15 Of The Greatest And Most Famous Singers Who Were Adopted

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

Learning about musicians and the families they grew up with can say a lot about their musical style and lyricism. Family life is different for everyone, adopted or not, but some of the most well-known singers are from adopted families.

From different birth places to singing different genres, these great singers are known for their talents and the music they’ve contributed, not their upbringing.

Here, we’ve listed 15 of the greatest and most famous singers who were adopted. Read on to know who they are!

1. Tim McGraw

One of the most notable country singers of all time is Tim McGraw, but life growing up for him wasn’t always easy.

Born in 1967, McGraw was under the impression that a different man was his biological father. It wasn’t until he was 11 that he discovered the truth about his biological father.

He dropped out of college and signed his first record deal in the ’90s, which ultimately brought him to his first #1 charted song, “Don’t Take the Girl.”

With 16 studio albums, his marriage to another country icon Faith Hill, and three Grammy awards under his belt, Tim McGraw will forever be one of the best country music artists in the world.

2. Faith Hill

Mississippi-born Faith Hill was given up for adoption by her biological mother shortly after her birth in 1967, and it was her adoptive mother who gave her the middle name Faith.

Hill started singing when she was young but didn’t reach the level of stardom she has now until 1998. Her success started with one of the highest-grossing country albums of all time, Breathe.

The album featured some of her biggest hits to this date, such as “This Kiss” and “The Way You Love Me.” Three of her five total Grammys came from this album. 

Despite her marriage to Tim McGraw, Faith Hill is a country music legend whose success is her own, and she has received her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Read next: Our post on the greatest female country 1990s singers.

3. Jamie Foxx

Born in 1967, Jamie Foxx was adopted not long after and was raised by his adoptive mother and father through his infancy, childhood, and teenage years. It wasn’t until his fame that he sought out his biological mother. 

Foxx started playing the piano at age five and eventually went to college on scholarship for his piano talents. He was destined to be a musical star, but his random shot at stand-up comedy put his foot in the door.

While he is primarily known for his versatility as an actor and comedian, his singing career is notable with his collaboration on the songs “Slow Jamz” with Kanye West and Twista. His roles in Baby Driver and Spiderman: No Way Home are some of his most recent popular films.

4. John Lennon

It may be surprising for some to learn that one of the four members of the Beatles, John Lennon, was adopted. His father had left the picture, and his mother couldn’t properly care for him. Lennon was adopted by his aunt when he was five years old and lived with her. 

His musical upbringing started with his mother. She taught him how to play the banjo before he went to live with his aunt. His success began with one of the most famous British boy bands in history, the Beatles.

John Lennon was only forty years old when he was murdered. His bandmates tried to continue, but when another member, George Harrison, passed away, they split up forever.

5. Liz Phair

Born in 1967 in Connecticut, Liz Phair became the daughter of her adoptive parents immediately after her birth. She graduated college studying art before moving to San Francisco to jumpstart her career.

Her rise to fame came in the 1990s when she released her debut album, Exile in Guyville, as an indie artist. She became a well-known singer today after transitioning into a more pop-genre setting with her fourth album, Why Can’t I?

Phair never sought out her biological parents and doesn’t plan to. As far as she is concerned, her adoptive parents are her family, alongside her adopted brother.

6. Kristin Chenoweth

A different kind of singer, Kristin Chenoweth, was born in 1968. Her birth mother gave her up after her birth. She was adopted only five days old.

At a young age, the singer performed in church and school plays. She took her talents from school and became a Broadway star.

Known for her success in the role of Glinda in one of the most popular musicals of all time, Wicked, Kristin Chenoweth used her acting and singing abilities to become an actress. 

Recently, her career has led her to feature in TV shows and movies, like Bewitched and The Witches, but she is also touring her music.

7. Jordan Fisher

Actor and singer Jordan Fisher, born in 2009, was the son of a teen mom. His maternal grandparents raised him from the start, and when he was 11, he was legally adopted by them.

Though Fisher is more known for his acting career, particularly with Disney and Nickelodeon, he has also released quite a few singles with Hollywood Records. With them, his musical career started to rise. His first EP, self-titled, was a hit, charting at #18 on Billboard‘s Heatseekers.

Fisher has also lent his voice to various film soundtracks, like “Nobody Like U” in Disney’s Turning Red and Moana‘s end credits “You’re Welcome” with Lin-Manuel Miranda.

8. Debbie Harry

Born as Angela Trimble in 1966, this punk rock singer was adopted when she was three months old. Her new parents changed her name to Deborah Ann Harry.

