
5. John Lennon
In the 1960s, John Lennon, together with three other English lads—Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr—forever changed the world as The Beatles. The Fab Four became the best-selling musical act of all time. However, long before the British Invasion and Beatlemania, Abbey Road, or the group's appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Lennon's life story was humble and drama-filled.
Lennon was born in 1940 in Liverpool. His father was a merchant marine who was absent from the family for long periods because World War II was in full swing. During one of those absences, the boy's mother took up with another man and became pregnant. Lennon's half-sister was given up for adoption. Lennon's mother subsequently fell in love with another man.
At one point, five-year-old Lennon allegedly was forced by his father to choose which parent he wanted to live with. He bounced around among several caretakers until Social Services became involved, at which point his mother ceded custody to her sister. He was raised as an only child by his strict Aunt Mimi, unaware for years that he had three half-sisters by his mother and two half-brothers by his father. After reaching Beatles fame, Lennon reached out to connect with some of the siblings he previously never realized he had.
When The Beatles broke up in 1970, Lennon became a successful solo artist. Some of his Top 40 Billboard Hot 100 hits include:
- "Instant Karma!" (1970)
- "Imagine" (1971)
- "Whatever Gets You thru the Night" (1974)
- "#9 Dream" (1974)
- "(Just Like) Starting Over" (1980)
- "Woman" (1980)
- "Watching the Wheels" (1981) and
- "Nobody Told Me" (1984).
6. LeAnn Rimes
As an only child, Margaret LeAnn Rimes enjoyed the focused attention of her parents while growing up. Her father, in particular, expressed that LeAnn received opportunities he never had.
Born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1982, Rimes was enrolled in vocal and dance lessons as well as in musical theatre and talent competitions. Before she was age 10, Rimes toured the country with her father singing a capella versions of The Star-Spangled Banner at Dallas Cowboys games. She caught the eye of national talent scouts.
At only 13 years old, the songstress burst on the country music scene with her rendition of Patsy Cline's classic, "Blue." By then a seasoned entertainer, she became the youngest person ever to win a Grammy Award. This marked the beginning of Rimes' long career in country and pop music. A year following "Blue's" release, her parents divorced, and in 2000, she sued her manager/father, claiming that he and his partner embezzled at least $7 million over five years. The feud was public and nasty, but they later reconciled.
Some of Rimes' country and Billboard Hot 100 hits include:
- "Blue" (1996)
- "One Way Ticket (Because I Can)" (1996)
- "Unchained Melody" (1996)
- "How Do I Live" (1997)
- "Big Deal" (1999)
- "I Need You" (2000)
- "Probably Wouldn't Be This Way" (2005)
- "Something's Gotta Give" (2005) and
- "Long Live Love" (2017).
7. Selena Gomez
Selena Marie Gomez was born in 1992 in Grand Prairie, Texas, to a 16-year-old stage actress who worked three jobs to support her growing up. Her parents divorced when she was five, and Gomez was raised as an only child, often spending time with her grandparents while her mother worked.
Although she lived in poverty as a child, Gomez was probably always destined for fame. She was named after the Queen of Tejano Music, Mexican-American singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. Her entrée into the entertainment industry came in 2002 when she was selected to appear on Barney & Friends, a children's television show. Over the years, she became a Disney star then segued into both film and music, eventually making the transition from child star to adult pop star.
Although she suffered setbacks that included a decade-long on-again/off-again romance with Justin Bieber, a lupus diagnosis and a kidney transplant, Gomez is flourishing anyway. Some of her Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hits include these numbers:
- "Come & Get It" (2013)
- "The Heart Wants What It Wants" (2014)
- "Good for You" (2015)
- "Same Old Love" (2015)
- "Hands to Myself" (2016)
- "It Ain't Me" (2017) and
- "Lose You to Love Me" (2019).
Both of her parents remarried and gave Gomez siblings when she reached adulthood. Her two half-sisters were born in 2013 and 2015.
