Experimental musician John Cale is best known as the co-founder of the rock band The Velvet Underground. The son of a coal miner father, he later developed a love for music that earned him a scholarship to the University of London. Prescribed opiates for his bronchial issues, he later struggled with addiction.
While Classic FM named her The Biggest Selling Classical Artist of the Century, Welsh mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins released 13 number-1 albums by age 23. Initially a singing teacher, Jenkins had also worked as a tour guide and a model. Her $10 million record deal with Warner Bros. was the biggest-ever in classical music.
Best known to audiences as Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones and as Simon Bellamy in Misfits, Iwan Rheon is also an Olivier Award-winning stage actor. A talented singer, too, he was previously the lead vocalist of The Convictions and has also performed with his brother in the single Rhodd.
Once the lead singer of the Welsh rock band Lostprophets, Ian Watkins made headlines when he was convicted of multiple sex offenses, including sexual assault of a child, the attempted rape of a toddler, and performance of sexual acts on an animal. He eventually received a 35-year sentence.
8 Pete Ham
Welsh musician Pete Ham soared to fame as the lead singer and composer of the rock band Badfinger. Known for iconic hits such as No Matter What, he also co-wrote the classic Without You. After the band’s manager defrauded and vanished, Ham committed suicide by hanging himself in his garage.
Best known for hosting music shows on various BBC Radio networks, singer-songwriter Cerys Matthews had also previously established the Welsh band Catatonia. She also writes and presents documentaries and has been a reporter for the TV magazine The One Show. Her album Tir has been the best-selling Welsh album in a decade.
After soaring to fame as the lead guitarist of the English rock band Motorhead, Welsh musician Phil Campbell launched his own band, Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons, which featured his three sons. In spite of the COVID-19 crisis, the band released an album in 2020.
While she was catapulted to fame with the 90s’ pop group Steps, famous for hits such as 5,6,7,8, Lisa Scott-Lee later launched her solo career. She also ventured into reality TV, with the show Totally Scott-Lee and now works as a head teacher at a performing arts academy in Dubai.
Often termed The Fifth Beatle, music executive Neil Aspinall went from being a schoolmate of Paul McCartney and George Harrison to eventually managing The Beatles. He later also headed Apple Corps., a company established by The Beatles. He had also fathered a child with the mother of his friend, musician Pete Best.
13 Julian Cope
Apart from being a popular post-punk musician who soared to fame with the band The Teardrop Explodes, Julian Cope has also been a self-styled occultist and a cosmic shaman. Apart from penning volumes on musicology and archaeology, he has also written a fiction novel and a 2-volume memoir.
While she began singing at age 13, Welsh singer Jemma Griffiths, better known as Jem, also earned a law degree, pushed by her lawyer father. Experimenting with both electronica and pop/rock, she created masterpieces such as They and Wish I. Her music has been featured in movies such as Monster-in-Law.
15 Andy Scott
Andy Scott initially soared to fame as the lead guitarist for the classic 70s’ English glam rock band Sweet. He later had a lukewarm solo career, too. He now lives in a barn in All Cannings. The Welsh singer/musician has also had a long struggle with prostate cancer.
16 Nicky Wire
17 Gruff Rhys
Welsh musician and filmmaker Gruff Rhys has been associated with bands such as Super Furry Animals and Neon Neon. He had begun writing songs at age 5. He is best known for American Interior, a multimedia project about the journey of explorer John Evans in search of Welsh-speaking Native Americans.
18 Donald Swann
Part of the British comedy duo Flanders and Swann, Donald Swann had met his partner Michael Flanders in school. Born to Russian Revolution refugees, Swann had also been an ambulance driver during World War II. A talented composer, he either composed or wrote about 2000 songs throughout his career.
19 Hannah Stone
Welsh harpist Hannah Stone had started performing at age 8 and has since played for the British Royal Family quite a few times. She was also named the Official Harpist to the Prince of Wales back in 2011. She is now married to bass-baritone opera singer Sir Bryn Terfel.
