Alcoholic Musicians (They Died from It, Quit, or Continue Drinking)

I. Background

Alcoholic musicians are not unusual. In fact, alcoholism occurs in every occupation. Also, musicians often work in settings conducive to drinking too much. Indeed, people often push drinks on them.

            Overview

I.   Background

II.  Alcoholic Musicians

III. Resources

Some alcoholic musicians have died from its effects on their bodies. Others have quit drinking. And many alcoholic musicians continue to drink. In reality, many who do drink have cut back their consumption.

It’s a myth that alcoholics can’t reduce their drinking levels. Government research has proven this.

Now it’s on to the list of alcoholic musicians….

II. Alcoholic Musicians

A-B

alcoholic musicians
Adele

Adele (born May 5, 1988) is an English singer and songwriter. (Birth name Adele Laurie Blue Adkins.) She no longer drinks.

Chet Baker (Dec. 23, 1929 – May 13, 1988) was a jazz trumpeter and singer. Near the end of his career, he could barely play or sing because of his alcoholism.

Bix Beiderbecke (March 10, 1903 – Aug. 6, 1931) was a jazz cornetist, pianist, and composer. (Birth name Leon Bismark Beiderbecke). In spite of his name, he was an American.

John Bonham (May 31, 1948 – Sept. 25, 1980) was an English musician and songwriter. Drummer for the rock band Led Zeppelin. Died after drinking over one liter of vodka and choking on his vomit. 

David Bowie

David Bowie (Jan. 8, 1947 – Jan. 10, 2016) was an English singer and songwriter. He became a sober alcoholic before his death. (Birth name David Robert Jones.)

Isaac Brock (born July 9, 1975) is the lead singer, guitarist, banjoist, and songwriter for the rock band Modest Mouse. Now a non-drinker.

Rob Buck (Aug. 1, 1958 – Dec. 19, 2000) was a founding member and guitarist of the rock band 10,000 Maniacs until his death. Died from liver disease after years of alcohol abuse.

alcoholic musicians
Rob Buck

David Byron (Jan. 29, 1947 – Feb. 28, 1985) was a English singer and songwriter. Lead singer with the rock band Uriah Heep. Died from liver disease caused by alcoholism. (Birth name David Garrick.)

Check out Alcoholic Athletes.

C-D

Eric Clapton (born March 30, 1945) is an English rock and blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Now sober.

Michael Clarke (June 3, 1946 – Dec. 19, 1993) was the drummer for the rock group the Byrds. Died from liver failure caused by alcoholism. It was a direct result of more than three decades of heavy alcohol consumption. (Birth name Michael James Dick.)

Adam Clayton (born March 13, 1960) is an Irish musician who is the bass guitarist of the rock band U2. He no longer drinks.

Brian Connolly

Brian Connolly (Oct. 5, 1945 – Feb. 10, 1997) was a Scottish singer and songwriter. Lead singer for the rock band The Sweet. Died from kidney failure, liver failure and repeated heart attacks caused by his alcoholism.

Alice Cooper (born Feb. 4, 1948) is a singer and songwriter. He also plays, guitar, drums, and harmonica. Cooper hasn’t drunk alcohol since the mid-1980s. (Birth name Vincent Damon Furnier.)

Lana Del Rey (born June 21, 1985) is a singer, songwriter and record producer. She no loner drinks. Now works with an outreach program for people with alcohol and drug addictions. (Birth name Elizabeth Woolridge Grant.)

E-L

Eminem (born Oct. 17, 1972) is a rapper, songwriter, and record producer. Although he has relapsed, he has overcome his alcoholism. (Birth name Marshall Bruce Mathers III.)

Esoterik, aka Eso (born Dec. 31, 1980) is an Australian rapper and composer He is a founding member of Bliss n Eso. (Birth name Max MacKinnon.)

alcoholic musicians
Stan Getz

Stan Getz (Feb. 2, 1927 – June 6, 1991) was a jazz saxophonist. Usually played the tenor saxophone. (Birth name Stanley Gayetski)

Lorenz Hart (May 2, 1895 – Nov. 22, 1943) was a musical comedy lyricist for Broadway shows. Died from pneumonia complicated by alcohol abuse.

