It’s not easy to be a successful rock star and see all kinds of drugs passing by at at any time of the day: temptations are too strong and not everybody is able to say ‘no’. In those environments, drugs have always been considered as a “recreation” activity, or as an help to improve the creativity process, and many rock heroes died because of its abuse. Luckily, some of them succeeded to step back just at last moment, before reaching the point of no return. Those are the artists we talk about today: the ones who have gone very close to a tragic end, but survived. Often changing habits immediately.
Dave Gahan’s toxic nightmare culminated in 1996, when Depeche Mode’s lead singer took an overdose of speedball, heroin and cocaine and his heart stopped beating for about two minutes. Once back awake, he decided to change his life. Afterwards, he told that, while he felt himself slipping into the darkness, he felt another force that took him back from death: this episode was the culmination of years of drug abuse, besides a failed marriage and a suicide attempt the previous year.
John Frusciante arrived really close to the end: the former guitarist of Red Hot Chili Peppers entered the formation in 1988 to replace Hillel Slovak (died of heroin overdose the same year), but the stress of the amazing success in the early 90s brought him to an intensive drugs spiral, until he decided to leave the band. The depression and the eight overdoses he got on those years made him realize that he had to do something to avoid a premature end, convincing him to enter rehab. After that, he even reprised his career with RHCP.
Few others stand the comparison with Stevie Nicks: the Fleetwood Mac singer devoted himself to drugs for a long time, becoming addicted to cocaine, psychotropic drugs and alcohol. Especially cocaine became his most intimate and assiduous companion for nine years (according to one of the most famous legends of rock, she even managed in ‘inhale’ cocaine from other, unconventional holes) and she arrived to spend about a million dollars before she realized it was time to stop. A doctor who convinced her, putting her in front of the irreversible damage of her body and the possibility that her nose could fall, already showing signs of structural subsidence. In order to fight the addiction, Stevie Nicks replaced cocaine with Klonopin, a medicine that caused a new addiction.
Among the many lovers of Stevie Nicks, the one with whom she shared most the abuse of drugs was Joe Walsh, guitarist of the Eagles, famous for his dissolute life. The fascination that alcohol and drugs had on Walsh was famous since the 70s: his relationship with drugs (exploded after the death of his 3-years-old daughter Emma) escalated in the years and brought him in the verge of self-destruction in the 80s. He broke up with Stevie Nicks in one of the rare moments of lucidity, when Joe realized that living next to her would lead him to death. His rebirth took place in the 90s, after the reunion of the Eagles: Glenn Frey and Don Henley (who already failed once to reunite the band due to the guitarist’s conditions) demanded the highest sobriety from all the components, forcing Walsh to finally enter a rehab center.
Another one heavily compromised by the use of drugs is Eric Clapton, who in the 80s was in the midst of his most vicious season and seemed to spend up to 15,000 dollars a week in alcohol and drugs. The birth of Conor (the son born from the relationship with Lory Del Santo) in 1987 led him to change his life, committing in being sober for his child. The premature and upsetting death of the child (precipitated in the void from the skyscraper where he lived with the mother) risked to bring him back to the old drug issues, but, unlike Walsh, Slow-hand found in the tragedy the strength to be permanently away from drugs, deciding to not disappoint Conor’s memory.
Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx is one of those who is often associated with the image of the artist with no rules and all kind of addictions: the bassist lived in an endless party for much of the band’s glorious days, between the 80s and the 90s, until he realized he had to clean up. The most famous episode is the overdose of 1987, when it came back to life at the very last moment, when the doctors were about to declare him dead.
Ozzy Osbourne dedicated his life to drugs for decades, from amphetamines to Valium, from tranquillizers to barbiturates, from acids to marijuana, from cocaine to heroin, spending a fortune and often ending up in rehabilitation centers. His genome was analysed in 2015 and they found out that his genes had an extreme tolerance for drugs, which allowed him to survive his exhausting recreational activities. Since some time he seems to be clean from all kinds of substance. His wife Sharon stated that “at the end of the world there will be only roaches, Ozzy and Keith Richards.”
And of course he closes this list. Keith Richards lived a life of legendary and infinite excesses, especially in the 60s and 70s, also coming to experiment different combinations of substances. Once he claimed to have managed to not sleep for 9 days in a row, arriving to give up suddenly and then crashing his head on the furniture, waking up later on in a puddle of blood. His relationship with Anita Pallenberg didn’t help him to remain sober and only the end of the love story (in addition to the legal problems accumulated over time) gave him the possibility to slow down with drugs. In the end what was the strangest thing Keef sniffed? His father, whose ashes passed through the nose of the guitarist after falling out of the urn: maybe it’s a legend, but with Richards nothing is really impossible. And yes, he’s probably more likely to survive the end of the world than many roaches.