While the life of a celebrity may look easy, the path to get there certainly is not. Most of the superstars who have dominated popular music had to work hard to get on top. And most of them had to wade through a pile of rejections to get there. Hindsight, they say, is 20/20. To whom do we refer when we say "they," though? We're mostly talking about the people who passed up the chance to sign these superstars.

The lesson to be learned here is not for record executives. It's for aspiring artists. If you love doing something, keep doing it. And keep pestering the crap out of everyone you can think of until somebody gives you a chance. If your intention is to be as big as Madonna and U2, you're gonna have to be a little aggressive. And you're probably going to need thick skin. Like they say, everybody's a critic. So to give you some inspiration, here are five of the most surprising rejection letters of all time:

  • Jimi Hendrix

    Not all rejections are wrong. Sometimes a person needs to be told that he or she should consider a different career. Such was the case with a young Johnny Alex Hendrix, who chose the Army over jail after getting caught stealing cars. His stint was short-lived, though. He was discharged after being found "... poorly motivated for the military ..." The author of this report seemed to know already who Jimi Hendrix was, even before he was Jimi. The report states, "Pvt Hendrix plays a musical instrument during his off-duty hours, or so he says. This is one of his faults, as his mind apparently cannot function while performing duties and thinking about his guitar."

  • U2

    The ability to recognize new bands as being revolutionary is a crucial skill to possess for someone working at a record label. It would seem that Alexander Sinclair did not possess such insight when presented with the opportunity to sign U2. Or perhaps Mr. Sinclair was Who knows, though? Maybe U2 would've been a flop under the direction of RSO. Probably not, though.

  • Venom

    We can't help but wonder what was on the tape heavy metal act Venom sent EMI back in 1980. Maybe they sent EMI close-up shots of their bare swimsuit areas. Or maybe Venom included a scented letter, imbued with the smell of their tour van. Or maybe the people at EMI just really didn't like Venom.

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  • Madonna

    Sometimes you're wrong, and sometimes you're wrong. Millenium Records president Jimmy Ienner missed the mark. Madonna's self-titled debut album featured five hit singles, and she hasn't stopped since. But Ienner isn't in sparse company when it comes to underestimating Madonna. After her debut, she was marked as a flash in the pan by some critics.

  • Sub Pop Form Letter

    If you're like almost every other artist in the world, you'll probably see a lot of these. This was the rejection letter Sub Pop mailed to artists who sent in unsolicited demos back in the '90s. They did not mince words, addressing the letter to "Dear Loser" and letting the artist know his or her submission was "... on itss way through the great lower intestine that is the talent acquisition process."