Head (born June 19, 1970) is a musician, singer and songwriter. He is one of the guitarists and founding member of the band Korn. He’s now sober. (Birth name Brian Philip Welch.)

James Hetfield

James Hetfield (born Aug. 3, 1963) is a singer, songwriter and guitarist. He is an original member, lead singer, and rhythm guitarist of the band Metallica. He’s been sober since 2001.

Billie Holiday (April 7, 1915 – July 17, 1959) was a jazz singer. She was alcoholic most of her life. Billie Holiday died of heart disease caused by cirrhosis of the liver from alcoholism. (Birth name Eleanora Fagan.) 

alcoholic musicians
Elton John

Elton John (born March 25, 1947) is an English singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer. He’s been sober for over 20 years. (Birth name Reginald Kenneth Dwight.)

Jani Lane (Feb. 1, 1964 – Aug. 11, 2011) was the lead singer and main songwriter for the band Warrant. Died from acute alcohol poisoning. Found dead with no money in a motel room. Learn what to do if a person has alcohol poisoning.

M-O

Shane MacGowan

Shane MacGowan (born Dec. 25, 1957) is an Irish vocalist and the lead singer and songwriter in the Pogues.

Max MacKinnon (see Esoterik).

Macklemore (born June 19, 1983) is a rapper and songwriter. Formerly  “Professor Macklemore.” (Birth name Benjamin Hammond Haggerty.) Has relapsed but is sober.

alcoholic musicians.
Ron “Pigpen” McKernan

Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (Sept. 8, 1945 – March 8, 1973), known as Pigpen, was a singer and musician. He was a founding member of the band the Grateful Dead. Died from gastrointestinal bleeding. He also had liver disease from his alcohol abuse.

Clyde McPhatter (Nov. 15, c. 1932 – June 13, 1972) was a rhythm and blues, soul, and rock and roll singer. Most people know him from the Drifters. Died from damage to his kidney, liver, and heart caused by years of alcohol abuse.

Ivan Moody (born Jan. 7, 1975) is the lead singer for the band Five Finger Death Punch. Moody is sober now.

Jim Morrison (Dec. 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971) was a singer and  songwriter. Lead singer for the band The Doors. Unfortunately, alcoholism caused his death.

alcoholic musicians
Ozzy Osbourne

Modest Mussorgsky (March 21, 1839 – March 28, 1881).  Mussorgsky also spelled Musorgsky or Moussorgsky. Russian composer who died from years of alcohol abuse.

Ozzy Osbourne (born Dec. 3 1948) is an English singer and songwriter. Was the lead singer of the band Black Sabbath. Has had many relapses but is currently sober. (Birth name John Michael Osbourne.)

P-S

Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker (Aug. 29, 1920 – March 12, 1955) was a jazz alto saxophonist, composer, and band leader. Died from alcohol and drug abuse. The coroner estimated that Parker was 50-60 years old. However, he really was only 35. (Birth name Charles Parker, Jr.)

Trent Reznor (born May 17, 1965) is a singer, songwriter, musician, composer, and record producer. He is the founder, lead singer, and major song writer of the band Nine Inch Nails. Reznor no longer drinks.

Bon Scott

Bon Scott (July 9, 1946 – Feb. 19, 1980) was an Australian singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist. Most remember him as the lead singer for the band AC/DC. Died of alcohol poisoning and choking on his vomit. (Birth name Ronald Belford Scott.)

Ramses Shaffy (Aug. 29, 1933 – Dec. 1, 2009) was a Dutch singer. He died in a nursing home because his alcoholism left him unable to care for himself. 

alcoholic musicians
Ringo Starr

Ringo Starr (born July 7, 1940) is an English musician, singer, and songwriter. Most know him as the drummer for the Beatles. He no longer drinks. (Birth name Richard Starkey.)

Richard Swift (March 16, 1977 – July 3, 2018) was a singer and songwriter. He also played keyboards, drums, bass guitar, and guitar. Swift battled alcoholism for much of his life. However, in the end it killed him.

T-V

Corey Taylor

Corey Taylor (born Dec. 8, 1973) is a singer and songwriter. He’s been the lead singer and lyricist of the bands Slipknot and Stone Sour. No longer drinks and received an award for helping others become sober.

