It’s really no secret that some rock stars can let fame negatively affect their lives. Whether it be substance abuse, run-ins with the law, or both, some rock and rollers just can’t stay out of trouble. While there are various degrees of rock stardom, and certainly varying degrees of seriousness to the crimes committed by those present on this list, each crime has had a negative impact on the victims of these crimes.
From classic rock, to black metal, hair bands to punk rockers, all of the musicians here represent different genres and different types of crimes, but all of their crimes are exceptional for one reason or another. From an extremely timed public intoxication to kidnapping and murder, here are ten of the worst crimes committed by rock and roll musicians.
10. Chuck Berry – Kidnapping
While Chuck Berry may be a founding father of rock and roll and one of the most influential guitar players of his time, that didn’t keep the “Johnny B Goode” singer out of trouble with the law. Berry’s criminal record dates back to his teen years in the mid 1940s when he was arrested for armed robbery and car theft, maybe foreshadowing further crimes to come.
In 1959 Chuck Berry was arrested after he kidnapped a 14-year-old girl and proceeded to drive her across state lines, making the crime a federal offense, for what the prosecution called “immoral purposes.”
While “immoral purposes” was never clearly defined, it is safe to say that Berry’s intentions were warranted of the five-year prison sentence he received.
9. Ozzy Osbourne – Desecrating The Alamo
Arguably the most notorious rock and roll front man to ever live, Ozzy Osbourne has been no stranger to controversy, or the law, throughout his nearly 60-year career, first fronting Black Sabbath and then as a solo artist.
While Ozzy has done plenty of crazy things as a rock legend, his most infamous, and probably offensive crime was the day that he decided to piss off the whole of Texas, by literally pissing on the Alamo. In an event of entirely poor judgment and disrespect Ozzy, dressed in one of his wife’s dresses and, severely hammered, decided that the Alamo memorial was as good a place as any to relieve himself. You know, that iconic piece of American and Texan history that is virtually sacrosanct.
Well, no one though it was funny and no one cared that it was Ozzy Osbourne, and the singer was quickly arrested and banned from San Antonio for a decade.
8. Rick James – Kidnapping, Torture
While the catch phrase “I’m Rick James, bitch” might have been funny on television, it was most likely decidedly not funny, but rather terrifying for the 24-year-old woman that James and his girlfriend kidnapped for sexual purposes and tortured with a crack pipe. The crack pipe was used to repeatedly burn the victim in order to keep her compliant. Upon being arrested for that crime, James was released on bail, and while on bail he assaulted and kidnapped a music executive for twenty hours in a Hollywood hotel room. Rick James was convicted on both charges and spent two years in Folsom Prison. He also surrendered $2 million in a civil suit regarding one of the cases.
7. Gaahl – Assault, Torture
Black Metal isn’t a musical genre for the faint of heart, and as such, some of its key figures aren’t necessarily for the faint of heart either. Former Norwegian Black Metal vocalist Gaahl was sentenced to a year in prison without the possibility of parole in 2002 following a second incident of extreme violence when he assaulted and tortured a 40-year-old man for several hours.
At trial, the victim stated that he “wanted to leave (the party where the assault took place), what I did was react verbally to a situation which I perceived as threatening.”
As the man did attempt to leave, Gaahl hit him on the head, tied him to a chair and tortured him. At one point, Gaahl threatened his victim stating, “I’m going to sacrifice you, I’m going to drink your blood.”
Though Gaahl claims he was not the instigator, he was once again convicted for torturing another victim for over six hours in 2006, this time stating, “I always say, when people cross my line… then I will be the one to decide what their punishment will be.”
6. Vince Neil – Vehicular Manslaughter
The Motley Crue front man is another famous rock star from the 1980s who is no stranger to controversy or the law. Though Neil has at least a half a dozen run-ins with the law over the course of his career, his first remains his most infamous, and serious.
In 1984 while on tour with Finnish band Hanoi Rocks, both Hanoi Rocks and the members of Motley Crue decided to party at Neil’s home in California in anticipation of their two sold out gigs in Los Angeles. After a day of partying, Neil and Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas Dingley, known as “Razzle”, drove to the local liquor store when Neil lost control of his car, hit an oncoming car and crashed. While the occupants of the vehicle Neil hit survived, both suffered severe head injuries. Neil’s friend “Razzle” died in the wreck.