Though mainly a comedian, Stan Stennett had been an all-round entertainer, who did everything from hosting a country music radio show to performing the guitar and the trumpet. He was made a part of the Grand Order of Water Rats and was also awarded an MBE.
21 James Fox
Welsh singer James Fox, best known for his FA Cup final track Bluebirds Flying High, was born to a musician father and had started playing the piano at age 6. After going professional at 15, he later also performed on Broadway and West End musicals. He has also struggled with gambling addiction.
22 Catrin Finch
Catrin Finch began playing the harp at 6 and was part of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain by 10. Once the Official Harpist to the Prince of Wales, she is also a breast cancer survivor. A mother of two by her previous husband, she is now married to her lesbian partner.
Singer and rock-n-roll pianist Geraint Watkins initially played with bands such as Red Beans and Rice. He later collaborated with artists such as Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds, too. He has also had a 15-year stint as a pianist and accordionist with the lesser-known band The Balham Alligators in London pubs.
24 Osian Ellis
Harpist Osian Ellis was no stranger to music, being the son of a harpist mother. A skilled footballer, too, he was the goalkeeper for his school team. His later contributed to the soundtracks of projects such as How Green Was My Valley and also led the London Symphony Orchestra as its principal harpist.
25 James James
The man who composed the national anthem of Wales, harpist and musician James James was the son of popular Welsh weaver-poet Evan James. He was known for his performances around the Pontypridd area, where he ran a pub, and used the bardic name Iago ap Ieuan.
26 Robert Tear
One of the most versatile opera singers ever, Robert Tear had a lifelong association with the Royal Opera House. His most memorable performances include those of Paris in Tippett’s King Priam and Aschenbach in Death in Venice. The son of a railway clerk, he had started performing in operas by age 7.
One of the greatest Welsh composers of the 20th century, Alun Hoddinott first gained international fame with his Clarinet Concerto. He has written and composed for renowned artists such as John Ogdon and Barry Tuckwell. He also had a 20-year stint as a music professor at Cardiff University.
Welsh-born Renaissance composer Thomas Tomkins was known for his sacred and conservative compositions. Born into a musical family of choral singers, organists, and composers, he was later named an organist to the Chapel Royal. He was the last of the musicians to mould their music according to the tradition of William Byrd.
29 Claire Jones
Starting to play the harp at age 10, Welsh harpist Claire Jones grew up to be named the Official Harpist to the Prince of Wales in 2007. She soared to fame with her performance at the wedding ceremony of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. She also promotes the Welsh jewelry brand Clogau.
30 Paul Watkins
Grammy-nominated Welsh cellist and conductor Paul Watkins became the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s principal cellist at 20. Apart from being associated with numerous orchestras, he also teaches music at the Yale School of Music and has headed the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival as its artistic director.
31 Siân James
Siân James had started participating in local music contests by age 4. The Welsh folk singer later learned the piano and the harp, besides earning a music degree from Bangor University. She has also been the lead vocalist for Bwchadanas, a band she formed with her university friends at Bangor.
Starting his piano lesson at age 7, Llŷr Williams later grew up to be one of the most prominent pianists from Wales. An Oxford and Royal Academy of Music alumnus, he is known for his renditions of Beethoven and Chopin. He has also toured with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
33 Georgia Ruth
Welsh harpist and singer Georgia Ruth began training in the harp at age 7. A Cambridge alumna, she later became a regular on BBC Radio music shows. She has also participated in numerous music events all around the world, from Kolkata to Toronto. She is a supporter of Welsh independence.
Welsh harpist Elinor Bennett is best known for founding the Harp College of Wales. While she is a qualified lawyer and had initially also worked at a law office, a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music later changed her course. She has also been the artistic director of the Wales Harp Festival.
35 Jason James
Well-known Welsh bassist Jason James, better known as Jay, was part of the heavy metal band Bullet for My Valentine, earlier known as Jeff Killed John, for 12 years, before parting ways with them. Jason had joined the band soon after bassist Nick Crandle left it.