Music is a tough game. As a profession, it's one of the riskiest. Stars rise and fall almost overnight, and a career of a few years often seems the best a musician can hope for. Some transcend this uncertainty to become lasting legends. Others have more complicated and challenging paths that lead them out of the public eye for years or decades at a time only to be rediscovered by popular culture when they least expect it. Here are five musicians whose inspirational stories of resurrection defied the odds.
5. Loretta Lynn Some would argue that Loretta Lynn's career never really went away. From the '60s on, she built success upon success, often addressing controversial issues in her songs, and becoming a legend of country music along the way. The film of her life, Coal Miner's Daughter, was a huge hit in the early '80s, and she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988. However, she's notable for having jumped the generation gap with 2004's Van Lear Rose. With the help of Jack White, the album brought the then-72-year-old singer back into the limelight of critical and popular acclaim. Suddenly, indie kids were talking about music that their parents had listened to decades before.
4. Bettye LaVette Born and raised in Michigan, Bettye LaVette recorded her first single at the age of sixteen. After stints touring with Otis Redding and James Brown, her debut album Child of the Seventies was shelved by Atco Records. Throughout the '70s and '80s, she tried her hand at disco, R&B, and musical theater. After a French soul music collector named Gilles Petard bought the masters for Child of the Seventies and released the album -- retitled Souvenirs -- in 2000, LaVette's career reignited. She released and re-released albums, won numerous awards, did the late-show circuit, performed with two of the Beatles at Radio City Music Hall, and sang at the Obama Inaugural Celebration in 2009.
3. Charles Bradley After watching James Brown perform at the Apollo Theater as a teenager, Charles Bradley taught himself to sing soul music. While working as a chef in Maine, he formed a short-lived band that broke up when most of its members were drafted into the Vietnam War. After about three decades of traveling and working various jobs, Bradley moved back home to Brooklyn where he worked as a James Brown impersonator called Black Velvet. There, he was discovered by Daptone Records co-founder Gabriel Roth. In 2011, at the age of 63, Bradley released his first album No Time for Dreaming to critical acclaim. This was followed by a documentary about his life and a second album in 2013.
2. Bill Fay An introspective songwriter and pianist, Bill Fay released his first two albums on Deram Records in 1970 and 1971, respectively. They didn't sell well, and he was soon dropped from the label. Fay recorded a third album in the late '70s, but it was not released until 2005. Public interest in Fay began to build when Wilco championed his music by covering songs and inviting Fay to perform live with the band. After releasing some demos and home recordings, Fay finally returned to the studio and made the stunning Life is People, which saw the light of day in 2012. He returned the favor by covering Wilco's "Jesus, Etc." on the album.
1. Sixto Rodríguez As the documentary Searching for Sugar Man revealed to the world, Sixto Rodríguez has had one of the most unusual careers in music history. This Detroit-born songwriter released two albums in the early '70s which sold poorly in the U.S. After a brief tour of Australia in the early '80s, Rodríguez quit the music game for nearly two decades. While he worked menial jobs in Detroit, his music became a cultural phenomenon in South Africa, often spoken of in the same breath as Bob Dylan. In 1998, he began touring once more, and has been steadily gaining international fame ever since.