When Pop Stars Grow Up: The Transition from Child to Adult Pop Star

Growing Pains

For the longest time there has been talk about child stars transitioning from cute and sweet to accomplished and mature. However, most of the focus is on child actors in television and movies making the leap to adult roles.

While that has been a topic that has garnered its fair share of analysis and debate, there is not much talk of young pop stars transitioning into adulthood. However, it happens just as often and just as publicly as it does for actors.

Some make the transition quite easily while others stumble and full on the path from young and innocent to savvy and knowledgeable.

This hub takes a look at the careers of many teen idols and how they fared in going from the playground to the nightclub.


Stevie Wonder

Many people forget that Stevie Wonder was not always considered the musical genius he is revered for being today. In 1963, he was just a 13 year old at Motown ready to show off his skills alongside the likes of Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, and Smokey Robinson. However, since he was still a minor he was under the care and guidance of Barry Gordy, his tutor, and his mom.

Yet that did not inhibit him from playing his own instruments and writing his own songs. He had huge hits such as "Fingertips (Pts 1 and 2)" and "Uptight." However, there were some flops along the way. Tribute to Uncle Ray, anyone?

However, it took a groundbreaking album by musical big brother Marvin Gaye for Stevie to finally get his voice heard in the way he saw fit.

1971's Where I'm Coming From allowed Stevie complete freedom to produce and write the album the way he saw fit. It also allowed him to experiment with new sounds and ideas to create what would become his signature sound.

He eventually became the first artist to only win back to back Album of the Year honors at the Grammys for Innervisions and Fulffillingness' First Finale.

Stevie Wonder also became noted for being socially conscious through his music. Many of his hits dealt with the anguish of war, poverty, disease, racism, and heartache. However, he also focused on writing and creating some of the most memorable love songs of all time. It was in this ability to balance artistry, creativity, and realism that led him to having the most Grammys of any artist in history.

Even though it took years of negotiations and concessions, Stevie's persistence in establishing the vision for his sound, paid off handsomely.


David Cassidy

If you wanted to be a teen idol in the 1970s- all you had to do was have feathered hair and a television show. That paid off for David Cassidy who starred on The Partridge Family from 1970 to 1974.

As the eldest and arguably cutest Partridge- he was able to capitalize on his fame and released five albums within the run of the show.

At the height of his fame he was able to capture the attention of teenage girls who had come down with a case of Cassidymania. While this helped keep his career going strong, it unfortunately led to the untimely death of concert-goer Bernadette Whelan who was trampled at one of Cassidy's London concerts.

David Cassidy was immediately saddened by what happened and was able to send his condolences to Whelan's parents. It was at this point that he realized he didn't like what his life had become- a constant stream of mass hysteria and multimedia omnipresence.

While on the Partridge Family, he became the face of many dolls, cereal boxes, lunch boxes, and other memorabilia. He would later go on to say that he felt exploited in his career and it ultimately led him to stop acting and pursuing music for a while.

He resurfaced in the late 1970s on an episode of Police Story which garnered him an Emmy nomination and a show based on his character on the episode. The show didn't last beyond one season and Cassidy finally went back to the music in the 1980s.

In the mid 1980s he begun a comeback with minor hits while also pursuing a new career in musical theatre.

David Cassidy continued working but remained out of the spotlight until he garnered headlines due to a DUI in 2010 which he entered rehab for.

While Cassidy has been able to remain out in front of his career post-Partridge, the pitfalls and successes he went through display an example of how overnight stardom does not always benefit a long-term career.


Bow Wow

Now if you don't know or more likely remember who Bow Wow was. You should remember he started around 13 years ago with a Lil' in front of his name.

That being said Lil' Bow practically made history as the first child rapper to make it big. At the tender age of 6, he appeared in mentor Snoop Dogg's (AKA Big Bow Wow) video for the now iconic Gin and Juice. From their, his mother helped establish him as a young talent.

He ended up signing with Atlanta hip-hop impresario, Jermaine Dupri and in 2000 he released his first album- the aptly titled Beware of Dog. From there, he became a favorite of middle school girls for his trademark cornrows and beautiful brown eyes.

In 2002, he continued on his streak of melting pre-teen hearts by releasing Doggy Bag. He also starred in the movie Like Mike about a young kid whose sneakers transform him into a basketball player with Michael Jordan like skills.

