Rock stars are a plucky bunch. It is almost a prerequisite for our favourite faces to enter the world of rock with a penchant for the dangerous, the exciting, and an unrelenting desire for living life on the edge. In truth, the stories about some of the most iconic musicians taking excess to the absolute limit are endless.
Whether it be The Who drummer Keith Moon driving a Lincoln Continental into a swimming pool, Ozzy Osbourne biting the head off a live bat, or the myriad of tales that surround the cat-like Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, since the dawn of rock in the 1950s, rock stars have invariably been hellraisers. It’s a tradition that goes back to the likes of Little Richard and Elvis Presley, which was perhaps informed by legendary delta bluesmen such as Robert Johnson.
Whilst this proclivity for danger has given us, the spectator, many of our favourite stories about some of the most revered musicians in history, on many occasions, it has had disastrous consequences. It took a long time for rock stars to realise that they are not invincible, as the famous ‘Golden God’ scene in Almost Famous alludes to. The combination of being put on a pedestal and the absence of anybody telling you ‘no’ is a potent one, and it has taken some genuinely scary moments for many of our favourite rock stars to come back down to Earth.
Notably, many rock stars have quite literally died and come back to life, with their brush with the other side often being enough to persuade them to fix up properly. Although some of these stories haven’t been their fault, it’s still indicative of the fact that rock icons are possibly the luckiest demographic out there.
So without further ado, join us as we list six rock stars who have come back to life.
Six rock stars that died and came back to life:
This is the most famous story on this list. In the ’90s, Depeche Mode frontman Dave Gahan had a handful of brushes with death, even earning himself the nickname ‘The Cat’ from paramedics. However, the most consequential came in 1996 when he overdosed from a speedball, a mix of cocaine and heroin, in Los Angeles. His heart stopped beating for two minutes.
Later, he told Q: “All I saw and all I felt at first was complete darkness. I’ve never been in a space that was blacker, and I remember feeling that whatever it was I was doing, it was really wrong. Then the next thing I remember was seeing myself on the floor, on the steps outside my hotel bathroom, and there was a lot of activity going on around me… In some ways, it was very liberating. Then I came to and a cop was handcuffing me. It certainly wasn’t a place I’d like to visit again.”
After this incident, Gahan was arrested, and forced into a programme of rehabilitation and counselling. Looking back, he said: “For the first time in my life, it became clear to me that I am not immortal.”
Since that fateful moment, he has been clean.
Guns N’ Roses guitar hero Slash is an icon of rock. One of the hardest rocking and hardest living figures out there, he has many a wild tale to tell. Another user of heroin, Slash was unfortunate, or lucky enough, depending on how you see it, to overdose and be declared dead for eight whole minutes.
He told The Guardian in 2004: “The one where I died in San Francisco? I remember exactly what happened. These drug dealers came to my hotel room at 5 am. They had everything and I took all of it. I started down the hallway and I ran into a maid, and I asked where the elevator was and then bam! I collapsed. Little Spanish lady, it freaked her out. When you overdose, there’s a certain kind of scene where everybody is just moving really quickly and there’s noise from radios and everything; I’ve experienced it a bunch of times. They took me to the hospital but I said, ‘I’m fine’, signed myself out, went back to the hotel and we flew to the next gig.”
We wonder what it took for Slash to eventually kick the drugs.
I’m sure most of you aren’t surprised to see Ozzy Osbourne on this list. However, this one wasn’t his fault and was a freak accident, but afterwards, Ozzy’s life wouldn’t be the same again, and he’d take it much easier than he had done before.
In 2003, he nearly died whilst riding a quad bike on his Buckinghamshire estate as he hit a pothole and lost control of the vehicle, suffering severe back and head injuries as the quad fell on top of him. Sharon, Ozzy’s wife, revealed after the incident that he stopped breathing for a minute and a half, but he eventually came to.
Nikki Sixx is one of the most notorious people in rock. A quarter of hair metal hellraisers, Mötley Crüe, Sixx knows a thing or two about living life to the edge. All the band were all heavy users of heroin, but it was Sixx’s overdose in 1987 that motivated them to quit heroin altogether.
Sixx’s heart stopped beating for two minutes, but luckily one of the responding paramedics gave him a shot of adrenalin, which kickstarted his heart back into action. At the time, the band had just released their iconic album Girls Girls Girls, and they thought they were invincible, but this moment gave them a heavy dose of reality. Famously, this inspired their fan favourite ‘Kickstart My Heart’ from 1989’s aptly named Dr. Feelgood.
This is the most affecting entry on the list. In 1973, Slade drummer Don Powell and his girlfriend, Angela Morris, left a friend’s birthday celebration at a club in Wolverhampton. On their way back home, the car hit a hedge and a road sign before smashing into a wall, throwing the pair out of the car.
Morris was killed instantly but Powell, whose heart stopped, was twice revived by off-duty nurses who had seen the accident. He suffered a range of injuries, including a fractured skull, broken ribs, and both ankles, and spent six days in a coma. Understandably, this horrific incident left life-changing injuries, with permanent short-term memory loss seriously affecting him. To this day, he cannot remember the accident.
“I was there for quite a while before anyone told me what had happened,” he said in his memoir. “When I didn’t have the tubes anymore, I got to the toilet. Afterwards, I washed my hands and came to look in the mirror. I had no hair, my face was all smashed, with black eyes and teeth missing and that big crack in the head, held together by clamps. I was so shocked that I fell into the back wall. It was terrible. I thought, somebody has got to tell me what’s going on. I kept asking, ‘Please, tell me what has happened!'”
Leon Wilkeson, the bass player of southern rock heroes Lynyrd Skynyrd, was one of the survivors of the 1977 plane crash that killed three of his bandmates, Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines. He suffered severe injuries, including lacerations, broken bones and internal injuries.
Although he stayed out of the spotlight for the majority of the ’70s, and didn’t return to music for three years, he would speak about this incident on numerous occasions in the years following it. He revealed that he was declared dead three times and in 1997, claimed that when he was dead he found himself sitting on a cloud-shaped log with Duane Allman and Ronnie Van Zant: “Ronnie told me, ‘Boy get yourself out of here, it’s not your time yet, get on out of here.'”