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When the Lights Go Up: Famous Musicians Who Have Survived Stage Fright

Famous Musicians and Their Struggles with Stage Fright

The world of music is often associated with glamor, confidence, adrenaline, and charisma. However, not all musicians feel that way.

In fact, many famous musicians struggle with anxiety on stage, which can manifest in different forms and intensities. From

Barbra Streisand to

Adele and

Ozzy Osbourne, let’s explore some of the most prominent artists who have battled stage fright and how they have dealt with it throughout their careers.

Barbra Streisand

Even though she’s been performing for over six decades,

Barbra Streisand has never felt completely comfortable in front of large crowds. This is partly due to a traumatic experience in 1967 when she forgot the lyrics to a song during her Central Park concert, which was being broadcast worldwide.

She was so upset by the mistake that she didn’t perform in public until 1972. From then on, she relied heavily on teleprompters to avoid any mishaps and shunned extensive concert tours.

However, her fear of performing live did not prevent her from recording hit albums and appearing in films.


Adele is famous for her powerful voice, soulful lyrics, and emotional performances, which have earned her numerous awards and millions of fans worldwide. However, her perfectionism and intense stage fright have made her shy away from live shows.

She has canceled entire tours due to anxiety and has had to take anti-anxiety medicine before her performances to cope with the pressure. In interviews,

Adele has been candid about her struggles and has encouraged others to seek professional help if they suffer from similar issues.

She has also used her platform to promote body positivity and self-love.

Katy Perry

Katy Perry’s early experiences as a performer were not easy. Despite her talent, she faced rejection and criticism, which affected her self-esteem and confidence.

Moreover, she has disclosed that she used to suffer from social anxiety, which made it hard for her to connect with people and to express herself freely. Her breakthrough came with her hit song “I Kissed a Girl,” which became a worldwide sensation in 2008.

Since then, she has become one of the top-selling female artists of all time, but her stage fright has not disappeared entirely. She has revealed that she still takes beta-blockers to control her heart rate and that she practices meditation and prayer before her shows.


Rihanna is known for her bold style, mesmerizing voice, and charismatic stage presence, but she too has had moments of doubt and fear. In a 2013 interview with Rolling Stone, she admitted that sometimes she gets so scared that she feels like throwing up.

However, she also shared that she draws extra-confidence from her fans and that she likes to visualize herself killing her performances. She has also been vocal about the importance of mental health and self-care and has launched her beauty and lingerie lines to empower women of all shapes and colors.

Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart has sold over 100 million records and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, but his first performances in the US were far from triumphant. He has described how he felt nervous and out of place, especially when he was opening for larger acts like the Rolling Stones.

He has also mentioned that he used to drink heavily before going on stage and that he would sometimes vomit or forget his lyrics. Nevertheless, he persevered and developed his signature raspy voice that captured the essence of rock and soul.

Today, he is regarded as one of the most iconic musicians of his time.

Ozzy Osbourne

As the frontman of Black Sabbath and later as a solo artist,

Ozzy Osbourne became famous for his wild performances, stage antics, and dark persona. However, behind the scenes, he was struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, as well as stage fright.

In his autobiography “I Am Ozzy,” he recalled how his fear of performing live got so bad that he would sometimes black out or vomit before going on stage. He has also shared that he used to drink heavily to calm his nerves and that he credits his wife Sharon for helping him to overcome his addictions and to regain his confidence.

Luciano Pavarotti

Luciano Pavarotti was one of the most phenomenal tenors of the 20th century, renowned for his crystal-clear voice and moving interpretations of opera arias. However, even he had moments of insecurity and self-doubt, especially when it came to hitting the right notes.

In a documentary about his life, he explained how he would sometimes mutter to himself on stage or take his glasses off to avoid seeing the audience. However, he also revealed that he had learned to trust his talent and to develop a sense of humor about his flaws.

He once quipped, “I’m not a perfectionist; I’m a musician.”

Eddie Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen was the guitar virtuoso who revolutionized rock music with his innovative solos, riffs, and techniques. However, despite his onstage bravado and technical skill, he was actually shy and introverted.

In interviews, he has confessed that he loathed being on stage and that he used to drink heavily to cope with his nerves. He also struggled with addictions and health issues, which affected his performances and led to long hiatuses.

Nevertheless, he kept creating music until his death in 2020 and left a lasting legacy that inspired generations of musicians.

