15 musicians with the longest careers

Michael Ochs Archives & Eric McCandless / GettyCher has had a long career.
  • There are some musicians who have been successful for decades.
  • Singers like Madonna, Cher, Tina Turner, and Barbra Streisand have all enjoyed lengthy careers in music.
  • Frontmen of famous bands like Steven Tyler, Paul McCartney, and Bono have also been performing for decades.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Music is always changing and evolving, but some musicians have stood the test of time and remained relevant.

Household names like Madonna, Cher, Paul McCartney, and Bruce Springsteen have been pushing out successful albums, performing to sold-out arenas, and gracing magazine covers for decades.

Keep reading to find out which musicians have had the longest careers.

Tony Bennett signed his first record deal 70 years ago.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for NARASTony Bennett.

In 1949, Pearl Bailey asked a struggling musician, Joe Bari, to open a show for her in New York City. During that opening, he got the attention of some notables and signed a record deal the following year. During that time, he changed his name to Tony Bennett.

In 1951, his first hit single was “Because of You.” As he transitioned into jazz music, Bennett released his most popular song in 1962, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” which earned him his first Grammy Award.

Bennett struggled to find a place for himself in the ’60s and ’70s as younger people became interested in rock music. But he jumped back on the scene in the ’80s and ’90s, creating albums like “The Art of Excellence” and “Perfectly Frank.”

Later in life, Bennett became successful at producing albums made up entirely of duets with other famous artists. Most notably, he created a successful album with Lady Gaga called “Cheek to Cheek” in 2014, earning him another Grammy Award. He continues making duet albums today.

Six decades ago, Neil Diamond released his first single.

John Lamparski / GettyNeil Diamond.

In 1960, Neil Diamond released his first single, “What Will I Do?” but his song in 1966, “Solitary Man,” is what brought him into the spotlight. In 1969, he wrote his most famous song, “Sweet Caroline,” which made it to the Billboard charts. The following year he earned his first No. 1 with “Cracklin’ Rosie.”

During the ’80s and ’90s, Diamond struggled with success, but he jumped back into the music scene in the 2000s, releasing “Home Before Dark” (2008), “Melody Road” (2014), and “Acoustic Christmas” (2016).

In 2018, he announced he’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and would retire. However, he continues to write songs and performed “Sweet Caroline” online during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

Tina Turner had her first big single with Ike in 1960.

Kevin Winter/Getty ImagesTina Turner.

After meeting and performing in a club together, Ike and Tina Turner released their debut single, “A Fool in Love,” in 1960. Off the success of that single, the couple toured the country, releasing new songs that people fell in love with. They reached higher success with singles like “River Deep, Mountain High” in 1966 and “Proud Mary” in 1971.

In 1978, the couple divorced and Tina revealed Ike physically abused her throughout their relationship. She launched a solo career, which had a slow start, but she eventually found her footing, releasing famous tracks like “Private Dancer” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”

Since then, she has continued touring and has been producing more solo music, racking up eight Grammy Awards. She had her final tour in 2008, and in 2019, there was a Broadway musical about her life called “Tina.”

Barbra Streisand’s career began on Broadway in 1962.

(Photo by John Salangsang/Invision/AP)Barbra Streisand.

After working in cabarets in New York City, Barbra Streisand landed a role on Broadway in “I Can Get it For You Wholesale” in 1962. She earned a Tony Award and a record deal for that performance, skyrocketing her to stardom. Her first album, “The Barbra Streisand Album,” came out in 1963 and earned her two Grammy Awards.

In 1968, she took her singing chops to the big screen in the musical movie “Funny Girl,” for which she earned an Academy Award. In 1976, she did it again by starring in “A Star is Born,” which was critically acclaimed.

In the following years, Streisand continued marrying her acting abilities with her singing talents by appearing in and directing films like “Yentl,” “The Prince of Tides,” and “The Mirror Has Two Faces.”

She has released album after album. Her most recent, “Walls,” was released in 2018. She continues to be the highest-selling female artist in history.

Stevie Wonder began his career when he was just 11 years old.

Pool/GettyStevie Wonder.

Before he turned 10, Stevie Wonder taught himself how to play the piano, drums, and harmonica. By 11, the musical protege released his first album, “The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie Wonder,” in 1962. Throughout the ’60s, he created record-breaking songs like “Fingertips, Pt. 2” and “I Was Made to Love Her.”

Over the next few decades, Wonder shifted from Motown to pop and R&B with songs like “Superstition,” “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” and “Part-Time Lover.”