In 2003, he dropped the Lil' after complaining there were too many Lil's on the scene and also saying he was getting older. He adapted a more mature sound and continued to draw fans interest.

Around 2005, he released another album, Wanted which marked his first release as a legal adult. However, the sound was very similar to his previous works.

In 2006, he released an album called the Price of Fame featuring the Chris Brown assisted hit single, "Shorty Like Mine."

However, around 2008 the growing pains finally kicked in as he started to fade on the charts. He continued to get notable roles, such as 2010s Lottery Ticket and 2011 Madea's Big Happy Family.

In the fall of 2012, he accepted a hosting gig on the show he dominated as a youngster, BET's 106 and Park.

In 2011, he surprised fans by saying he had a daughter with a former girlfriend. While rumors persist that our favorite canine-loving kiddie is still around trying to make it happen.



Usher began his world domination around the same time as Brain did of Pinky and the Brain- but unlike Brain- he ultimately succeeded.

Starting as a youngster on Star Search, he landed a record deal with the help of his mom and manager, Johnetta Patton.

Under the tutelage of Sean "Puffy" Combs, he released his eponymous debut album in 1994 at the tender age of 15. Unfortunately for him, the album hit #167 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart and had no hits.

However, unlike present times he was given a second chance. So instead of doing the same thing, record label execs at LaFace (L.A. Reid and Babyface) introduced him to Jermaine Dupri who had his own record label and production studio in Usher's adopted hometown of Atlanta.

Usher was only in his late teens but decidedly had a lot to say. Working with Dupri, Babyface, and other gifted songwriters and producers to build a sound that would become his signature.

In 1997, Usher released his second album My Way featuring several hits including the title track, "U Make Me Wanna", and his first of several number ones, "Nice &Slow."

Usher suddenly went from a baby-faced cutie with potential to an international star and sex symbol. In the nearly 20 years since this album was released he has amassed a total of #9 number ones and has become one of the best selling artists in recent history.

In 2008, he extended is pop culture reach by mentoring Justin Bieber, a YouTube sensation from Canada looking to be an artist in his own right.

In 2012 it was announced that Usher would join the fourth season of the Voice as a coach alongside Shakira. They are replacing Christina Aguilera and Cee-Lo Green until further notice.



If you were around in the 1990s there were many young stars on television, movies, and music but there were only a select few able to dominate more than one field. Brandy Norwood, better known as Brandy was able to do so without hesitation.

Launching herself onto the music scene in 1994, she also landed a starring role on the sitcom Thea. However, as Thea lasted only a season, she had no television role. However as it worked out she would launch her own sitcom in 1996, Moesha, and become a cultural icon for young girls everywhere.

Brandy's self-titled debut launched 3 top ten R&B singles and provided the template for 90s R&B for younger artists such as peers Usher and Monica.

Moesha became a bonafide hit on the UPN network and ran for five years. Norwood also released her immensely popular second album Never Say Never featuring the hits "Have You Ever" and "The Boy Is Mine" (featuring Monica). She continued to act in the sequel of the very popular I Knew What You Did Last Summer and the Whitney Houston produced Cinderella movie.

In 2001, things began to change as Brandy started her third album and became involved with frequent collaborator, Rodney Jerkins' co-producer, Robert "Big Bert" Smith. Brandy became pregnant with her first child but was not married to Smith. Following the advice of her handlers, she decided to say she was married when she was indeed not.

Fast forward to 2004 and her relationship with Smith ends. He admits that they were never married. Brandy subsequently spent the better half of the next decade trying to relaunch her career with many pitfalls along the way. After a sting on America's Got Talent in 2006 she fatally hit and killed a woman while driving in Los Angeles. She also released another album in 2008 and did a reality show co-starring her brother, Ray J and parents.

in 2012, she released her latest efffort Two Eleven featuring the Chris Brown assisted "Put It Down." It became her first notable hit in years but unfortunately Brandy is still known as Moesha. Some may say it had to do with her lying to fans and the public to protect her image and others say it had to with a lack of quality music. Either way, she's had a career that many would die for.

