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16 Musicians You Didn't Know Came From Military Backgrounds

It may come as a surprise, but the military and music have always gone hand-in-hand

1 / 16

Ciara

LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 14: Recording artist Ciara appears at The Bank Nightclub at the Bellagio on September 14, 2013 in L
David Becker/WireImage

Both of Ciara's parents were in the military—her father served in the Army and her mother served in the Air Force. She, like many of the others on this list, moved around a lot, something the new mother sees reflected in her music. Army brat life is tough, but it makes you a flexible, well-rounded person.

2 / 16

Jimi Hendrix

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1960:  Photo of Jimi Hendrix  (Photo by Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Larry Hulst

At the age of 19, Jimi Hendrix was getting into trouble. After being arrested for stealing two cars and given the option of prison or military service, the guitar legend enlisted in the Army—not the most patriotic move. He was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. According to myth, he got in trouble all the time for hiding out and playing guitar instead of answering to his superiors!

3 / 16

Christina Aguilera

THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 4577 -- (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) -- Pictured: Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via G
Paul Drinkwater/NBC/Getty Images

Christina Aguilera's dad, Fausto Xavier Aguilera, was a soldier in the U.S. Army. He moved every two-to-three years, so the "Beautiful" singer grew up in New Jersey, Texas, New York and Japan—an eclectic childhood!

4 / 16

Trey Songz

JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE - Emmy Award-nominated "Jimmy Kimmel Live" airs every weeknight (11: Fire & Rescue"), actor Mark Duplass ("
Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images

At age seven, Songz's mother, April Tucker, married an enlisted Army man, and the young singer spent seven years traveling to different parts of the country. Upon returning to his birthplace of Petersburg, Va. with his family, Songz actively began exploring music. "Those were the years I basically found Trey Songz," the now-30-year-old artist told the Progress-Index newspaper. "I didn't really get into singing until I came back."

5 / 16

Elvis Presley

BURBANK, CA - JUNE 4: Rock and roll musician Elvis Presley backstage at the Milton Berle Show in Burbank, California on June
Michael Ochs Archives

Unlike everyone else on this list, Elvis Presley enlisted in the midst of fame: a move both political and patriotic. Signing up at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas, the King of Rock n' Roll eventually rose to the rank of Sergeant.

6 / 16

Tank

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 06: Recording artist Tank attends day 1 of the 2014 Soul Train Music Awards Gifting Suite at the Orl
Leon Bennett/BET/Getty Images for BET

The 39-year-old R&B artist was born Durrell Babbs in Milwaukee, Wisconsin before his family relocated to Washington, D.C., because his father was in the Air Force.

7 / 16

Tony Bennett

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA - OCTOBER 23: Tony Bennett performs at the 25th Annual Bridge School Benefit Concert at Shoreline Amphithea
Steve Jennings/WireImage

Tony Bennett was drafted into the Army in November 1944, at the tail end of World War ll. He went to France and later Germany, joining the frontlines in what he would later famously describe as a "front-row seat in hell."

8 / 16

Freddie Gibbs

AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 09: Freddie Gibbs of Freddie Gibbs & Madlib performs during the Fun Fun Fun Festival at Auditorium Shor
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

The Indiana rapper joined the armed forces briefly as a pre-trial diversion after catching a gun charge and theft charge. He was discharged from the program after six months.

9 / 16

Amerie

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 06: Ameriie performs on stage for G-A-Y club night at Heaven on September 6, 2014 in Londo
Jo Hale/Redferns via Getty Images

The "1 Thing" singer's father was a chief warrant officer, which meant she and her family moved around a lot when she was a kid. Amerie lived in Alaska, Texas, Virgina, Germany and even South Korea, which was likely very comfortable, as the R&B star's mother is Korean! 

Later, when she enrolled in Georgetown University, she joined a Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) program, but quit in her sophomore year.

10 / 16

Willie Nelson

ARRINGTON, VA - SEPTEMBER 07: (L-R) Willie Nelson and Mickey Rafael perform on Day 4 of Lockn Festival at The Oak Ridge Farm
Erika Goldring/Getty Images

Willie Nelson enlisted in the Air Force in 1950, the same year he graduated high school. He only actually served for nine months: The country legend was medically discharged for back pain soon after enlisting.

11 / 16

Ice-T

LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 928 -- Pictured: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)
Lloyd Bishop/NBC/Getty Images

Right after graduating high school, rapper/actor Ice-T joined the military, spending four years in the U.S. Army's 25th Infantry Division.

12 / 16

Emmylou Harris

OTTAWA, ON - SEPTEMBER 06: Emmylou Harris performs on Day 3 of the 2013 Ottawa Folkfest at Hogs Back Park on September 6, 201
Mark Horton/WireImage

Emmylou Harris' dad was a Marine Corps pilot with a tragic background story. In 1951 he went missing in action in Korea. He was a prisoner of war for somewhere between 10 and 16 months before he was sent home.

13 / 16

Shaggy

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 12: Musician Shaggy performs at Biolife Sounds of Reggae Concert at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on De
Ilya S. Savenok

Mr. Boombastic moved from Jamaica to the United States at age 18, and began pursuing a music career with little success. When he couldn't find work, he joined the Marines in 1988 and found himself fighting in the Gulf War. The experience inspired him to focus strictly on music and what followed has been a long-lasting career that recently reignited with his new single, "I Need Your Love."

14 / 16

Michael Stipe

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: Michael Stipe attends the "American Hustle" screening at Ziegfeld Theater on December 8, 2013 in
Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe never enlisted—but that doesn't mean he didn't grow up in a military community! Stipe's dad was in the Army and he spent much of his childhood moving around the country and Germany.

15 / 16

Lionel Richie

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 14: Lionel Richie performs during day six of British Summer Time Hyde Park presented by Barclaycard at
Matt Kent/WireImage

Lionel Richie's dad was an Army Captain. Maybe moving around a lot helped Richie to get accustomed to touring life!

16 / 16

Kris Kristofferson

Kris Kristofferson photographed backstage at Clearwater's Great Hudson River Revival Festival at Croton Point Park in Croton-
Ebet Roberts/Redferns

In addition to being an incredible musician, Kris Kristofferson was the epitome of a good soldier. He joined the Army and became a helicopter pilot, eventually reaching the status of captain. He completed ranger school and was stationed in West Germany as a member of the 8th Infantry Division in the '60s. To this day he's something of a military icon!

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