8. Luke Combs
North Carolina native Luke Combs jokes that because he's an only child, his parents were simply happy that he didn't end up homeless. The chart-busting country singer was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2019.
Born in 1990, Combs grew up performing, including singing a solo at Carnegie Hall. Then, with less than a month remaining before graduation at Appalachian State University, he took a huge gamble. After receiving his first paycheck from music for $10,000, he abandoned his degree plans in criminal justice so that he could head to Nashville to play country music for the masses. Great decision!
Combs is just beginning his career, but this only child's country hits include the following:
- "Hurricane" (2016)
- "When It Rains It Pours" (2017)
- "One Number Away" (2018)
- "She Got the Best of Me" (2018)
- "Beautiful Crazy" (2018)
- "Houston, We Got a Problem" (2018)
- "Must've Never Met You" (2018)
- "Beer Never Broke My Heart" (2019) and
- "Even Though I'm Leaving" (2019).
I’m an only child, man. You can’t explain how excited my parents are for me to not be a homeless dude without a job. There’s no fallback for that. If I mess up, there’s no other kid that’s a lawyer that can save my horrid reputation.— Luke Combs, country music star
9. Justin Timberlake
Years before Justin Timberlake brought sexy back or had his heart broken by Britney Spears, he spent the bulk of his growing up years as an only child, son of a Baptist choir director. His parents divorced when he was only four, and they each later remarried. His half-sister died shortly after birth, and his two half-brothers were born when J.T. was a young teen. Timberlake has referred to himself as being reared as an only child.
The pop star was born in 1981 in Memphis, and his extended family included a number of musicians who nurtured his burgeoning talent. Reporting that being an only child was boring, he learned to sing by imitating other singers' voices to entertain his parents. Timberlake appeared on Star Search, and he was a cast member on The All-New Mickey Mouse Club, along with future stars Christina Aguilera, Ryan Gosling, and Britney Spears.
Thanks to his stint with the ultra-successful boy band NSYNC, Timberlake was subsequently able to take his R&B, dance, and pop/rock sound solo. He has become known for his showmanship, career longevity, and crossover appeal. The Grammy Award-winning icon has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and some of his solo hits include:
- "Cry Me a River" (2002)
- "SexyBack" (2006)
- "My Love" (2006)
- "What Goes Around... Comes Around" (2006)
- "Suit & Tie" (2013)
- "Mirrors" (2013)
- "Not a Bad Thing" (2014)
- "Love Never Felt So Good" (2014)
- "Can't Stop the Feeling!" (2016) and
- "Say Something" (2018)
10. The Weeknd
You may know him by his stage name, The Weeknd, but the Toronto-born singer, songwriter and record producer's real name is Abel Makkonen Tesfaye. The Grammy Award-winner was born in 1990 to unmarried Ethiopian immigrants who had arrived in Canada during the 1980s.
He was raised as an only child by his single mother and grandmother after his parents split up. Sadly, The Weeknd saw his absent father every five or six years for short visits (overnight), and although his father had established an entirely new family, the boy had no relationship with any half-siblings. Surprisingly, he isn't bitter about his absent dad.
Much to the chagrin of his mother, The Weeknd took his mattress and left home one weekend at age 17, never to return. This inspired his stage name. He dropped the "e" to avoid copyright issues, as there was already a Toronto-based band by the same name. The Weeknd's music gained traction when his music was posted on the internet, and in 2015 he became one of the few artists to score back-to-back number one singles, with "Can't Feel My Face" and "The Hills."
Select songs from The Weeknd's Top 40 Billboard Hot 100 hits are:
- "Love Me Harder" (2014)
- "Earned It" (2014)
- "The Hills" (2015)
- "Can't Feel My Face" (2015)
- "In the Night" (2015)
- "Starboy" (2016)
- "I Feel It Coming" (2016)
- "Party Monster" (2016)
- "Reminder" (2017)
- "Pray for Me" (2018)
- "Call Out My Name" (2018)
- "Lost in the Fire" (2019)
- "Heartless" (2019) and
- "Blinding Lights" (2019).
