Musicians aren’t the best role models. The combination of fame and money is well-known to warp brains, and in this article we’ll share with you some of the most demented, illegal and otherwise scandalous behavior ever perpetrated in the music industry. From murder and mayhem to naked teenagers to a well-traveled fish, here are the most shocking music scandals of all time.
Phil Spector Murders Lana Clarkson – 2003
Elfin record producer Phil Spector was behind the mixing board for some of rock and roll’s most unforgettable songs, including “Let It Be” and “Unchained Melody.” But his private life was a morass of alcoholism and feuding. Essentially retired, Spector holed up in his Los Angeles mansion and entertained a variety of women, but when actress/cocktail waitress Lana Clarkson was found dead in his home in 2003, Spector finally went over the deep end. He denied killing her, but the courts found otherwise and he was sentenced to 19 years to life in the California state pen.
Sinead O’Connor Tears Up the Pope – 1992
No matter what you think of "Saturday Night Live" in the '90s, they had some awesome hosts and musical guests. On an October night in 1992, the show was hosted by Tim Robbins and featured Sinead O’Connor, who had huge success a few years earlier with “Nothing Compares 2 U.” When she took the stage, she delivered a rousing a capella performance of “War” by Bob Marley before pulling a photo of Pope John Paul II from her pocket, holding it to the camera and ripping it up before saying “Fight the real enemy.” Catholics erupted in rage, and when the show is rerun it uses footage from the dress rehearsal instead. The incident basically killed O’Connor’s career, but even now she says she regrets nothing.
Tatu Solicits Naked Kiddie Pics – 2003
Russian one-hit-wonder duo Tatu never flinched from controversy. Most of their initial marketing positioned them as lesbian lovers who made out in public all the time (despite the two girls both being heterosexual). In 2003, they decided to push things even further by issuing a press release in Russia asking teenage girls to come do a naked photo shoot for their next album cover. The group said that girls as young as 14 were welcome to doff their duds and show it all to the world. Needless to say, the authorities intervened and the photo shoot didn’t happen.
Rick James Hostage Crisis – 1991
The funk artist responsible for all-time classic “Super Freak” was also responsible for one of the most intense cocaine addictions of all time, spending some $7,000 a week in the '80s and '90s. Needless to say, blowing that much yay turns you into the kind of person who makes some bad choices, and in 1991, James and then-girlfriend Tanya Hijazi kidnapped a woman, kept her in a closet for a week and forced her to perform all manner of sex acts on the loving couple in between burning her flesh with a crack pipe. Needless to say, James was arrested, but even more amazingly is that when out on bail, he did it again to a different woman. Surprisingly, the Super Freak spent only two years in Folsom Prison for all this.
Madonna’s Pepsi Problem – 1989
The geriatric singer is another one who knows that controversy creates cash, but she pushed things a little too far in 1989. At the top of her game, Madge signed a staggering $5 million deal with Pepsi to promote their soda. The commercial she made coincided with the release of her "Like a Prayer" album, and featured the title track. The same title track saw Madonna release a video that featured insane Catholic symbolism including the singer developing stigmata (bleeding wounds on the hands that mirrored the wounds of Jesus) and hanging out in front of a burning cross. Needless to say, religious types weren’t happy and Pepsi pulled the commercial after it aired only once.
DMX Carjacking – 2004
Rapper Earl Simmons, better known as DMX, is one of those guys who gets in trouble no matter where he goes. His list of scandals is as long as your arm, but his lowest moment probably came at New York’s JFK Airport in 2004. In the parking lot, DMX ran up to a man in his car, stuck a pistol in his face and claimed to be a FBI agent who needed to commandeer his car. Somebody called 911 and the cops came to bust the rapper and haul him off to jail.
Gary Glitter Child Porn – 1997
If you’ve been to a sports game in the last few decades, you’ve probably heard Gary Glitter’s 1972 hit “Rock and Roll Part 2.” Profits from that one tune have been enough to set the English glam rocker up for life, leaving him free to pursue his other hobby: child pornography. In 1997, he brought a laptop into a local computer store for repair, and the technicians found 4,000 illegal images on his hard drive. After his arrest, he fled the country to Cambodia, where he continued his dalliances with the young ones.
Euronymous Murder – 1993
The Norwegian black metal scene is scary, with corpse-painted maniacs generating some of the most brutal and uncompromising music ever made in between burning churches to the ground. Perhaps the biggest scandal that the sleepy nation has ever seen involves the horrible death of Oystein Aarseth, better known as Mayhem guitarist Euronymous. On a sleepy night in August, Euronymous got a visit from Varg Vikernes, the singer of Mayhem, and a cohort. The pair soon got into a fight, the reason still unknown, and it ended with Vikernes stabbing Euronymous 23 times. He was given 21 years in prison for both the murder and a string of church arsons.
Chris Brown Beats Rihanna – 2009
Before February of 2009, R & B singer Chris Brown and girlfriend Rihanna looked to be one of the music industry’s most beautiful couples. Everything the pair touched went gold. And then Brown touched Rihanna’s face. With his fists. The singer, in a fit of rage, savagely beat his girlfriend in a parked car, battering her face so badly that she needed to be taken to the hospital. Amazingly enough, Brown continued to have a successful career even after the incident, with some of his female fans publicly wishing that he would beat them up as well.
Next: Never Pass Out First
Led Zeppelin, a Groupie and a Fish – 1969
The '70s were a prime time for rock excess, and the boys in Led Zeppelin were some of the worst offenders. In one of the nastiest, sleaziest tales of groupie abuse we’ve ever read, the band (staying in a Seattle hotel that overlooked the water) took a redheaded fan and inserted the face of a red snapper into her most private regions. The group used to fish from the windows of the hotel (it was encouraged) and the combination of nubile young ladies on drugs and fresh seafood was too much to resist. Needless to say, they were banned from the hotel forever after this.