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Scarred Tissue: 10 Living Musicians Who Should Probably Be Dead

By 01.29.14

Since forming in 1983, 14 men have been able to call themselves a Red Hot Chili Pepper, which is a ridiculous statement, but hey, free socks. Only half of the current lineup, the one that will be performing during the Super Bowl halftime show on Sunday — Anthony Kiedis, Flea, Chad Smith, and Josh Klinghoffer — has been there since the beginning (Flea and Kiedis), while Klinghoffer didn’t join the band until 2009. Original Chili Peppers guitarist Hillel Slovak overdosed in 1988; he was replaced by John Frusciante, who tragically/ironically also got addicted to heroin, and nearly died, too. It’s amazing he’s still around; the same with these other nine musicians.

1. Keith Richards

How is a man whose been tried on drug-related charges five times and was once busted possessing “grass, cannabis resin, ‘Chinese’ heroin, mandrax tablets, burnt spoons, syringes and pipes,” not to mention a “loaded handgun, rifle, and 110 rounds of ammunition,” still alive? That’s one of life’s many greatest mysteries,

2. John Frusciante

If you’ve never seen the footage of John Frusciante shooting heroin, continue to do so. It’s kind of fascinating, but mostly horrifying. Things got so bad for the former-Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist, there’s an entire section on his unofficial fan site about his addiction: “An article in the New Times LA [in 1996] described Frusciante as ‘a skeleton covered in thin skin’ who at the nadir of his addictions nearly died from a blood infection. His arms became fiercely scarred from improperly shooting heroin and cocaine, leaving permanent abscesses. He spent the next three years holed up in his Hollywood Hills home, the walls of which were badly damaged and covered in graffiti.” He eventually got clean, though, and after a fall-out with the other Peppers, rejoined the group from 1998-2009.

3. Ozzy Osbourne

I know, right: Ozzy Osbourne, a drug addict? It’s TRUE. Here’s how Ozzy described his first snort of coke: “When you come from Aston and you fall in love with cocaine, you remember when you started. It’s like having your first f*ck!” He collects addiction stories the way kids do baseball cards: there was the time he drunkenly pissed on a monument outside of the Alamo in San Antonio, or when he thought he was performing a striptease for record executives but actually did a Nazi goose-step then dipped his balls in a glass of wine, or how he used to spend $1,000 a week on cocaine while drinking four bottles of cognac a day, or when even he wondered why he’s still alive, saying, “I was curious, given the swimming pools of booze I’ve guzzled over the years – not to mention all of the cocaine, morphine, sleeping pills, cough syrup, LSD, Rohypnol…there’s really no plausible medical reason why I should still be alive. Maybe my DNA could say why.” His DNA is a mess of broken needles floating in scotch.

4. Nikki Sixx

When you want drug stories, you go to Right Wing News. While discussing Nikki Sixx, and more specifically, the must-read tell-all The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band, the horrified John Hawkins warns readers, “If you’re bothered by extreme immorality or are weak of stomach, you may want to skip these quotes.” What quotes? Well: “I coughed, I gagged, I coughed again. I awoke, and the room looked upside down. I was on the shoulder of the dealer who was carrying me out the door like an old trash bag. I gagged again, and vomit came pouring out of my mouth. He dropped me to the floor. My body had turned blue, there was ice down my pants from Andy trying to wake me up, and I had a large welts all over my arms and chest from a baseball bat. That was the dealers idea: he thought he could put me in so much pain that my system would shock itself back into action. When that tactic failed, he had evidently decided to throw me in the dumpster behind his tenement and leave me for dead. But then I vomited on his shoes. I was alive.” I’ll leave out the story about Nikki’s dick. You may be weak of stomach.

5. David Bowie

Here are two words that should never appear in the same sentence: “astronomic” and “cocaine.” In 1975, David Bowie had an “astronomic cocaine” habit, but not JUST cocaine; no, Bowie would wash down the thin white powder with red peppers and milk. It was a “coke storm.” He weighed less than 100 pounds at this time and was in a constant “state of psychic terror,” yet still made Young Americans, Station to Station, Low, Heroes, and Lodger. It’s not the side effects of the cocaine; I’m thinking that it must be he’s one lucky space-alien.

6. Courtney Love

Or perhaps more accurately, it’s shocking that Frances Bean Cobain is alive and well, considering Courtney did heroin while she was pregnant with her now-estranged daughter. The mother of the year material doesn’t end there: Frances claims, via NME, “[my] cat died after becoming entangled in Love’s possessions such as piles of rubbish, boxes of paperwork and piles of fabrics” and that “[Love] has taken drugs for as long as I can remember. She basically exists now on… Xanax, Adderall, Sonata and Abilify, sugar and cigarettes. She rarely eats…She often falls asleep in her bed while she is smoking, and I am constantly worried that she will start a fire (which she has done at least three times) that will threaten our lives.” Love also shot heroin at Charlie Sheen’s house, which is somehow even more unredeemable than killing a cat.

7. Sly Stone

Sly Stone is still alive, but much of what made him so legendary is dead. He rarely makes public appearances anymore, and when he does, he occasionally ends up walking off-stage, like he did at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2007. His mind has been irrevocably damaged by decades of cocaine and PCP abuse; he was even homeless for a long stretch. He might be the oldest 70-year-old on the planet, but he still looks damn good in a hat.

8. Trent Reznor

“[The addiction] crept in around the mid 90s and it got progressively worse. At the end of the last tour I was going to die if I didn’t…well, I was going to kill myself if I didn’t die from falling out a window. I was f*cked up from beginning to end, you know with withdrawal, and sickness. Everyday we weren’t playing, I’d be in the hotel room trying not to be sick and it sucked. I wound up in a very bad place.” A heartfelt F*CK YOU, heroin.

9. Izzy Stradlin

Singling out one member of Guns N’ Roses as THE most lucky to not have been killed by drugs is tough, but the honor, for a brief time in the 1980s, has to go to Izzy Stradlin (with the possible exception of former drummer Steven Adler), who once swallowed his entire stash before going through customs in Japan and ended up in a coma for 96 hours. He was also once arrested for having one (or nine) too many double Bacardi and Cokes on a flight to Phoenix and pissing in the aisle in front of horrified stewardesses. Earlier that day, a dog bit him in the face.

10. Iggy Pop

Here’s a fun story about Iggy Pop, courtesy of Stooges manager Danny Fields to Rolling Stone: “The best of all of them is what happened when he played the Whisky…He was waiting for his dealer…intent on getting his shot of heroin before he went on. But he had no money. So he went to the VIP booths one at a time and explained the situation…He got more than enough money. He stood off to the side and shot up. The lights went down, the music went up, he stood onstage, and collapsed. Without a note being sung. He’d OD’d in front of everyone. And had to be carried off.” Iggy was a walking pile of heroin and cocaine — the little blood he had in his veins would usually end speckling his used syringes, then stain the walls, Jackson Pollock-style. Fun house, indeed.

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All photos via Getty Image


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