Meet Philip Glass, Plumber

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The Independent has an interview with Philip Glass that makes for pretty good reading despite a lame lede joking that the reporter nearly constructed an interview out of one question, asked repeatedly. Knee slap!

But what piqued my interest — as a writer currently in need of a side job — was this fact: until Philip Glass was forty-two yeas old, he didn’t earn a living from his music; up to that point, he drove a cab, moved furniture, and worked as a plumber.

“I was careful,” [Glass] explains, “to take a job that couldn’t have any possible meaning for me.” Stories of famous-composer-actually-working-man-shock from that period abound. The art critic Robert Hughes was astonished to find the avant garde composer mending his dishwasher. On another occasion, a woman tapped on the side of his cab and told him that he had the same name as a “very famous composer”.

Gradually, the commissions trickled in and, by the time Glass was 44, he realised that the cab driver’s licence that he’d renewed as a precaution might not be needed.

Also amusing was the British writer’s surprise at Glass’s rather abstemious 3 glasses of wine a week: mentally she compares her own level of consumption and decides, that, well, Americans are good at doing things like going to the gym before work, aren’t they? Here’s the link to the interview again.


Jeremy Hatch is a writer, musician, and professional bookseller leading a cheerful, aimless life in San Francisco. He is the Junior Literary Editor of the Rumpus and has a blog which he updates once in a while. More from this author →