10 Famous Musicians Caught Busking

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You’re taking a stroll through Boston Public Garden. You stop to acknowledge the fingerpicking fellow busking nearby, maybe throw him a dollar, and then you realize — surprise! It’s Bruce Springsteen. Well-known rockers rarely take to busking, since they don’t have much need for petty cash, but impromptu public jams from Bruce and other musicians are always appreciated. We’ve gathered some noteworthy street sessions after the cut.

Bruce Springsteen

After borrowing a guitar and going Humpty Dumpty on a wall, Springsteen recently gave Boston park-goers an acoustic treat while in town to drop his son at college. In the YouTube documentation of this event, amused passersby are overheard discussing how much money to toss The Boss. A buck? A Jackson? Well, how much would you have dropped in his guitar case?

Arcade Fire

After an intimate set at St. John’s Church in 2007, Arcade Fire went outdoors to join some lucky Londoners for a nighttime busking bonanza. Megaphone in hand, Win and the gang are shown belting “Wake Up” along with an excited crowd in this spontaneous late-night sing-along session. For those unsatisfied with this clip’s dark lighting, here’s another fan’s perspective starring a lively Régine and her accordion.

Glen Hansard (The Frames/The Swell Season/Once)

The Frames’ Glen Hansard rose to film fame after receiving an Academy Award for Best Original Song in ’07. The honor was given for the tune “Falling Slowly” from Once, a film about a struggling Irish busker who falls in love with a Czech musician (Hansard’s “Falling Slowly” co-writer and co-star, Markéta Irglová). Just like their big-screen counterparts, Hansard and Irglová found romance and formed a real-life band, The Swell Season, blurring the line between the fiction and reality of Once. Hansard continues to keep the legend alive by recreationally busking just as much as his film character, even as a member of two wildly successful bands. Check out some Swell Season songs by the talented Irishman above and on a street corner near you.

Bono (U2)

Here we see Bono performing his 2009 Christmas Eve rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.” Since Bono is Bono, it’s safe to assume that this busking appearance was in some way an attempt to save the world — specifically, to raise money for a homeless shelter and perhaps yell “Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?” one more time before the season’s end. Can you spot the aforementioned Glen Hansard to Bono’s right? We told you he’s always busking.

Fran Healy (Travis)

Glasgow’s Travis is one of those bands that makes every concert attendee wholeheartedly believe that there’s nothing else these musicians would rather be doing than playing live music. So it’s no surprise that its members occasionally take to the streets just for the heck of it. Here we find fans obeying a beaming Fran Healy’s plea to “Sing” outside of a London HMV in 2007.

Tom Jones

Tom Jones? Sure, why not. Here he is busking Tommy Tucker’s 1964 “Hi-Heel Sneakers” in 2008. If you perchance find the “She’s a Lady” star irrelevant to your modern music needs, just channel that adorable woman in the gray pants in the front row.

The Kooks

English band The Kooks busked for onlookers and a camera crew at a Los Angeles intersection in 2008, questioning whether passersby knew their music. That’s the trick, budding bands — take to the streets. Within 30 seconds the fangirls will affirm your level of popularity.

Carl Barât (The Libertines/Dirty Pretty Things)

You may not remember that The Libertines had two frontmen. Lost in the cocaine dust of the great Pete Doherty’s love life and prison sentences, Carl Barât often goes unappreciated. Like Bono and Glen Hansard, he was found raising money for charity by busking the Beatles’ “Eight Days A Week” at London’s South Bank in 2006.

Joshua Bell

This busking session is a little different from the others. As an experiment in cooperation with The Washington Post, renowned violinist Joshua Bell took to a DC metro to test how much attention he could attract from commuters. Check out his fascinating experience above.

Justin Bieber

To add some baby spice to this list, here’s an itty-bitty Bieber taking a Canadian stoop by pre-teen storm. Caution: Not for dogs and those sensitive to high-pitched noises.