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We all have different backgrounds and families that make us who we are, and our favorite musicians are no different. While many of us are lucky to know exactly where we come from, having been born to and loved by our biological parents, for some, it takes a person or couple saying “Yes” to welcome them into their home and adopt them into their family. Although not all adoption stories are neatly wrapped and tied off with a bow, they are still inspirational stories nonetheless.
Here are 16 famous musicians who were adopted.
1. Eric Clapton
To kick off our list of famous musicians who were adopted, we actually have probably the most atypical adoption story in the bunch. Eric Clapton, the master of rock and blues guitar, spent his childhood believing that his birth mother was actually his older sister.
The future Yardbirds member was born to 16-year-old Patricia Molly Clapton and 25-year-old Edward Walter Fryer, who was a soldier. In childhood, he was actually raised by his grandparents, Rose and Jack Clap, whom he believed to be his parents. Although it’s unclear whether a formal “adoption” occurred, it seems to count, considering how long this went on before he found out the truth.
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2. Trace Cyrus
There are few people in the world who wouldn’t recognize the infamous Cyrus clan, mainly thanks to country star Billy Ray Cyrus and pop star Miley Cyrus. What few people may be shocked to know, however, is that Trace Cyrus is actually an adopted Cyrus.
The future Metro Station backing vocalist and guitarist is actually the adopted son of the “Achy Breaky Heart” singer, having adopted him when he was 4 years old after marrying Trace’s mother, Leticia “Tish” Cyrus.
Heavy metal and hip-hop rapper Ice-T’s story of adoption is perhaps the most heartbreaking one out of all our famous musicians who were adopted. He had a happy childhood at first with a mother and father who loved him, but sadly, they both passed away from a heart attack, his mom when he was in third grade and his father when he was 13, respectively.
Sadly, the sudden orphan didn’t immediately find a new permanent home. He went through living with two aunts before finally settling with the latter in Los Angeles.
Related: 25 Rappers That Came from Nothing
4. Tim McGraw
Tim McGraw has a slightly similar story to Eric Clapton, as his true parentage was not revealed to him until later in life. While he always grew up with his mother, Elizabeth “Betty” Ann D’Agostino, he grew up believing that his stepfather, Horace Smith, was his actual father.
It was only when he was 11 and found his birth certificate that named Frank Edwin “Tug” McGraw Jr. as his true father. It would take a while for him to establish a relationship with the minor league pitcher, only becoming close to him after the future “Don’t Take the Girl” singer turned 18. A large part of this was Tug’s denial of paternity, but thankfully, the pair eventually came together and remained close until Tug died in 2004.
5. Faith Hill
Country star Faith Hill thus far is the most conventional story on this list of famous musicians who were adopted, having immediately been placed with Edna and Ted Perry after her birth. She had a happy childhood, too, as she grew up alongside her parents’ two biological sons.
Things do take a slight turn as she grew up under the impression that she was put up for adoption because her birth mother had an affair with a married man. It was only years later when the “Just the Way You Love Me” singer learned it was actually financial hardship that led to her mother deciding to give her up.
Related: Faith Hill’s Net Worth
6. Sarah McLachlan
Singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan, who has also proven her skills on piano, guitar, harp, and ukulele, like Hill, was one of the famous musicians who were adopted immediately after birth. In a slightly more conventional way than McGraw and Clapton, who were almost outright lied to, her parents did reveal that she was adopted when she was 9 years old.
Funnily enough, it was a mutual acquaintance who eventually reunited the “Angel” singer with her birth mother. McLachlan later told Parents magazine that she holds no hard feelings about being adopted, saying, “[Her mother] would have had to go and live in rural Newfoundland, and she wouldn’t have been able to pursue any of her dreams.”
7. JC Chasez
Former Micky Mouse Club star and NSYNC member JC Chasez has one of the sweetest stories on our famous musicians who were adopted list thanks to the true show of love from his birth mother who knew she wasn’t fit to raise him.
His birth mother, who had grown up in foster care, eventually entrusted her son to the care of her former foster parents when he was just 5 years old, and he, along with his siblings, was soon adopted by the couple.
In a 2004 interview with Blender, he said it was the happiest phone call he ever received. “I wasn’t in a home or anything; I was living with my [birth] mother. And then she was like, ‘Hey, how would you feel about moving in with these people?’… My folks are dope. They’re killer. I’ve been happy ever since.”
8. Debbie Harry
Debbie Harry, best known for being the lead vocalist of the rock band Blondie, was adopted by Catherine and Richard Harry at three months old, but she was 4 when she first learned of the adoption.
