Inspiration, willpower, inner strength, it’s all built, moulded through life experience. Sadly enough, it’s not always good experiences – musical genius can be born from the most difficult of times. As artists like James Brown or Eminem have proved, some of the deepest, most soulful and artistic music can come from pain.

Here are some artists who prove that.

1. Eminem

Eminem’s childhood was anything but stable. He dropped out of 9th grade after having to repeat it multiple times, fought and was thrown out of the house frequently by his mother and worked several jobs to pay the bills. He had a substance abuse problem over above his personal issues, and that culminated in a suicide attempt in 1996. However, he went on to work with the inimitable Dr. Dre and the rest, as they say, is history.

2. Kailash Kher

Before Kailash Kher became the household name he is today, he was a struggling singer running a family friend’s export business. When that business collapsed in 1999, Kailash went into a deep depression and even attempted suicide. His singing career picked up by 2003 however, and once Allah ke Bande released, there was no stopping this soulful crooner.

3. Michael Jackson

Michael, as well as the rest of the Jackson 5, endured heavy abuse from their father/then-manager Joe Jackson when they were children. Michael openly spoke about how he was whipped by his father if he ever missed a note, was beaten regularly and had to suffer through incessant rehearsals and vocal abuse as well. According to Michael, Joe sat in a chair with a belt in his hands and “if you didn’t do it the right way, he would tear you up, really get you.”

4. Lata Mangeshkar

Lata Mangeshkar had to really struggle before making it to where she is today. Her father passed away from a heart ailment when she was just 13 years old, something that left a big scar in her. Their family needed money, and being the eldest, she had to start working from a very young age. She also dropped out of school very early.

5. Axl Rose

The Guns N’ Roses singer witnessed the abuse of his mom as a child, and was sexually abused himself by his biological father at the age of 2. He and his younger siblings were also apparently physically abused by his stepfather, who he thought was his real father for several years. Basically, he had a really messed up childhood.

6. Eric Clapton

The virtuoso guitarist had a rather traumatic childhood, believing that his grandmother, Rose, and her second husband were his parents, and that his mother was actually his older sister. This was all at the age of 9. He also lost his son in 1991, which was the most tragic moment of his life.

7. Christina Aguilera

A young Christina and her mother both faced physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her army lieutenant father. He frequently beat her and her mother even found her with blood pouring out her face once because she’d made too much noise. She turned to singing as an outlet for this pain and helplessness.

8. A.R. Rahman

Originally known as AS Dileep Kumar, A.R. Rahman converted to Islam along with his entire family after the untimely death of his father when he was just 9 years old. The family was under severe financial pressure, and they had to go through a lot of hardships and struggles. He went through a series of family crises, at one point renting out his father’s musical equipment to make ends meet.

9. James Brown

James Brown was born in 1933 in a small wooden shack, and his family lived in extreme poverty. His parents had a volatile marriage, and his mother soon left them. He started living with his aunt at a brothel, and frequently had to hustle to just get by. At the age of 16, he was convicted of robbery and sent to a juvenile detention center.

10. Ray Charles

Ray Charles had a horrifyingly tragic childhood. He witnessed the death of his brother by drowning at the age of 5, and went on to become completely blind by the age of 7 as a result of glaucoma. He lived in extreme poverty, and lost his mother at the age of 14.

Designs by Lakshya Vij.