Life can be tough for a street musician, even one whose voice has won four Grammys.
Acclaimed R&B singer Erykah Badu recently went incognito to New York’s bustling Times Square and set out her hat to collect tips, but after more than 40 minutes wound up with $3.60 worth of coins.
In what appeared to be more of an artistic project than an attempt to win busking stardom, Badu recorded her performance with her phone and said that she had always wanted to experience life as a street musician.
Despite her world-famous voice, no one recognized Badu and some strangers avoided her as she sang an impromptu ditty that went: “Please sir, give me some money… Haven’t sold a record in about two years.”
Badu, who has sold millions of albums since the late 1990s, said on her video about the experience: “You see, if you’ve got some initiative, you can make some money.”
Badu, releasing the video on her Facebook page, clarified that she was not making any judgement about homeless people or others “who have no other means of survival in our world.”
New York street musicians vary widely in quality and success, with many of them struggling but some of the more prominent performers in busy subway stations able to earn livings through their tips.
Street performances are generally legal in New York, although authorities require permits for musicians who use amplifiers or play inside public parks.