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Which Musicians Are Shy?

A List of Shy Musicians

By

Updated April 22, 2014

Although being a musician is a very public career, surprisingly many musicians are shy. Often the most outlandish or those with the most bizarre stage personas are actually the most shy; they find it easier to transform themselves into someone other than themselves. Here is a list of shy musicians and how they have dealt with their shyness.

1. Adele

Photo: Getty / Dave Hogan
Photo: Getty / Dave Hogan

Adele is a grammy-award winning British singer who landed her first record deal right after finishing school. Her first and second albums were named for her ages at the time of recording (19 and 21). Adele has discussed her fears about performing and how she just pushes through:

"I'm scared of audiences," she confessed. "One show in Amsterdam I was so nervous I escaped out the fire exit. I've thrown up a couple of times. Once in Brussels I projectile vomited on someone. I just gotta bear it. But I don't like touring. I have anxiety attacks a lot."

2. Barbra Streisand

Photo: Getty / Kevork Djansezian
Photo: Getty / Kevork Djansezian
Barbra Streisand is an American singer and actress known for her music and popular films such as Hello Dolly!, Yentl and Meet the Fockers. Streisand developed a case of stage fright after forgetting the words to a song during her 1967 performance in Central Park. After the incident she disappeared from the spotlight for almost three decades. The singer has discussed how she recovered from her anxiety and stage fright with the help of therapy and medication.

3. Bob Dylan

Photo: Getty / Kevin Winter
Photo: Getty / Kevin Winter

Popular folk/rock musician Bob Dylan has been performing for decades and is known for songs such as Mr. Tambourine Man and Like a Rolling Stone. Musicians such as Johnny Cash and Gary Moore have commented on Dylan's shyness. Johnny Cash said:

"I think Bob Dylan was scared or even a little embarrassed. He's a very shy person. I can really appreciate that. When we went out to rehearse they had an old shack hanging from wires behind him to try to give it a backwoods look. He came offstage upset. He said, I'm gonna be the laughing stock of the business! My fans are gonna laugh in my face over that thing!"

Thin Lizzy guitarist Gary Moore had the following to say about meeting Bob Dylan:

"I remember Bob had soft, squidgy, little hands and was really shy - he hardly said two words."

4. Britney Spears

Photo: Getty / Larry Busacca
Photo: Getty / Larry Busacca

Britney Spears is an American singer who started her career as a Mouseketeer along with other future stars such as Justin Timberlake. Spears' debut album, "Baby One More Time" was an international success selling 13 million copies. Although most people think of Britney as an outgoing performer, she considers herself shy and nervous in certain situations:

"It's weird because I think people think because of what I do I'm like, 'Da-na', but at heart I'm very shy... When I'm in front of the camera I know what to do, but I get in a room, stuck with four guys, and I'm like the shyest girl in there."

5. Carly Simon

Photo: Getty / Noel Vasquez
Photo: Getty / Noel Vasquez

Carly Simon is an American singer known for hit songs such as You're So Vain. Carly was known for her stage fright, to the point that during a concert in 1981 she passed out and collapsed. Carly talks about her fears:

"I'm an anxiety prone person and I'm prone to attacks. I can wig out. I can wig out in a department store or in a social situation, at a dinner party, or in a restaurant. The stage isn't only place I can do it, but that has some adverse conditions, you can't get off. I've only done about 75 concerts."

6. Carrie Underwood

Photo: Getty / Frazer Harrison
Photo: Getty / Frazer Harrison
Carrie Underwood competed in and won the fourth season of the reality television show American Idol. Carrie went on to become a multi-platinum recording artist and songwriter and has received numerous music awards for her work as a country singer. Despite being a performer, Carrie describes herself as shy, nervous, and socially awkward.

7. Cher Bono

Photo: Getty / Michael Buckner
Photo: Getty / Michael Buckner

Cher Bono is an American singer and actress who became famous with her husband Sonny during the popularity of their music and variety show The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. Cher suffered with undiagnosed dyslexia during childhood which may have caused some of her feelings of inadequacy; she describes herself as ugly and shy during childhood.

8. David Bowie

Photo: Andrew H. Walker
Photo: Andrew H. Walker

David Bowie is a British singer and actor known for his flamboyant onstage presence. Bowie has had numerous successful albums over the course of his career and has also appeared on Broadway and with small parts onscreen. Like many singers and actors, his performing persona was a cover-up for his shyness:

“I’m not particularly a gregarious person. I had an unbearable shyness; it was much easier for me to keep on with the Ziggy thing, off stage as well as on. Who was David Bowie and who was Ziggy Stardust? It was motivated by shyness.”

9. Donny Osmond

Photo: Getty / Henry S. Dziekan III
Photo: Getty / Henry S. Dziekan III
Donny Osmond is an American musician and actor. Donny first experienced stage fright when he was a young boy performing with his family. He went on to endure a panic attack while onstage during a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Eventually Donny became afraid to even go out in public. He has discussed openly how he overcame his fears with treatment that included cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication.

10. Ella Fitzgerald

Photo: Getty / Hulton Archive
Photo: Getty / Hulton Archive

Ella Fitzgerald was a renowned jazz singer known for hits such as "A-tisket a-tasket" and "I found a yellow basket." During the course of her career she recorded more than 200 albums and 2000 songs and became known as the "First Lady of Jazz." Ella talks about being shy in real life and how she coped as a performer:

“I’m very shy, and I shy away from people. But the moment I hit the stage, it’s a different feeling. I get nerve from somewhere; maybe it’s because it’s something I love to do.”

She died on June 15th, 1996.

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