Steven Osborne

Steven Osborne is a Scottish pianist who has won numerous awards and accolades for his interpretations of classical and contemporary music. However, he has also been open about his stage fright and how he has learned to find a healthy balance between anxiety and adrenaline.

In an interview with The Guardian, he explained how he used to dread performing in public but has come to appreciate the challenges and rewards of live concerts. He has also recommended that aspiring musicians practice mindfulness techniques and remind themselves of what they love about music.

Carly Simon

Carly Simon is a singer-songwriter who rose to fame in the 1970s with hits like “You’re So Vain” and “Anticipation.” However, in 1985, she suffered a traumatic assault while on stage in Pittsburgh, which left her with PTSD and panic attacks. She later collapsed on stage during a concert in New York and decided to stop touring altogether.

Since then, she has focused on writing and recording music and has made occasional appearances as a backing singer. She has also been active in advocating for victims of sexual assault and raising awareness of mental health issues.

Overcoming Stage Fright as a Famous Musician

While stage fright can be debilitating and discouraging, it is not a permanent or insurmountable condition. Many famous musicians have found ways to manage their anxiety and even use it to their advantage.

Some have sought therapy, hypnosis, or medication to cope with their symptoms. Others have developed coping strategies, such as visualization, breathing exercises, or positive self-talk.

A few have even embraced their imperfections and mistakes and used them to connect with their audiences on a more human level.


Cher is a singer and actress who has had an enduring career spanning over five decades. She has faced various challenges along the way, including stage fright.

However, she has also discovered a unique way to overcome her fear by partnering with her former husband Sonny Bono on stage. As she explained in her autobiography “The First Time,” she would look into his eyes instead of the crowd and focus on their connection.

This gave her a sense of safety and grounding that allowed her to perform more freely. Even after Sonny’s death in 1998, she has continued to use this technique and to inspire her fans with her resilience and creativity.

Jonathan Knight

Jonathan Knight is a member of the boy band New Kids on the Block, which enjoyed mega-success in the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, behind the scenes, Jonathan was struggling with generalized anxiety disorder, which made it hard for him to perform live.

In a 2011 interview with People magazine, he revealed that he had to take a break from the band in 1994 and that he had been on medication and therapy ever since. However, he also shared that he had found ways to cope with his anxiety, such as talking to his bandmates and fans, practicing mindfulness, and focusing on the joy of singing.

He has also become an advocate for mental health awareness and has encouraged others to seek help if they encounter similar struggles.


In conclusion, the stories of famous musicians who have battled stage fright are a reminder that even the most talented and successful artists are human and vulnerable. They illustrate how the pressure to perform can impact one’s mental and emotional well-being, but also how resilience, adaptability, and courage can help overcome obstacles and reach one’s potential.

Whether by using teleprompters, anti-anxiety medicine, or unique coping strategies, these musicians have shown that there is no shame or weakness in seeking support and learning to manage one’s fears. By sharing their experiences, they have also inspired others to pursue their dreams and to find their own voice, flawed and beautiful.

Achieving Success Despite Stage Fright

Stage fright can take a hold of anyone, regardless of their talent, experience, or fame. However, for some musicians, it can be a persistent and overwhelming challenge that affects their careers and lives.

In this section, we will explore the stories of three musicians who have achieved success despite stage fright and how they managed to overcome or cope with their fears.

Vladimir Horowitz

Vladimir Horowitz was a Ukrainian-born pianist who is considered one of the greatest virtuosos of the 20th century. He mesmerized audiences with his technical prowess, sensitivity, and passion, but he was also known for being a perfectionist and a nervous performer.

In fact, he announced his retirement from public concerts in 1953, due to the stress and pressure he felt when playing for large crowds. However, he returned to the stage a decade later, and his performances continued to dazzle and inspire music lovers all over the world.

He attributed his success to practicing rigorously, maintaining a disciplined schedule, and focusing on the music rather than on his fears.

Renee Fleming

Renee Fleming is an American soprano who has won multiple Grammy Awards and is regarded as one of the most versatile and gifted singers of her generation. However, she has also experienced setbacks and vulnerabilities, such as when she was booed off stage during a performance in 1991.

She later revealed that she was suffering from severe anxiety at the time and that the experience had a profound impact on her career and identity. Nevertheless, she persevered and sought help from a therapist and vocal coach.

She also worked on developing a positive mindset and acceptance of herself. In her memoir “The Inner Voice,” she wrote, “I perform despite my nervousness, not because it disappears.”

