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The Life and Career of Simon Cowell

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Born October 7th, 1959 in London, England, Simon Cowell became famous for his caustic personality after he appeared as a judge on several reality television shows. However, he has also been involved behind-the-scenes in the music and television businesses for many years, having created and produced shows such as America's Got Talent and The X Factor. However, he is perhaps most well-known for his role on "American Idol," and for being the man behind the successful vocal group Il Divo. In this video, we take a look the life and career of Simon Cowell.

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Growing Up

Simon Phillip Cowell was born on October 7th, 1959 in London, England. After attending preparatory school, he went on to study at Dover College. However, he eventually dropped out and then took on several small jobs. He finally got his start in the music industry after being hired as a mailroom clerk at EMI, where his father was an executive.

Record Company Jobs

This led to a string of positions at several record companies. Cowell achieved his first taste of success at FanFare Records during the 1980s, when several of the independent label’s artists went on to achieve top ten hits. After suffering financial difficulties, Cowell moved on to BMG and there, he signed a number of successful acts as an A&R consultant.

"Pop Idol"

In 2001, he became a judge on the British television series “Pop Idol.” On this show, aspiring singers attempted to impress judges and viewers with their talents and the winner received a record deal. It was an instant success and Cowell signed the first season’s runner-up to his label Syco.

"American Idol|

The next year, he served as judge on the U.S. spin-off “American Idol,” and this show also drew high ratings. “AI” went on to produce numerous pop stars, most notably Jordin Sparks, Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson.

Idol Spin-Offs

Cowell soon built a reputation for himself as an extremely blunt and critical judge, and some even found him to be rude to contestants. Of course, this helped ratings even further, and so many Idol spin-offs tried to duplicate the series’ successful formula by adding a caustic personality similar to Cowell’s.

Il Divo

During this time, Cowell was also hard at work searching for singers who could combine their vocals with classical music. This project came to be known as Il Divo and the group’s first album came out in 2004. The quartet’s ability to sing with an operatic pop style in several languages turned them into an international success.

"The X Factor

That same year, Cowell created the British television series “The X Factor.” He appeared as a judge on several seasons of the successful music competition-style show, and even signed the third season winner Leona Lewis to his label.

Got Talent and Other Shows

In 2006, Cowell became involved with a number of different shows. These included “Celebrity Duets,” where stars sang with different partners, “American Inventor,” where budding entrepreneurs competed against each other and “America’s Got Talent,” where performers with various talents showed off their skills. The “Got Talent” format went on to spawn several spin-offs around the world.

More "American Idol"

That same year, Cowell accepted a deal to remain on “American Idol” for five more years. With this contract, he earned over thirty million dollars per season. Then in 2007, he added to the charity work he already did by creating a two-episode television special called “Idol Gives Back” to raise money for the less fortunate.

American "The X Factor"

While continuing with “American Idol,” Cowell co-produced the British television drama “Rock Rivals” in 2008. Two years later, he had his last season on “American Idol.” This was followed by his role as judge on the American version of “The X Factor,” which debuted in 2011.

Successful Entrepreneur

Though he may be most famous for his disparaging personality, Simon Cowell is also an entrepreneur who has become very successful by combining his interests in television and music.

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