CBSN

Homeless man's soulful singing leads to stardom

Most of us at some point have walked by a street musician and thought, 'Wow, that person is talented!' But what do we do? We keep walking.

One man in Denver, though, found a voice he couldn't walk past. And his decision to stop and listen may have changed that musician's life forever.

That musician is David Odobanjo, who performs under the name Dred Scott.

For the last 16 years, Scott, the son of Ivy League-educated parents, has been honing his craft on the same Denver streets he calls home

Scott told CBS News, "I've lived everywhere from on the streets to in jails and prisons. I've done some things that I'm not that proud of at all. I've had a pretty hard road and everything."

Day after day, he performs for anonymous passersby on the 16th Street mall.

But after an encounter with local musician Tyler Ward, Scott's life changed.

Ward recalled, "I was walking to my car and, all of a sudden, heard this voice from the corner of the street, and I was like. 'What is that?' And I walked over there. I stood there for about 20 minutes and I listened to Dred play music."

Scott said, "He came up to me and he said he liked the stuff that I was performing and said he had a website -- that he would be interested in me performing a video for his website."

But Ward's website isn't just any website. His YouTube music channel receives anywhere from 300,000 to 700,000 hits per day.

Scott's soulful voice was now being heard way beyond the sidewalks of the 16th Street mall.

Ward said, "The thing that drew me in about Dred's voice was just the uniqueness of it, the rawness of it, and its like you can hear, in a sense, the emotion that was kind of presented through the songs. You could tell he'd been through some stuff, and I kind of want to get to know that story."

Scott's cover of the prince classic "Purple Rain" went viral, attracting more than 600,000 views.

Listen to Dred Scott's cover of Prince's "Purple Rain"

One fan wrote on YouTube, "Chills. I got boosebumps."

Another said, "He's way better than Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga combined."

Learn more about Dred Scott and his music

Scott's recordings, available for sale on iTunes, have given him a much-needed financial boost. He's already made nearly $6,000, and next month will release his debut album, entitled "Trials and Tribulations."

Ward said, "When you see someone with great talent who's kind of living on the streets, you're just kind of like, what can you do to help instead of just giving him a buck or two? Let's see if you can really change his life, and that, to me, it's rewarding."

Scott's not looking to become music's next big thing. He just wants a chance to support himself with his passion.

"I might be able to beat the hype, I guess you'd say," Scott said. "I might be able to beat the odds. I'm gonna try to convince as many people as possible to give me a try, to come and check out what I got to offer."

On "The Early Show," co-anchor Jeff Glor noted that Scott says these current music projects keep him busy, so he's able to avoid some of the temptations that haunted him in the past.