Miika Tenkula (March 6, 1974 – 18 Feb. 18,  2009) was a Finnish musician. He was the lead guitarist and the main songwriter for the band Sentenced. Nicknamed “King Alcohol.”

Bobby Timmons (Dec. 19, 1935 – March 1, 1974) was a jazz pianist and composer. Died from cirrhosis of the liver caused my alcoholism.      

alcoholic musicians
Steven Tyler

Steven Tyler (March 26, 1948) is a singer, songwriter, and musician. Plays the harmonica, piano, and drums. Is the lead singer in the rock band Aerosmith. No longer drinks. (Birth name Steven Victor Tallarico.)

Keith Urban (born Oct. 26, 1967) is a New Zealand singer, songwriter, and record producer. Well known for his work in country music. He no longer drinks.

Townes Van Zandt (March 7, 1944 – Jan. 1, 1997), was a singer and songwriter. Died of a heart attack after years of alcohol and drug abuse. 

Tommy Vext

Tommy Vext (born April 15, 1982) is a singer and songwriter. The lead singer of Bad Wolves, Snot, Divine Heresy and Westfield Massacre. Now helps others fight their alcoholism. (Birth name Thomas Cummings.)

W-Y

Tom Waits (born Dec. 7, 1949) is a singer, songwriter, musician, and composer. He’s now been sober for over twenty years.

Scott Weiland

Scott Weiland (Oct. 27, 1967 – Dec. 3, 2015) was a singer, songwriter, and musician. Lead singer of the band Stone Temple Pilot

Brian Welch (See Head.)

Deryck Whibley (born March 21, 1980) is a Canadian singer, songwriter, musician, and record producer. The lead singer, rhythm guitarist, keyboardist, main songwriter, and producer of the rock band Sum 41. After nearly dying from intoxication, he no longer drinks.

alcoholic musicians
Keith Whitley

Keith Whitley (July 1, 1954 – May 9, 1989) was a country music singer. Died from his alcoholism. His blood alcohol level was .47 when he died. 

Zakk Wylde (born Jan. 14, 1967) is a singer, songwriter, and musician. Lead guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne and the founder, lead guitarist, and lead singer of the band Black Label Society. Hasn’t had a drink since 2009. (Birth name Jeffrey Phillip Wielandt) 

Hank Williams

Hank Williams (Sept. 17, 1923 – Jan. 1, 1953) was a singer, songwriter and guitarist. He died as a result of bleeding in his heart and neck. Doctors think his alcoholism was a factor in his death. (Birth name Hiram Williams.)

Amy Winehouse (Sept. 14, 1983 – 23 July 23, 2011) was an English singer and songwriter. She died from alcohol poisoning.

alcoholic musicians
Lester Young

Lester Young (Aug. 27, 1909 – March 15, 1959) was a jazz tenor saxophonist. Many people know him from Count Basie’s orchestra. He died from heart failure after years of alcohol abuse. 

Neil Young (born Nov. 12, 1945) is a Canadian singer and songwriter. He also plays the guitar, harmonica, reed organ, and crystallophone. He became sober in 2011.

 

III. Resources: Alcoholic Musicians

Books

What is Alcoholism?

Edwards, E. Bars, Blues, and Booze. Jackson: U. Press of MS, 2016.

Metallica. Some Kind of Monster. NY: Elektra, 2004. 

Tracy, S. Bands, Booze and Broads. London: Mainstream, 2011.

Video

Mellencamp, J. Falling from Grace. Video. Culver City: TriStar, 2004.

Metallica. Some Kind of Monster. DVD Video. Hollywood: Paramount, 2005.

Audio

Cooper, A. and Barrett, R. [Alice Cooper tells about his fight with alcoholism. Of committing himself to care at a time when he was consuming two quarts of whiskey a day. And his recovery,] eAudobook. ABC TV, 1978.

Notes on Alcoholic Musicians

This list of alcoholic musicians is from many sources that appear to be reliable. However, there is no guarantee of its accuracy.

Know of any alcoholic musicians who should be on this list? If so, please contact hansondj[at sign]potsdam[period]edu/. Ditto if any should not be on the list. Thanks for your help!