He continues to create music today. Most recently, he wrote “Faith” with Ariana Grande in 2016 and “Future Sunny Days” in 2018.

Throughout his career, Wonder has earned many awards, including 25 Grammy Awards and over 70 nominations.

Paul McCartney’s music career has also spanned decades — The Beatles released their first single in 1962.

Bradley Page – WPA Pool/Getty ImagesPaul McCartney.

On October 5, 1962, a new single titled “Love Me Do” by a band called The Beatles was released in England. The song was a hit, launching one of the most famous and successful bands in history. Paul McCartney played the guitar and piano in the band, alongside John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison.

Together, the band produced 12successfulstudio albums that would change music forever. They also started a craze known as “Beatlemania” that swept all over the globe.

When the band broke up in 1970, McCartney was the first member of the band to release a solo album. He continued producing his own music up until Lennon’s death. During that time, McCartney took a step back from the public eye for almost a decade, but he jumped back in the ’90s.

He continues to make music and tour today – with 18 Grammy Awards and countless accolades under his belt.

In 1962, the legendary songwriter and singer Bob Dylan released his first album.

Frazer Harrison/Getty ImagesBob Dylan.

In 1961, Bob Dylan signed his first contract and released his first album the following year, introducing the world to his unique voice and songwriting skills. His music at the time was mostly folk, but he switched it up in 1965 by releasing a half folk and half rock album, “Bringing It All Back Home.”

Over the next few decades, Dylan released several albums, becoming one of the most important songwriters and musicians in history.

Dylan has not stopped making music these days. Most recently, he released “Together Through Life” (2009), “Tempest” (2012), “Shadows in the Night,” (2015) and “Fallen Angels” (2016).

In 2016, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature. He’s also earned 10 Grammy Awards over his career.

Over 50 years ago, Diana Ross had her first hit with the Supremes.

Jordan Strauss/Invision/APDiana Ross.

Diana Ross joined the group in the 1960s, and they released their first No. 1 hit, “Where Did Our Love Go?” in 1964. Their next four songs all reached the top of the charts: “Baby Love” (1964), “Come See About Me” (1964), “Stop! In the Name of Love” (1965), and “Back in My Arms Again” (1965).

In 1969, Ross left the Supremes to pursue a solo career, becoming a star in her own right. She reached the Billboard charts with her famed “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and other songs like “Love Hangover” and “Upside Down.”

In the ’70s, she switched to acting and appeared in “Lady Sings the Blues” in 1972 and “The Wiz” in 1978.

She continued to make music throughout the years and earned a Tony Award, a Golden Globe, and a Black Entertainment Television’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

In 2019, Diana Ross announced she was going back on tour.

Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones scored their first hit single in 1964.

Kevin Winter / Getty ImagesMick Jagger.

In the early ’60s, Mick Jagger was busy in England forming his band that would later be known as the Rolling Stones. In 1964, the band toured, put out their first album, and got their first American hit with their single “That Girl Belongs to Yesterday.” They then started pumping out hits like “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and “Paint It Black.”

During the ’70s and ’80s, Jagger became a rock icon, known for his flamboyant and energetic stage presence. Over the next few decades, the band put out album after album and remained mainstays in the world of rock.

Jagger and the Rolling Stones still perform around the world. They had a tour scheduled for 2019, but Jagger needed heart surgery.

Over the course of his career, Jagger has sold 240 million albums globally and earned three Grammy Awards.

Cher began her career alongside her husband, Sonny, in 1965.


After meeting in a coffee shop, Sonny and Cher released their first single, “I Got You Babe,” in 1965, becoming instant sensations. They continued to release songs and eventually started the “The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour,” which produced even more hits for the couple until 1974. After their divorce, Cher focused on her own music and released disco hits like “Take Me Home” in 1979.

During the ’80s, Cher moved into acting, starring in “Silkwood” in 1983 and “Mask” in 1985. In 1988, Cher earned an Academy Award for her role in “Moonstruck.”

Toward the end of the decade, she returned to music and earned hits like “If I Could Turn Back Time” and “Just Like Jesse James” in 1989. In the ’90s, she reached success again with dance tracks like “Believe” – which earned her a Grammy Award – and “Strong Enough.”

Most recently, Cher has appeared in “Burlesque” (2010) and “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again” (2018). A Broadway musical about her life called “The Cher Show” premiered in 2018.

Cher is the only musician to have a hit song in every decade and has received seven Grammy nominations.

Elton John’s career in music began 53 years ago.