“They explained it to me in a really nice way. It made me feel quite special somehow,” she later said in an interview. “I sometimes attribute my adventurous nature to that. … I have an open mind about things. It didn’t present me with any borders. Like I’m just like my mother, and I’m going to be like her.”
Although she didn’t want to at first, Harry eventually did track down her birth mother, whom she learned was a concert pianist. Sadly, her mother refused the chance at a relationship.
9. John Lennon
John Lennon is one of the famous musicians who were adopted whose circumstances surrounding the adoption simply break your heart, much like his later tragic death.
After a lot of marital discord between his parents, including a physically absentee father and a mother who satisfied her “needs” by sleeping around and becoming pregnant with another man, his concerned aunt Mimi was eventually awarded custody after she filed complaints with Liverpool’s Social Services twice.
Related: What Was John Lennon’s Net Worth?
Of all the entries on our famous musicians who were adopted list, we’d say that Skrillex gets the award for the one who took the news the hardest when he found out.
While the future DJ and music producer was adopted as an infant by friends of his biological parents, he was 15 years old before he learned that for himself. When he did find out, he ran away from home and cut off contact with his parents for several years. Thankfully, he reconciled with his parents before his mother passed away.
Related: Skrillex’s Net Worth
11. Bo Diddley
Bo Diddley, the guitarist behind the influence of such stars as Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and more, spent his life under the care of his mother’s cousin, Gussie McDaniel. His mother, Ethel Wilson, made the decision because she was only 16, and his father, Eugene Bates, was never in the picture. Eventually, McDaniel didn’t just take care of Diddley, but she officially adopted him, and he took her last name as a result.
Sadly, he still met hardship as his adoptive father, Robert, passed away when he was only 5 years old.
Related: The Life and Music of Elvis Presley
12. Darryl McDaniels
Darryl McDaniels, aka DMC, aka founding member of Run-DMC, had a heartbreaking start as one of the famous musicians who were adopted. Born to an unwed mother, he was surrendered to foster care shortly after his birth.
To our relief, he only had to be in that situation for one month before his parents took him in and adopted him.
13. Liz Phair
Rock singer, guitarist, and pianist Liz Phair is yet another on our list of famous musicians who were adopted whose adoption happened right at her birth.
The “Why Can’t I?” singer has said of her parents, Nancy and John Phair, “My parents were very responsible. … They were perfect about it. … I’ve never tried to find [my biological] parents. My friend, who was adopted from the same home, requested information and got back a four-page letter about her mother’s life. She said it was jaw-dropping.”
Black Eyed Peas founding member apl.de.ap is one of the more unique of the famous musicians who were adopted, seeing as his adoption didn’t come until he was 14 years old. He grew up with six younger siblings, being raised by a single mother in the Philippines for the first several years of his childhood.
Eventually, he was sponsored by the Pearl S. Buck Foundation to come to the United States and live with Joe Ben Hudgens, a lawyer, when he was 11. After Hudgens took him to Disneyland, the future rapper expressed his desire to stay in the United States. Three years later, Hudgens officially adopted apl.de.ap when he was 14.
Related: The Black Eyed Peas: Get to Know ‘Em
15. Jett Williams
Jett Williams is the youngest child of legendary country singer Hank Williams, having been born five days after her father’s tragic and unexpected death. Nearly two years later, her mother, Antha Belle Jett, gave her up, and she was adopted by Lillie Williams Stone, her paternal grandmother. At that adoption, her name was changed to Catherine Yvonne Stone.
Sadly, her grandmother died the following year, and she became a ward of the state of Alabama. Luckily, she was adopted again, and her name changed a third time to Cathy Louise Deupree.
Related: How did Hank Williams Die?
16. Buffy Sainte-Marie
Canadian musician Buffy Sainte-Marie, best known for songs like “Universal Soldier” and “Until It’s Time for You to Go,” ends our list of famous musicians who were adopted with a heartbreaking story of adoption. Initially, she was raised by her birth parents, but when she was around two or three years old, the Sixties Scoop forcibly removed her from her parents.
The Sixties Scoop “refers to the time period, primarily throughout the 1960s, when Indigenous children were taken or ‘scooped away’ from their birth families and communities, usually without the consent of their family and band. … Throughout the 1960s and onwards, many Indigenous children were taken from their communities and adopted into predominantly white, middle-class families throughout North America.”
She became one of those children to be adopted by an American couple, Albert and Winifred Sainte-Marie, living and growing up with them in Wakefield, Massachusetts.
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