Much has been written over the years regarding the hedonistic lifestyle that shock rock pioneer Alice Cooper embraced earlier in his career. During the latter half of the seventies his alcoholism became so notorious and self-destructive that both his manager Shep Gordon and long-suffering wife Sheryl Goddard staged an intervention which saw the legendary star committed to a sanitarium for a month in order to combat his demons. ‘As much as I knew I needed to go, I was fighting it ‘til the end,’ he would confess to Classic Rock many years later. ‘Taking alcohol away from an alcoholic is like cutting off his oxygen supply.
Emerging from the institution reformed and ready to focus on his career and marriage, Cooper would soon relapse and over the next five years a mixture of alcohol abuse and freebasing would lead many to believe that the singer was set to become the latest rock ‘n’ roll casualty. Even as close friend Keith Moon became another contemporary to succumb to the debauchery and addiction that success would bring, Cooper descended into a nightmarish abyss in which Vincent Furnier and his onstage monstrous alter-ego became indistinguishable.
‘Cindy and I saw Alice’s 1981 appearance on Tom Snyder’s late night talk show and we almost screamed when we saw this tarted-up, cadaverous shell of a guy,’ recalled former bassist Dennis Dunaway upon seeing the fractured singer during a notorious television interview. ‘Only distantly in that glittering wreck could we see our old buddy, that ol’ laugh riot Vince. When he moved on to freebasing it sucked out his life force.’ It would take a life-threatening incident to force Cooper to turn his life around, having awoken one morning in his hotel to find the bathroom coated in his blood.
Immediately abandoning both alcohol and narcotics, Cooper rekindled his marriage with Sheryl and, retreating from the music industry, began to focus on both his health and family. It would also be during this time that he would rediscover his faith. Having been raised in a religious household, Cooper had turned his back on his Christian background but it would be through this rediscovery of God that he would find the strength to overcome his personal demons. ‘I have never made fun of religion,’ he insisted in an interview with Fangoria during his mid-eighties comeback. ‘Religion is something I don’t ever want to mess with because I am really afraid of the clouds opening up and my being struck with lightning.’
Having eventually come to terms with the fact that Alice Cooper was merely a character, Cooper has remained sober for over thirty-five years and despite the horror theatrics of his stage performances and macabre nature of many of his songs, he has remained dedicated to his faith. While at times certain elements of this may permeate through his work, particularly with 1994’s morality-themed The Last Temptation, Cooper has resisted preaching his beliefs in his music and has instead continued to explore alienation, rebellion and the darker aspects of the human psyche through an array of critically-acclaimed albums.
I grew up in the church and went as far away as you can go
In a new interview with 3rd Hour of Today, Cooper and Sheryl spoke to host Natalie Morales regarding how the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle almost became the death of him and how it was his faith that ultimately pulled him back from the abyss. ‘My dad was a pastor, my grandfather was an evangelist so I grew up in the church,’ he began. ‘I was the prodigal son, I grew up in the church and went as far away as you can go and then got reeled back in. I had to overcome alcohol and drug addiction and that was something that was par for the course for any rock star. In fact it was a requirement. I’m sitting there drinking with Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix; those guys were my big brothers and they’re all dying at twenty-seven-years-old. And you’re sitting there going, ‘Okay, how am I going to survive this thing?’ Nobody ever thought passed thirty…I was on that highway.’
But following his epiphany in the early-eighties, Cooper finally turned his back on alcoholism and drug addiction in order to save his marriage, as well as his life. ‘Everything was much clearer,’ he continued. ‘Now I could see who Alice was, who I was, who the family was. Most of all, who the Lord was.’ Despite the negative image that many rock and metal acts have from the mainstream, particularly with regards to accusations of Satanism or atheism, Cooper feels that the relationship that the genre has with religion is one of positivity. ‘I look at a lot of the death metal bands and they’re screaming at God,’ he concludes. ‘They’re so mad at God and I think that’s a good thing; they’re screaming out at something that they want there to help. ‘Come on!!!’ I think that there’s something very healthy about that.’