For a variety of reasons, many involving drugs, there are some rockers that continue rocking but for the grace of God.
On July 5th, 1944, when Keith Richards was still shy of seven months old, his town of Dartford, Kent, was effected by the Germans’ V1 attacks. The Richards’ flat lost its front windows and part of its roof, while two houses on the same street were destroyed. Keith and his mother were 150 miles away at the time in Mansfield, Notts, visiting Keith’s father who’d been wounded in the Normandy landings. Other incidents that led to Richards topping this list: in 1971, he pulled a toy gun on a French harbourmaster who had a real revolver. In July 1973, Keith and his common-law wife, Anita Pallenberg, escaped his Sussix country house as it burned down. About ten weeks later, Keith managed to set his room at the Londonderry House hotel on fire. Also, I’ve read Keith’s autobiography, and my God, this guy’s approach to taking hard drugs was so professional and precise it was almost admirable.
Wanna talk about drugs? David Bowie did so much coke in the seventies that he can’t remember some of it (the seventies… also the coke, probably). Here’s a quote from Nile Rodgers, who produced Bowie’s 1983 album Let’s Dance: “He told me there are years of his life that he doesn’t remember. He said, ‘I know that’s me singing, I know that’s my record and my picture, but I don’t remember writing the songs, I don’t remember going into the studio.’”
His early onstage antics included ground glass and some raw steak skin treatment, plus he was stage diving before it was really a thing. Iggy Pop also had a junk habit, and found himself on the streets for a time, eventually committing himself to UCLA Hospital. His one regular visitor, David Bowie, convinced him to get cleaned up.
“I’m not a bad person getting better, I’m a sick person getting well. Alcoholism and drug dependency is a killer disease, you know. I went to two rehab places and then I still went out again. And then I stopped again and then I started. I have accepted I have a problem with drugs and alcohol. That’s a big stepping stone, you know. I’m very lucky that I’m still alive and I’m also very lucky I can still put two words together.” So says Ozzy Osbourne, who also bit the head off a bat in January 1982. Also, an ATV accident nearly ended it all in December 2003. Oh, and there was a time that a doctor had him on a cocktail of as many as 42 prescription pills a day.
Original Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan was once drinking ten bottles of red wine daily, and that was a healthy change from how he’d been living before—working with Axl makes people do stuff. Duff’s wake-up call came in 1994 when his pancreas ruptured. He was left with third degree burns and a doctor’s warning that another drink would kill him.
Forget near death experiences; Dave Gahan actually flatlined in an L.A. hospital in 1996. The Depeche Mode frontman has described his soul floating up and observing his body. When it returned to his body and he woke up, he was under arrest for possession of cocaine and heroin.
In 2012, Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme was undergoing leg surgery when he, in his own words, “kind of choked to death.” Doctors later told him he had “died on the table” but were able to revive him.
We’re thankful that all these guys are still around, of course. Can you think of anyone else who’s narrowly escaped the reaper’s clutches?