Andrea Bocelli

Andrea Bocelli is an Italian tenor and singer-songwriter who has sold over 90 million records and has collaborated with artists from various genres. He has also faced criticism and scrutiny for his vocal technique and stage presence, which some have deemed as weak or awkward.

Bocelli has acknowledged his limitations and revealed that he never knows if his performances will measure up to people’s expectations. However, he has also emphasized the importance of authenticity and emotional connection in his music.

In an interview with Forbes, he said, “Music is the most intimate part of our soul that we can share with others. To perform is a privilege, but also a challenge.

You have to be yourself, with your strengths and weaknesses.”

General Information About Stage Fright Among Famous Musicians

Stage fright is not a rare or trivial phenomenon, especially among performers who are in the public eye. Here are some interesting facts and observations about stage fright among famous musicians:

Glossophobia affects 77% of people.

Glossophobia, which is the fear of public speaking or performing, is a widespread fear that affects nearly 77% of people, according to a study published by the National Institute of Mental Health. However, not all cases of glossophobia are severe enough to prevent people from speaking or performing in public.

Stage fright affects even tough guys and rock stars. Contrary to stereotypes, stage fright is not exclusive to timid or sensitive individuals.

Even tough guys and rock stars have been known to battle with anxiety and self-doubt on stage. For example, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, and Mick Jagger have all admitted to having stage fright at some point in their careers.

Extreme athletes may prefer climbing mountains bare-handed to appearing on TV shows. Stage fright can also affect people outside the music industry, such as athletes, actors, and politicians.

For example, Alex Honnold, a renowned rock climber, has said that he prefers climbing mountains without ropes or gear to appearing on TV shows or giving speeches in front of large crowds. He has described the former as less stressful and more natural for him.

Stage fright can be a debilitating emotional burden for performers. Stage fright can manifest in various forms, such as trembling, sweating, nausea, or rapid heartbeat.

It can also lead to negative self-talk, catastrophic thinking, and avoidance behaviors. For some performers, stage fright can become a significant emotional burden that affects their mental health, relationships, and careers.

Many superstars suffer from stage fright. Despite their fame and success, many superstars and legends have experienced stage fright or related issues.

For example, Elvis Presley suffered from anxiety and nervousness, especially later in his career. John Lennon had panic attacks during his live performances and was known to vomit before going on stage.

Barbra Streisand, as mentioned earlier, relied heavily on teleprompters to avoid forgetting her lyrics. Managing stage fright is a major concern for many musicians.

Given the prevalence and impact of stage fright, many musicians and performers are actively seeking ways to manage or overcome their fears. They may use a combination of physical, psychological, and emotional strategies, such as visualization, breathing exercises, meditation, therapy, or medication.

They may also develop rituals or routines before performing, such as drinking tea, doing vocal warm-ups, or praying. Devising ways to cope with stage fright to achieve success.

While stage fright can be challenging and uncomfortable, it is not a death sentence for a musician’s career. In fact, many successful musicians have learned to cope with their anxiety and channel it into their performances.

It can serve as a source of motivation, energy, and authenticity, as long as it does not paralyze or sabotage one’s abilities. Ideally, musicians can work with their fears, rather than against them, and find ways to enjoy the process of performing.

Rituals or routines before performing may be helpful. Rituals or routines before performing can help musicians to prepare themselves mentally and physically for their shows.

They can also serve as a way to create a sense of familiarity and comfort in unfamiliar or daunting situations. Some musicians, for example, may wear a lucky item of clothing, listen to a specific song, or meditate before going on stage.

These routines can be personalized and flexible, depending on the musician’s needs and preferences. In conclusion, stage fright is a common and complex issue that affects musicians of all genres and levels of fame.

However, by sharing their experiences and strategies, musicians can help themselves and others to lessen the impact of anxiety and create more meaningful and fulfilling performances. Stage fright is a prevalent and challenging issue that affects many musicians, regardless of their talent, experience, or fame.

Glossophobia affects 77% of people, and for performers, stage fright can be a debilitating emotional burden that affects their mental health, relationships, and careers. Many famous musicians, including

Barbra Streisand,

Adele, and

Katy Perry, have battled anxiety on stage, while others, like

Vladimir Horowitz,

Renee Fleming, and

Andrea Bocelli, have managed to achieve success despite their fears.

Coping strategies for stage fright can include therapy, medication, visualization, breathing exercises, or creating rituals or routines before performing. Stage fright can be a challenge to overcome, but it can also be a source of motivation, energy, and authenticity.

The main takeaway from this article is that, by working with

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