Mozart, The OG child prodigy
The lure of discovering child prodigies is strong. As a culture, we are obsessed with the idea of finding brilliance at an early age. The “original” prodigy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, created his first musical compositions by the age of 5; he showed masterdom over his craft before puberty — like some divine gift imparted upon him. The act of finding and revealing cases like this has existed in our collective ethos like some white whale in the search for greatness.
It’s an amazing pressure to live up to, one can only assume. As history has shown, some handle it with grace, some are destroyed by it. Even so, we obsess over the success stories with wonder of the past and anticipation for that which comes next.
Though Mozart is a prime example of prodigious ability, it’s not all composers and classical musicians. More modern music is rife with gifted youngsters staking their claim, starting early on to accomplish great things before even being old enough to drive a car. Here are five of modern music’s greatest child prodigies.
At 14, Aretha Franklin recorded her 1956 debut album of gospel songs, Songs of Faith, at Detroit’s New Bethel Baptist Church, introducing her voice to the world.
Stevie Wonder was first “Little” Stevie Wonder, 12-year-old percussion, keyboard and harmonica phenom on his 1962 instrumental debut The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie.
Michael Jackson became the lead singer of Jackson 5 when he was just 5, playing local clubs and bars around Gary, Ind. Six years later, at 11, the group released its 1969 Mowtown debut, Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5.
In 1976, Björk Guðmundsdóttir appeared on Icelandic radio to sing Tina Charles’ hit “I Love to Love” and wound up with a record deal and the release of her self-titled album the following year, at the age of 11.
Though LeAnn Rimes had been releasing records since she was 9, at 13 her 1996 album Blue reached No. 1 on the Country Albums chart and was certified multiplatinum, making her the youngest country music star in 20 years.