For his crime, Vince Neil was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and sentenced to 30 days in jail, of which he served 15, five years probation, $2.6 million in restitution and 200 hours of community service.
5. Jim Gordon – First Degree Murder
While not well known by name, Jim Gordon’s drumming has been heard by millions upon millions of people as he was one of the most sought after session drummers of his time. Gordon’s resume includes drumming for such greats as B.B. King, George Harrsion, Frank Zappa and Eric Clapton, with whom he co-wrote the classic track “Layla.”
Unfortunately, Jim Gordon also suffered from mental illness, including a serious case of schizophrenia. After starving himself, and reportedly hearing voices, Gordon snapped in 1983 when he beat his mother with a hammer before stabbing her to death.
Because the defense of insanity was inadmissible under California state law during his trial, Gordon was convicted of murder and sentenced to 16 years in prison. To this day Gordon is incarcerated at a psychiatric facility in California.
4. Varg Vikernes – First Degree Murder
Another black metal musician from Norway, Varg Vikernes is the poster boy for the violence that swept the Nordic country in the mid 1990s. Vikernes has been convicted of multiple church burnings, and suspected of terrorism, hate crimes and even murder.
Throughout his legal troubles, he has been able to sustain a musical career, creating some of the most popular black metal on the planet with his one-man band, Burzum. After a spate of church burning in Norway, where some of the oldest and most revered churches were razed to the ground, Vikernes got into an altercation with a band mate whom he stabbed 23 times. The court disagreed with Vikernes’ claim of self-defense at his trial and sentenced him to 21 years in prison, the maximum in Norway.
While incarcerated Varg Vikernes attempted an escape, hijacking a car at gunpoint before being apprehended in the north of the country. After finally serving his time, he relocated to France, where he was arrested on suspected terrorism charges in the wake of the Anders Breivik massacre in Oslo in 2011. The charges were dropped when no connection between the two could be established.
3. Tim Lambesis – Solicitation of Murder
Tim Lambesis is the former vocalist for Christian heavy metal band As I Lay Dying, and is now incarcerated for allegedly hiring a hitman to murder his estranged wife. Apparently, the singer told both his band mates and his wife that he was no longer a Christian anymore, and that he no longer wanted to be a part of his marriage. Around the same time, Lambesis’ behavior allegedly became more erratic, with his defense attorney citing steroids as the main cause.
Regardless, what is fact is that Tim Lambesis did solicit what turned out to be an undercover cop at his gym in an attempt to hire someone to murder his wife. He paid $1,000 up front, with a promise to pay a further $19,000 after his wife was dead. Lambesis was arrested, pleaded guilty and this past summer sentenced to six years in prison for his crime.
2. Sid Vicious – First Degree Murder
If notorious was ever an appropriate word to describe a musician, Sid Vicious is as good a person as any to warrant that label. Sid Vicious was the bassist of the, at the time at least, larger than life and controversial than hell Sex Pistols. While the image and the music of the Sex Pistols may be tame by today’s standards, Sid Vicious’ drug abuse and behaviour certainly is not.
A drug user with a particular affinity for heroin, Vicious’ girlfriend Nancy Spungen was also a drug user and a diagnosed schizophrenic, making their relationship incredibly volatile. After nearly two years together, after a night of particularly heavy drug use in a New York hotel room in October 1978, Spungen was found dead from a single stab wound to the abdomen, the weapon being a knife owned by Sid Vicious.
Vicious gave varying accounts of the night, from “I stabbed her but didn’t meant to kill her” to a total lack of memory of the night altogether. He was charged with murder, but never saw trial as a few months later in February 1979, after actually having gotten clean for a time, Vicious died of a heroin overdose.
1. Ian Watkins – Sexual Offences
While the U.K. band the Lost Prophets were never the most popular band on rock radio in the early to mid 2000s, there are not many rock radio listeners who haven’t heard at least a few of their singles. Which is why it probably came as such a massive shock when in late 2012 the band’s lead singer, Ian Watkins, was arrested and charged with a bevy of sex-related offenses, all of them involving children or animals.
The news seemingly came out of nowhere and shocked the rock and roll community. Many refused to believe the charges, with Watkins himself denying them initially. As the investigation grew, and more details emerged, it became clear that Ian Watkins was using his fame to abuse children, and was guilty of the charges laid against him. In the end, Ian Watkins was convicted on 13 charges and sentenced to 29 years in prison.