Honorable Mentions

Britney Spears: Arguably the prototype for the millenial generation's struggle with success and happiness, Britney Spears shed her Mouse Ears in 1998 to become the biggest female pop star since Madonna. She also became the youngest female artist to have 3 #1 albums in a row. But the instant success came at a cost. After two failed marriages and a prolonged custody battle, Britney was put under conservatorship in 2008 with the guidance of her dad Jamie and has charted one of the most impressive musical comebacks in recent memory.

Michael Jackson: Before his untimely death, Michael Jackson was best known as the most successful boy band member to go solo. Even when he was with his brothers in the Jackson 5, he released solo singles such as "Ben." In 1979, he officially let the world know how massive his talent was with "Off the Wall." And went on to follow up with the most successful album of all-time, "Thriller."

Christina Aguilera: The former Mouseketeer came on the scene around the same time as fellow co-stars Britney Spears, JC Chasez and Justin Timberlake. Her career made great strides as she received much acclaim for her voice. However, her last two albums have not had much success on the Billboard charts in spite of her presence on NBC's The Voice.

Ricky Nelson: Arguably one of the first teen idols, he grew up in front of millions of Americans as part of his parent's sitcom, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. After the show ended, he seamlessly transitioned into adult stardom. However, he had a lot of help in being able to promote his recordings by being on television. After the show ended, his career never was the same and his drug abuse and stormy marriage took its toll. Sadly, he passed in 1985 at the age of 45 leaving behind his children.

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Comments 36 comments

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM

Very good article. I hadn't 't stopped to think of all these teenage stars-very comprehensive list and info about them. Stevie Wonder surprised me . I didn't 't know all that about him- very interesting.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Great research and a very interesting article.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

David Cassidy and his feathered hair, awww! Bow Wow, Bounce With Me gets stuck in my head on occasion, I love that song! Usher is doing GREAT on The Voice, I hope he stays permanently! CeeLo, who?? Christina, who?? Britney has a new boyfriend that's not a celeb. A regular joe, I hope this one works out for her. This week was 30 years that Michael Jackson first performed the moonwalk! 30 years!?!? WOW!! Ricky Nelson, very sad outcome for him.

I could always count on you Alecia to create an interesting and entertaining article with blasts from the past and present. Well done!!

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thank you billybuc!

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Suzette,

It's easy to forget how some people grow up in front of our eyes. I love Stevie's music so much and what he stood for! Thanks so much for coming by and commenting.

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Sunshine,

I haven't seen the Voice but I figured Usher would fit in with Adam and Blake. But yeah I think they need to keep them and get rid of the other two.

Britney's new boyfriend seems nice and he's a lawyer which hopefully means she won't do business with him.

Ricky Nelson definitely makes me sad but Michael, I feel like it's a death in the family for a lot of people.

Thanks as always!

midget38 profile image

midget38 3 years ago from Singapore

And Usher's doing The Voice now too. I admire Stevie Wonder for his resilience and believing in himself despite his disability too.....and he definitely produces world class music. Thanks for sharing!

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Michelle,

Thank you so much for coming by and commenting!

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 3 years ago from North-East UK

I remember watching thr Partridge Family in the 70s and all of my friends going all girly and silly over David Cassidy - I thought he was awful - his voice -urgh! When I see repeats on TV now, I still can't bear to listen to him. Each to their own I suppose! The others all had a bit if class though, especially Stevie Wonder, just love him!

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

HI Jools,

I think David Cassidy is the 1970s Biebs. Not to inspire ire but I think their appeal doesn't go much further than their hairstyles and charm. Thanks for coming by and commenting!

alocsin profile image

alocsin 3 years ago from Orange County, CA

Great stroll down memory lane for the early crooners. But what about Michael Jackson? Voting this Up and Interesting.

janetwrites profile image

janetwrites 3 years ago from Georgia country

Thank you for having made so much effort to write this interesting and entertaining hub. I had fun reading it.

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Alocsin,

Michael got an honorable mention but his career goes without saying!

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks janetwrites! I'm glad you enjoyed reading it.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

Well done and brought back many memories for me. Wonder what will happen to poor Justin Bieber with all the present news he's getting for his antics. Enjoyed your post.

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi teaches12345,

I wonder the same thing with Bieber- doesn't seem like he'll make it but I'm hoping it won't be too bad. Thanks for coming by and commenting!

Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 3 years ago

Ahhhh David Cassidy - Loved him! Others too, but many of them fell into that trap of fame and did not fare well. Now I am thinking of all of the other pop stars I loved when I was younger. Neat hub!

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Glimmer Twin Fan,

Yeah he did fall into the trap but somehow his younger brother didn't. I would recommend not being younger than 17 getting into the industry. Thanks for coming by and commenting!

Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 3 years ago from Virginia

An excellent hub on all of these singers. Your David Cassidy section was really eye opening....as I was aware he was a singer just no idea he was that popular. As for Stevie Wonder....it seems his last years have been very very quiet....I would have thought he would be doing the Paul McCartney approach as he got older....but maybe that will change in the near future.

As always I find your hub very informative, interesting and educational....as thus I voted that way....great job.

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Cogerson,

David Cassidy surprises most people who didn't get caught up in the mania but he really did provide the template for modern pop stars.

Stevie Wonder has slowed down but every now and again he pops up on awards shows and other specials so he's still visible.

Thanks for coming by and commenting! Glad to see you're feeling better too!

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

Hi Alecia, this was really interesting to see who had made it into adulthood and who didn't. To be honest I can't remember seeing david cassidy for years, maybe its just in America he is still pretty popular, but over here it was the seventies then nothing, great to see how some of them have carried on, and sadly some have dropped out, voted up, nell

lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona

What a great Hub and trip down memory lane. I have to admit, I'm more of the Ricky Nelson, Stevie Wonder and David Cassidy generation--glad you included them! :)

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Nell,

David Cassidy pretty much disappeared aside from the random appearance here and there. He only got back in the headlines with the whole DUI thing. His daughter's an actress now and she's somewhat popular. But yeah he's not up there with Stevie. Thanks for coming by and commenting.

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Lindacee,

I'm glad you enjoyed this hub. Thanks for coming by and commenting!

Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannieinabottle 3 years ago from Baltimore, MD

What a great hub! I learned things I never knew about some child stars. I imagine in a few years you will have to cover Justin Bieber. Let's see how well adulthood works out for him. Voted up!

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Jeannie,

I really don't want to cover Bieber because I got a feeling it won't end too well. But here's hoping I'm wrong. Thanks for coming by and commenting!

bethperry profile image

bethperry 3 years ago from Tennesee

Very interesting article!

Ricky Nelson had potential, but it was sad that he ruined so much in his life with alcohol. But at least his brother-in-law, Mark Harmon, stepped up to the plate to care for his children, which speaks volumes for Mr. Harmon.

Of the former child star celebrities I've read and heard about one of the most pitiful was Jack Wild (of HR Huffenpuff fame). And I credit a lot of his failed life to a father that basically taught him to live as a drunken leech.

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Beth,

I agree about Ricky Nelson- it seems like his shortcomings got the best of him. And you're definitely right about Mark Harmon, I think that's why people admire him so much.

I don't know about Jack Wild bu that definitely sounds sad. Something about fame and youth that doesn't mix. Thank you for coming by and commenting.

midget38 profile image

midget38 3 years ago from Singapore

Wonderful mentions, Alecia. Yes, these stars certainly showed how the transition can be quite a challenging one.....you lose that cuteness and youth as you grow older! Thanks for sharing!

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Michelle,

Thanks for coming by and commenting!

Man of Strength profile image

Man of Strength 3 years ago from Orlando, Fl

Hi Alecia,

This a great hub. I remember Usher's very first single. It was a flop and no one had a clue of what he would become. You're exactly right about Stevie Wonder. After Fingertips he had several flops. Motown even thought about dropping him from the label. Imagine that. Stevie went on to become arguably the best artist of the 70s.

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Man of Strength,

It is interesting how artists in the past were given multiple chances before the label finally turned them down. It's hard to believe Stevie Wonder flopped so much but I think in the long run it made him a better artist. Thanks for coming by and commenting!

Vellur profile image

Vellur 3 years ago from Dubai

Interesting and informative hub. Stevie Wonder is my favorite. Never heard of Bow Wow, will listen. Great write.

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Vellur,

Stevie Wonder's my fave as well! Thanks for coming by and commenting!

Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 3 years ago from Nepal

I was a young boy when Britney became an instant hit. More than her song, I liked her face. However, later I developed music taste and began loving Stevie Wonder.

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Vinaya,

Thanks for coming by and commenting!

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