The easy assumption to make about musicians is that they all drink and do drugs. It’s true, many artists do battle the demons. By my estimate, about as many lose their life to drugs and alcohol as those who never touch the stuff.
Usage is so prevalent, one has to ask: Isn’t the choice to abstain a more rebellious move? Here’s another: Must an artist go to that dark place to create awesome music?
The artists on this list didn’t. They are the few who never once touched the stuff, not drugs, not a drop of alcohol. The toughest drugs on this list include caffeine and aspirin.
We’ll start with three who are no longer with us but lived a sober life until their deaths. Then we’ll talk about five others who are still rocking in a free world.
Not the most popular jazz musician, Dolphy played sax, flute and clarinet with prominence in the ‘60s. The hardest drug he took was insulin.
Dolphy was a diabetic. In fact, it was diabetes that killed him in 1964.
During his life, he played with many talented jazz musicians, including Booker Little, and John Coltrane.
Coltrane himself abused drugs and alcohol for years before becoming sober later in life. Perhaps it was his time spent with Dolphy that influenced that choice.
Frank Zappa was a musician, songwriter, composer, guitarist, record producer, actor and filmmaker. He did it all without a drop of booze, without a single toke.
As a musician, Zappa’s style was diverse. While he influenced and continues to influence many musicians, defining his style was tough.
Although Zappa enjoyed many pot-smoking fans, he was so against drugs and booze, it’s rumored he fired songwriter Lowell George, for writing a song on the subject.
Zappa passed in 1993, a teetotaler ’til the end.
Some would argue Prince doesn’t belong on this list. After all, it was drugs that ended his life.
This much is true, but he didn’t seek an escape from his life through chemicals. His religious beliefs as a devout Mormon his whole life, forbid drugs use.
Prior to the time when Prince started taking heavy-duty pain pills as prescribed by his physician, he was 100% sober.
Prince is known for many things, but he is most notably known for broad instrument mastery. The guitar may have been his favorite, but from an early age, he could play 27 different instruments.
More than once he was the solo musician on an album. It’s safe to say, it will be a long time before we see a musician as talented as this man.
From before the time, Young’s brother invited him to join his band, he never wanted to do drug or drink. Perhaps that why he’s still rocking at age 61.
You might not know the band, ACDC, but you know Young from his onstage antics, hopping around on one foot while playing guitar. That, and the blue schoolboy hat on his head.
Young was more the chocolate milk sort, according to bandmates. The stiffest thing you would catch him drinking was a cup of coffee.
The man whose reputation for sleeping with legions of women also wears the reputation of sobriety.
It’s not just that Simmons doesn’t drink or do drugs. He never did.
Besting Angus Young, Simmons is 67 years old. Rockers don’t usually make it that far.
Simmons has admitted that he valued himself too much to dull his perceptions with chemicals.
Despite his punk image, the former front man for Black Flag never picked up the bottle. He never snorted or smoked anything that made him high.
He even once wrote a song called drinking and driving, a PSA against the activity.
By all other accounts, he’s still a young man at 51. Rollins lives a full life too. He acts, hosts a radio show, and writes a column in the LA Weekly rag.
Arguably one of the best things happening to Hip Hip right now, Lamar has been a teetotaler from the beginning.
His abstinence may not match the Hip Hop mystique of drugs, money, and women, but Lamar isn’t any kind of cliche. His actions match that persona.
The great thing about Lamar is, judging by how long teetotaling musicians live, we may be far from experiencing his magnum opus.
The Cinderella story of reality TV, Hudson didn’t win American Idol in 2005, but she has since made quite a name for herself as an actor and performer.
She, like Lamar, is still very young at 35 years old. She’s even written a book about her rise from rags. We can expect to hear more from this artist in the future.
So, can we agree these are some pretty badass musicians? These artists set the true benchmark for musical rebellion. They achieved all the great milestones of their respective lives without escaping their respective realities.