Harry had various jobs before finding her passion in singing. She was a Playboy Bunny and sang in the musical group the Wind in the Willows. Shortly after, she went on to co-found and become the lead singer of the famous rock group Blondie, who gave us amazing songs like “Heart of Glass.”

During the 1980s, the singer was successful in finding her biological mother, and despite her fame, her biological mother did not want to have a relationship with Harry.

9. Sarah McLachlan

The Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan, born in 1968, wasn’t aware she was adopted until she was nine years old. It didn’t change much for her, and she continued life as usual.

McLachlan studied music throughout her youth, and in her teens, she was the lead vocalist for a band called October Game. It was during this time she was discovered and signed on by a Canadian record label. She was only 17. 

With nine studio albums, with the 1993 Surfacing being her best, McLachan’s career continues today. In 2015, she reached a selling point of 40 million albums worldwide.

10. Ice-T

Unlike many of the adopted singers on our list, Ice-T lived with his biological parents up until their untimely deaths. After losing his mother at age 8, then his father at age 12, Ice-T was adopted by his aunts, who then raised him into adulthood.

He left high school to join the army, and after four years of service, he returned home to begin his career as a rapper. After momentarily caught up in a rough patch of life, Ice-T committed himself fully to his career and ended up giving us the charting singles “Colors,” “High Rollers,” and “I’m Your Pusher.”

11. JC Chasez

Born in 1976, JC Chasez went to live with foster parents because his mother couldn’t offer him a stable home. At age five, he was legally adopted and joined the couple and their two children as a family.

Musical from a young age, JC starred in The Mickey Mouse Club until the show was canceled in the mid-1990s before his adult career began with the famous boy band NSYNC.

JC led a successful career with the group from its inception in 1995 to its disbandment in 2002. After this, he went on to write and produce songs for other stars in the pop genre and continues to do so to this day.

12. Apl.de.ap

Filipino American singer Allan Pineda Lindo, known best as Apl.de.ap, was born in 1974 in the Philippines. Hardship was his life at a young age, but luckily he was matched to a US sponsor through a nonprofit social welfare organization and brought to the United States. When he was 14, his sponsor adopted him.

Apl.de.ap is best known as a member of the rap group the Black-Eyed Peas. They’re the ones who brought us the multi-Platinum hits “Where Is the Love?” and “I Gotta Feeling.” 

The rapper always remembered his family and where he came from. Today, he runs a philanthropic foundation that aids in helping people from his birth country in escaping poverty.

13. Keyshia Cole

Princess of Hip-Hop Soul Keyshia Cole was born in 1981 and adopted at the young age of two years old. She would grow up not knowing her biological parents until 32 years later when she finally found her biological father.

Interested in music since she was a teen, Cole’s rise to fame started in 2005 when she released her first album, The Way It Is. This also featured one of her best-known songs, “Love.”

After producing a total of seven studio albums, Cole opted for an early retirement from the music industry in 2022. Now, her focus is on her multiple businesses and two young children.

14. Eric Clapton

English rock and blues musician and singer-songwriter Eric Clapton was actually raised by his maternal grandparents since his birth in 1945 and grew up believing his actual mother was his sister. Although he never met his father, he grew up with plenty of people who loved him.

His interest in guitar started when he was a teen. He would constantly practice and perform in pubs. Soon Clapton rose to fame and began as lead guitarist for multiple bands, the Yardbirds being the biggest group he was ever a part of.

After leaving the bands and on to a solo career, Clapton’s success continued to rise. Now, he’s considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time.

15. Eartha Kitt

Unlike the others on this list, Eartha Kitt was not technically adopted. However, she was raised by her aunt after her mother’s partner refused to take her in due to her light-colored skin.

The difficulties of her childhood, however, did not deter Eartha, as she went on to become one of the most popular singers of the 1950s and ’60s. In fact, you might know her for her distinctive voice in the hit Christmas single “Santa Baby.”

Eartha also went on to have a career in acting and in theatre. Her outstanding work has earned her several accolades, including her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Summing Up Our List Of Famous Adopted Singers

There are some cases when finding out you’re adopted leads to negative reactions. The music scene is very thankful that these singers did not let their past stop them from pursuing their dream and becoming who they are now.

Not a lot of singers are known to be adopted, but regardless if they were (or weren’t), the men and women on this list altered the music industry with their talents. Give their songs a listen, and you’ll see why.

Photo of author

Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.