The term “street musician” has long had negative connotations. For many, it evokes images of a down-on-his-luck guitarist busking on a street corner, his guitar case open for people to toss in some loose change. That may have once been the stereotype, but today, that musician you pass in the subway may very well be classically trained, have tens of thousands of Facebook followers, and have music for sale on Amazon or iTunes. Here’s a compilation of videos of some very talented street musicians.
10. Homeless Man Becomes Viral Sensation on Piano
Donald Gould was homeless when a passerby shot video of him performing the Styx hit Come Sail Away in downtown Sarasota, Fla. After News Channel 8 shared the video, it went viral with more than 15 million views. The former Marine entered rehab, reunited with his family and even played the national anthem before an NFL game. As Gould told the news station about playing on the streets, “It is my passion. I just like to make people happy out there when I’m playing.”
9. Guitarist Plays Improv Version of Stairway to Heaven
Marcello Calabrese plays an interesting improv version to this Led Zeppelin classic at Rome’s Piazza Navona. You can find videos of Calabrese performing other classic rock tunes on YouTube.
8. Vienna Street Band Performs Hotel California
The Eagles have had a profound influence on musicians not just in the U.S., but around the world. Given the recent death of Eagles founding member Glenn Frey, we felt compelled to include this nice ensemble effort by street musicians in Vienna.
7. ‘Pipe Guy’ Uses Plumbing Materials and Flip-Flops
This is certainly one of the strangest musical instruments we’ve seen, but the Pipe Guy has mastered it. When he’s not playing gigs at nightclubs or hotels, the Pipe Guy can be found pounding out his techno beat on streets around the world. He has more than 56,000 Likes on his Facebook page and a YouTube channel with almost 100,000 followers. As we mentioned in the intro, today’s “street musician” is a different breed.
6. Man Belts Out Soulful Sam Cooke Tune
Busker Michael Young gives it his all here in a New York subway, singing Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come. Young has been the front man for a local band, Majestic K Funk, since the 1970s and his music is available on iTunes.
5. ‘Lone Sound Ranger’ Plays Five Instruments at Once
If you ever got frustrated learning how to play one instrument, this musician makes it look easy to play five — at once. Jordan B. Wilson bills himself the Lone Sound Ranger, and you can find him busking at Fisherman’s Wharf or online on Facebook or Jordanbwilson.com. Oh, he invents musical instruments in his spare time.
4. Duo Rocks to the Beatles in New Orleans
Violinist Tanya Huang and guitarist Dorise Blackmon give a spirited performance of the Beatles’ classic Eleanor Rigby in New Orleans’ French Quarter. They are featured in many other YouTube videos, covering everything from Etta James to Queen’s hit Bohemian Rhapsody.
3. Man Draws Huge Crowd For Acoustic Performance
We think this takes place somewhere in Germany, and we don’t know the performer’s name, but just check out the crowd gathered around at the start of his performance. As one comment posted on the video noted, “This is the type of guy that would steal your girl in a matter of seconds.”
2. Energetic Saxist a Popular Figure in New York
Wearing a bow tie and derby hat, saxist Isaiah Richardson Jr. is a familiar figure on the streets of New York. A former Marine and a product of the Juilliard School, his energetic style of running, dancing and leaping while he plays has made him a crowd favorite. Here, he performs before a large crowd at his favorite haunt, on the steps of Manhattan’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan. Richardson told the New York Times in 2012 he can make about $100 per hour in good weather. His advice for being successful as a street musician: “The biggest key to be successful here … is how well you can play your instrument.”
1. Slide Guitarist Plays the Blues in Amsterdam
Jack Broadbent plays a mean slide guitar here on an Amsterdam street. Would you be surprised to know his Facebook page has more than 80,000 likes? Broadbent’s music is available on iTunes and there are many other videos of his performances on YouTube.
One More: Steven Tyler Surprises Busker Playing Aerosmith Song
Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler happened to be walking down a Moscow street in September 2015 when he encountered a crowd watching a busker perform. The singer-guitarist was playing Aerosmith’s hit I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing. You can probably guess what happened next.
And Another: U2 Busks in Disguise on New York Subway
What would happen if members of U2 dressed up in disguise and busked on a New York subway? Leave it to Jimmy Fallon to try to find the answer.