Associated Press/Julie JacobsonElton John.

Elton John began his career as a songwriter in 1967 in England, where he met his songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin. In 1969, he released his first album, “Empty Sky,” but his self-titled album the following year launched him into the spotlight. His single “Your Song” connected with audiences, ushering in other hits like “Crocodile Rock” and “Bennie and the Jets.”

John also became famous for his elaborate and flamboyant performances. He often wore lavish and out-of-this-world costumes, and he treated the piano like he was rocking out on a guitar.

Throughout the years, he continued turning out hit after hit, including “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” in 1976, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” in 1994, and “Candle in the Wind” in 1997.

Over the course of his career, he’s won five Grammys and received over 30 nominations. He has over 50 Top 40 hits and sold over 300 million records worldwide.

He continued making music in the early 2000s, and he made an impression with the music for the Broadway musical “Billy Elliot” in 2008. Most recently, he produced a film about his life in 2019 titled “Rocketman,” for which he won an Academy Award for best original song.

Steven Tyler began his journey with Aerosmith 48 years ago.

Michael Loccisano/Getty ImagesSteven Tyler.

Steven Tyler created the band Aerosmith with his friends in Boston in 1970. They signed their first contract in 1972 and released their first album the following year, introducing the world to their hit “Dream On.” At first, the band was compared to the Rolling Stones, especially since Tyler reminded so many people of Mick Jagger. Quickly, the band created a name for itself, releasing hits like “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk This Way.”

Toward the end of the ’70s, Tyler became addicted to drugs and went to rehab, leaving Aerosmith behind. By the mid-’80s, however, he revived the band and they released songs like “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” and “Janie’s Got a Gun.”

After some health issues in the early 2000s, Tyler left the band but joined them again in 2011 to release the “Tough Love” and “Music from Another Dimension!” albums.

Tyler also became a judge on “American Idol” in 2012 but left after three years to pursue solo music and a Las Vegas residency.

Bruce Springsteen released his first single 47 years ago.

Isaiah Trickey/FilmMagic via Getty ImagesBruce Springsteen.

In the 1960s, Bruce Springsteen played in bars and in several bands along the Jersey Shore. During this time, he met the musicians who would eventually form his famous E Street Band. Together, they released Springsteen’s first album “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.” in 1973. But it wasn’t until his third album, “Born to Run,” in 1975 that the musician reached great success.

Over the next few decades, Springsteen released a plethora of albums and singles, including “Born in The U.S.A.,” “Tunnel of Love,” “Lucky Town,” “The Rising,” and “We Take Care of Our Own.” Throughout his career, he’s garnered a whopping 20 Grammy Awards and 50 nominations.

In 2017, he appeared on Broadway and won a Tony Award. He planned to go on tour with his band again in 2020.

Bono joined U2 44 years ago and is still making music.


In 1976, Paul David Hewson joined the band U2 in Dublin, Ireland, and was given the name Bono Vox, which means good voice. As they toured, the band made music, releasing their first album in 1980 called “Boy.” It wasn’t until their sixth album, “The Joshua Tree,” in 1987 that the band became international superstars.

From there, they released more albums to great success, like “Achtung Baby” (1991), “Zooropa” (1993), and “Pop” (1997).

In the 2000s, Bono turned to activism, lending his voice and musical talents to raise money for Darfur and Hurricane Katrina victims. He continues to make music and to fight for causes today.

In 2020, Bono released a cover of U2’s song “Beautiful Day” for the year’s graduating class.

Madonna released her first hit single, “Everybody,” almost 40 years ago.

Chris Pizzello/Invision/APMadonna.

After years of working as a waitress and appearing in a number of bands, Madonna broke out in a solo career in the early ’80s and earned her first hit in 1982 with “Everybody.” It reached No. 1 on the charts instantly. From there, Madonna released hits like “Holiday” (1983), “Like a Virgin (1984), “Material Girl” (1984), “Crazy For You” (1985), and “Like a Prayer” (1989). During this time, Madonna was building a large fanbase whose members imitated her signature look, which included fishnet stockings and fingerless gloves.

She also became known for her movies. Most notably, her documentary “Truth or Dare” is a cult classic, and she tried her hand at acting in “Evita” in 1996.

From there, Madonna reinvented her sound several times, releasing albums like “MDNA” in 2012, “Rebel Heart” in 2015, and “Madam X” in 2019.

Throughout her career, Madonna has won seven Grammy Awards, earned 21 Top 10 hits, and sold more than 70 million albums globally.

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