From ledgers to legends: live performers that have had accountancy training

Eddie Izzard: one-time accountancy student

From ledger books to laughter: back when our buses were painted in coffee and cream, Eddie Izzard studied accountancy at the University of Sheffield. Image by David Morris (Creative Commons License – Some Rights Reserved).

For many aspiring musicians and comedians, one’s time in the limelight can be a pretty short spell. Sometimes, your style of music and songwriting could go out of fashion. Your comedic edge could be blunted by changing audiences. For those who have made it big on television or in the music industry, it is good to have another career option to fall back on if his or her star has waned. Accountancy is one suitable field. Whatever the economic weather, we always need accountants. We exist to give our clients a fair deal, no matter what changes come our way.

Had rock ‘n’ roll been the ‘passing fad’ prophesied, some people would have been the world’s greatest accountants. Instead of Paint It, Black, Mick Jagger would have ensured his clients stayed in the black. Popular cultural history would have been very different indeed. Instead, what turned out to be a big loss for our profession was a huge gain for our musical heritage.

For our first blog post, we look at four accountancy students which made significant inroads into their chosen field.

Mick Jagger

In 1963, the frontman of The Rolling Stones studies Accounting and Finance at an undergraduate level at the London School of Economics. With fellow student Brian Jones, they swapped the double entry form for the chart entry form. They were the first act on Top of the Pops (New Year’s Day, 1964) with a cover of the Lennon/McCartney composition, I Wanna Be Your Man.

Robert Plant

Before forming Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant trained to become a chartered accountant. Two weeks into his studies, he decided to drop the course. Instead, he wanted to improve his GCE ‘O’ Level grades and turned to his real passion of heavy rock music.

Kenny G

Before becoming a world famous saxophonist in the late-1980s, Kenny Bruce Gorelick studied accountancy at the University of Washington. He graduated with a magna cum laude Degree and financed his studies by playing in the backing group of the Love Unlimited Orchestra.

Though we have yet to see Kenny G play in Sheffield, The Rolling Stones played their first Sheffield gig at the City Hall. They did two shows on the same day (27 February 1964), unheard of with today’s artistes. Led Zeppelin’s first Sheffield gig took place at the University of Sheffield on the 23 November 1968. Fourteen years later, a soon-to-be-famous comedian studied there.

Eddie Izzard

Instead of being known for his off-the-wall comedy, Eddie Izzard studied accountancy at the University of Sheffield in 1982. His father, Harold John Izzard, was an accountant for British Petroleum, at their base in Aden (now part of Yemen). In his first year, he failed all his examinations but, with his friend, Rob Ballard, they tried their hand at comedy in London. By the mid-1990s, his hard work paid off and the rest, they say, wasn’t accountancy.

Peach Wilkinson, 08 August 2016.

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