Are you an only child (or the parent of one)? Tell us your experience in the Comments Section below.
11. Van Morrison
George Ivan Morrison was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1945, the only child of a shipyard electrician and a mother who sang and tap danced as a young woman. Morrison claimed that if it weren't for his father's vast collection of jazz, country, and folk records, he would have never achieved his star status.
Known as Van the Man to fans, Morrison has won Grammy Awards and been inducted into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Irishman's mainstream Billboard Hot 100 and rock hits have included the following:
- "Brown-Eyed Girl" (1967)
- "Domino" (1970)
- "Blue Money" (1971) and
- "Wild Night" (1971).
12. "Weird Al" Yankovic
Weird Al's parodies range from mildly humorous to downright hilarious. He takes popular songs and reworks the lyrics, often adding the accordion and poking fun at popular culture. The best thing about Weird Al is his songs are family-friendly comedy.
Alfred Matthew Yankovic grew up as a nerdy, accordion-playing only child. Born in California in 1959, Yankovic took to heart his father's oft-repeated advice: do for a living what makes you happy. Yankovic's love of music was first inspired by a door-to-door salesman promoting free introductory music lessons at a local music school—either for the guitar or the accordion. His parents chose the accordion for their six-year-old.
Yankovic was as bright as he was eccentric, entering kindergarten a year early, skipping second grade altogether, and then graduating as valedictorian of his high school class. He seemed less interested in his architecture classes at California Polytechnic State University than his music.
His career in music was launched when one of his songs was played on the radio by Dr. Demento, a syndicated comedy radio personality. Yankovic became a disc jockey and embraced the label "Weird Al" that others had pinned on him. His comedic songs have earned him multiple Grammy Awards. Although considered novelty songs, occasionally his parodies became so popular that they hit the mainstream Billboard Hot 100 chart, such as these songs did:
- "Eat It" (1984)
- "Smells Like Nirvana" (1992) and
- "White & Nerdy" (2006).
13. Kelsea Ballerini
Country/pop crossover star Kelsea Ballerini has music in her blood. Born in Tennessee in 1993, her parents have backgrounds in country radio and marketing for a religious publishing company. They enrolled their only child in dance lessons, encouraged her to sing and write songs, and did what they could to leverage her natural talent.
By 2015, Ballerini was performing a song from her debut album on the Grand Ole Opry stage. Four years later the young artist had become so successful that she was inducted into the Opry as a member. Some of her hits include the following:
- "Love Me Like You Mean It" (2014)
- "Dibs" (2015)
- "Peter Pan" (2016)
- "Yeah Boy" (2016)
- "Legends" (2017)
- "Miss Me More" (2018) and
- "Homecoming Queen?" (2019).
14. Lenny Kravitz
Born in Manhattan in 1964, Lenny Kravitz is the only child of creative parents, an actress and a news producer/jazz promoter. Kravitz is also the second cousin of television weatherman Al Roker.
The Grammy Award-winning rocker displayed both an interest in and aptitude for music from early childhood when he used pots and pans as drums. To encourage him, his parents took their only child to see music legends, including Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and James Brown. Moving to Los Angeles when his mother landed a role on the television show The Jeffersons proved to be seminal in Kravitz's development as an artist. He worked on his singing technique by joining the California Boys Choir. In California, he was also introduced to rock music and attended Beverly Hills High School, where he made important lifelong connections in the music industry.
Kravitz's sound is eclectic and tends to lean more towards alternative rock and hard rock. He has landed a number of hits on the Top 40 Billboard Hot 100 as well as the alternative chart. Some of these include:
- "It Ain't Over 'til It's Over" (1991)
- "Fly Away" (1998)
- "Again" (2000)
- "Dig In" (2001)
- "Lady" (2005) and
- "Show Me Your Soul" (2004).
