As unfortunate as it might be, hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin and crack can be part and parcel of the rock n’ roll lifestyle. Some musicians fight through it and overcome their addictions, while others fall through the cracks and tragically succumb to them. In this list, we’ll be focusing on 10 musicians who don’t necessarily seem like the types who would be classified as drug addicts, but their history with prescription and/or recreational drugs may surprise you.
Instead of profiling musicians like Keith Richards, Ozzy Osbourne or Anthony Kiedis – because let’s be honest, their struggles with addiction are hardly surprising – we’ll be zoning in on 10 artists who aren’t quite as innocent as some may think. Many of these artists have successfully received help for their addictions and gotten clean, but the depth of their history with drugs is a shock no matter how you slice it.
Some are famous rockers (Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts), others are involved in rap music (Macklemore), and others are involved in concept art who just happened to be married to a famous musician (Yoko Ono). Either way, these artists have chased the dragon in ways you might not have thought they would, and they have either fully overcome their addictions or are in the process of doing so. The types of drugs used by each of these artists range greatly in terms of what they abused and the effects they would eventually have on them, but these artists have still found ways to overcome their issues while managing to keep them somewhat under the radar.
Some of these artists gained their fame during the 2000s and are still establishing their reputations as musicians, while others are rock musicians who have been around since the ‘60s and whose musical output can easily be regarded as being amongst the greatest of all time. Here are the 10 most shocking musicians with drug addiction problems.
10 Albert Hammond, Jr.
Although he’s probably the least famous rocker on this list, and he’s not quite the household name like his bandmate and Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas has been, rhythm guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr. is the member of the band with the most public history of drug addiction. Earlier this year, Hammond opened up to the Village Voice about his long addiction to heroin, cocaine and ketamine which reached a high point during the recording of the Strokes’ fourth studio album Angles in 2011. Hammond eventually went to rehab after spending thousands on drugs per weekend, and was released before recording the Strokes’ most recent album Comedown Machine.
You might think Sting wouldn’t have been the type to dabble in drugs altogether – what with his love for tantra and his involvement with Hinduism – he did regularly use cocaine in the 1980s, but stopped after realizing it had “disagreed” with him, saying that it had blocked his sinuses and made him feel “uncomfortable in his own skin.” The former Police frontman has also reportedly used ecstasy on a regular basis. Sting has also been a vocal proponent of ending the War on Drugs in the United States, writing a column about it in 2010 for the Huffington Post.
8 Belinda Carlisle
With a musical past as the frontwoman for peppy ‘80s female pop rock band the Go-Go’s, it’s pretty shocking to known that Belinda Carlisle actually had a history of drug addiction on the side, having beaten a 30-year addiction to cocaine – she had started experimenting with drug use as early as 14 years of age – and is now sober, having cleaned up her act by the time she was 47. Following the Go-Go’s split in 1985, Carlisle was regularly using cocaine as well as prescription and hallucinogenic drugs. Carlisle had also been struggling with an eating disorder as well as alcoholism.
The lengthy wait between Seattle rapper Macklemore’s first album The Language of My World and his breakout album with Ryan Lewis, The Heist, has often been attributed by Macklemore himself to his issues with alcoholism and drug use. The latter was a big part of his life growing up, as he would cut class to smoke weed in his first year of high school, and would start using Oxycontin years later. Macklemore also dabbled with cough syrup, which he discusses in his song “Otherside”. His use of that particular drug – as well as a talk from his father – convinced him to go to rehab at age 25.
6 Yoko Ono
While still married to John Lennon, Yoko Ono has revealed in interviews that she got caught up in some of the drugs he was using, particularly heroin. More specifically, Ono has said that a “greedy heroin dealer” was about all that kept her and Lennon from falling into a deep addiction to it. Ono attributed her and Lennon’s near miss to the fact that the heroin they were sold was diluted – their dealer mixed it with baby powder so that he’d be able to get more money from his sales – and that both her and Lennon had a fear of needles.
5 Chester Bennington
Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington’s name alone is pretty un-rock n’ roll and so is his appearance, therefore it comes as a surprise to know that he once had a years-long problem with drugs and alcohol. Having dabbled with cocaine and methamphetamines as early as his teenage years and later taking drugs to deal with a painful divorce, Bennington has spoken about his addiction problems on some of his band’s big hits, particularly “Crawling” from their extremely successful debut Hybrid Theory and “Breaking the Habit” from their sophomore album Meteora. Bennington has since broke the habit (pun intended) of his addictions.
4 Gerard Way
Before his former band My Chemical Romance released their sophomore album Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge in 2004 that got the band recognized on a worldwide scale, frontman Gerard Way had issues with alcoholism and prescription drug addiction (including the anxiety drugs Xanax and Wellbutrin) to deal with his issues with depression. He would therefore use music as a way of dealing with his personal issues such as his addictions, hence the personal tones of a number of My Chemical Romance’s songs. Way also had problems with cocaine at one point, but ended up kicking his addiction when the band got big thanks to help from family and friends.
3 Charlie Watts
Although Charlie Watts was often the member of the Rolling Stones who seemed to be the least interested in the rock n’ roll lifestyle – he often eschewed groupies for the sake of maintaining his marriage to Shirley Ann Shepherd, to whom he’s still married today – Watts endured a midlife crisis during the ‘80s that saw him abuse drugs and alcohol. Watts had also dabbled in heroin use, but stopped before he could get addicted to it thanks to an intervention from – of all Rolling Stones bandmates – Keith Richards. After breaking his ankle in a drunken stupor, he went clean cold turkey.
2 James Taylor
You could say James Taylor is one of the all-time most unlikely musicians to ever get addicted to drugs, what with the sometimes saccharine nature of his music, but Taylor endured a 20-year battle with drugs – particularly with heroin, an addiction he kicked during the ‘80s. Taylor had also endured problems with his personal life – including three marriages, one of which was to Carly Simon, whose hit “You’re So Vain” may have been about Taylor – in addition to his heroin problem. Despite his past with heroin as well as alcoholism, Taylor has been clean for the last 30 years.
1 Brian Wilson
Although the Beach Boys came off like an innocent group singing about surfing and having fun in the summer, their lead singer Brian Wilson had problems that transcended the group’s image. His problems with cocaine and amphetamines – he had also dabbled with heroin at one point – and his use of LSD to inspire musical creativity were well documented, as were his ensuing problems with his mental health. In the ‘70s, Wilson was secluded in his bedroom following the death of his father, where he would further abuse alcohol and drugs. After this, Wilson would get sober as well as lose a ton of weight after once weighing 325 lbs.