Today, as people run their hands across the engraved marble of our nation’s war memorials, they might be surprised to know that despite the pain associated with the great loss attached to this day, a few of the world’s most famous musicians figured out their destiny sitting in military barracks.
Below, is a list of veterans that may surprise you. These musicians crawled in the mud with the best of em’ before turning their swords into axes—and other assorted musical instruments.
It’s doubtful this ‘80s star was singing “Can’t Touch This,” during basic training. After a failed tryout with the San Francisco Giants, the would-be second basemen considered selling drugs, but joined the Navy instead, according to Ebony. Hammer was a Petty Officer Third Class Aviation Store Keeper in Mountain View, Calif.
Prior to the time he spent denying various infidelities with his reggae hit “It wasn’t Me,” Shaggy served as a Marine during the Gulf War. Military.com said that the experience gave him the push he needed to devote himself more fully to his music.
Sometime before the rapper was encouraging the ladies to “Shake It Fast” he served in Desert Storm. He told MTV,
“Over there eight months. Crazy. I was totally baffled, like, “Why am I here?” I knew why I joined the Army; I was trying to get a little money, get a little card, do a little adventure. “ “Be all that you can be—Man, it was crazy. But if I had to do it again, I couldn’t change it, ‘cause it definitely made me what I am.”
According to MTVNews, Keenan served in the Army during the early ‘80s where he picked up the Maynard moniker before attending Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids and starting a little band called Tool.
Before his politically fueled rap group or his time fighting crime on NBC’s Law & Order spinoff, Special Victims Unit, Ice-T spent some time as an Army Ranger. He told NPR, “Well, I went to Crenshaw High School.” “After that, I went into the Army. I did four years in the military. And when I came out of the military, I got right into trouble. “
Jazz genius, John Coltrane was a Navy man. In 1945 Coltrane entered the Navy as a volunteer apprentice seaman and a year later made his first recording with a Navy band called the Melody Masters.
A young troublemaker, The Grateful Dead leader joined the Army with a nonchalant attitude, going AWOL several times. Garcia told Rollingstone, “Yeah, 17. I joined the Army, smuggled my guitar in.”
A very unenthusiastic participant; Jimi Hendrix was forced to spend a very short time in the armed forces. The Smoking Gun obtained Hendrix’s Army file from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. The file contained comments from his sergeant Louis Hoekstra, who said Jimi’s off-duty guitar playing hindered his ability to be a soldier. “This is one of his faults, because his mind apparently cannot function while performing duties and thinking about his guitar,” Hoekstra said.
The sultan of country music enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean war, where he found his first guitar during his tour of duty in Germany. When his term was over he sold appliances door to door while he tried to make it big in the music biz.
The King of The American Dream served in the Army for two years in the late ‘50s. Elvis was at the height of his success when he took a break from stardom to join the ranks, and it’s said that when offered, Presley declined any special treatment during his time in the military. In 1960, Elvis was given his Sergeant stripes and honorably discharged soon after. ”[Elvis] pulled his weight,” said his platoon leader, William J. Taylor. “He used his head and did his job well. He was one of us. He cared about us. And he got back the respect and friendship he gave everyone else. In several instances, I saw sparks of leadership in Elvis that made me think he could have induced men to follow him into combat, just as his music caused millions of young people to follow him.”