You probably identify Sia as the eccentric musician who often wears a large blonde wig to conceal her face for privacy. Singer-songwriter Sia Kate Isobelle Furler was born in 1975 in Adelaide, Australia. She is an only child. Sia was raised in an artsy environment, and as a youngster, she was surrounded by circus performers, actors, and musicians. Her father is a blues guitarist and her mother is an art lecturer. The couple separated when Sia was 10.
Sia joined an acid jazz band Crisp, then in the years after it disbanded she began to emerge as a solo artist as well as a respected songwriter for artists such as Adele, Kelly Clarkson, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Beyoncé, and others. Unfortunately, fame presented her with an especially challenging double-edged sword. Sia has struggled with substance abuse, mental health issues, and a rare autoimmune condition.
Among the Billboard Hot 100 hits that showcase Sia's singing talents are:
- "Titanium" (2011)
- "Wild Ones" (2011)
- "Guts Over Fear" (2014)
- "Chandelier" (2014)
- "Elastic Heart" (2015)
- "Cheap Thrills" (2016) and
- "The Greatest" (2016).
Even More Famous Only Children in Popular Music
16. Carly Pearce
Every Little Thing (2017), Hide the Wine (2017), I Hope You're Happy Now (2019)
17. Annie Lennox
Put a Little Love in Your Heart (1988), Why (1992), Walking on Broken Glass (1992), No More "I Love You"s (1995)
18. Phil Lynott (lead vocalist of Thin Lizzy)
The Boys Are Back in Town (1976)
Goodies (2004), 1,2 Step (2004), Promise (2006),
hip-hop, R&B, pop
20. Elvis Costello
Veronica (1989), The Other Side of Summer (1991)
new wave, punk
21. Lil' Wayne
Go D.J. (2004), Lollipop (2008), A Milli (2008), She Will (2011), Uproar (2018)
I Just Don't Understand (1961), Love Rush (1979), Midnight Message (1980)
23. Cole Porter (songwriter)
Anything Goes (1934), I Get a Kick Out of You (1934), I've Got You Under My Skin (1936)
24. Richie Sambora (lead guitarist of Bon Jovi)
Ballad of Youth (1991)
25. Sammy Davis, Jr.
Something's Gotta Give (1955), I've Gotta Be Me (1968), The Candy Man (1972),
26. Kanye West
Gold Digger (2005), Stronger (2007), Heartless (2008), FourFiveSeconds (2015), Follow God (2019)
27. Ringo Starr
Photograph (1973), You're Sixteen (1973),
28. Hunter Hayes
Wanted (2012), I Want Crazy (2013), Everybody's Got Somebody But Me (2013), Invisible (2014), More (2017)
29. The Notorious B.I.G.
One More Chance (1995), Hypnotize (1997), Mo Money Mo Problems (1997)
hip-hop, gangsta rap
30. Tammy Wynette
I Don't Wanna Play House (1967), D-I-V-O-R-C-E (1968), Stand By Your Mand (1968), 'Til I Can Make It on My Own (1976)
31. Riley Green
There Was This Girl (2018), I Wish Grandpas Never Died (2019)
32. Missy Elliott
Sock It 2 Me (1997), Hot Boyz (1999), Get Ur Freak On (2001), Work It (2002), Lose Control (2005)
What's Your Fantasy (2000), Stand Up (2003), Money Maker (2006), Runway Love (2007), How Low (2009)
34. Teddy Pendergrass
I Don't Love You Anymore (1977), Close the Door (1978), Turn Off the Lights (1979), Love T.K.O. (1980)
R&B, disco, soul
35. Elton John
"Crocodile Rock" (1972), "Bennie and the Jets" (1974), "Don't Go Breaking My Heart", (1976), "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" (1991), "Candle in the Wind" (1997)
36. Rodney Crowell
Ashes By Now (1980), I Couldn't Leave You If I Tried (1988), She's Crazy for Leavin' (1988), After All This Time (1989)
37. Sturgill Simpson
Brace for Impact (2016), In Bloom (2016), Sing Along (2019), Remember to Breathe (2019)
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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