It's a fine line between pure genius and utter insanity. Many musicians have made a career out of toeing that line. Or, uh, totally jumping it and never looking back.
As it turns out, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. And since batshit crazy people don't care what month it actually is, neither do we!
Sure, we're a few days early. But we're taking time to honor those crackpot pop stars who most wonderfully crashed and burned before our eyes. After all, what is an artist without a catastrophic psychological breakdown?
10. Britney Spears
Britney started out innocently enough, in a school girl outfit being all "please hit me, I love you." The real train-wreck didn't start until 2004 with her shotgun wedding to a childhood friend that lasted, oh, about 55 hours. Soon, she found Kaballah and real love with Kevin Federline. Just like any other couple, they filmed their blooming romance as a failed reality television show.
In 2005, she had her first baby and promptly began teaching it to drive. Then she stopped wearing shoes in public restrooms and generally fell into skanky disarray until even Federline said, "Fuck this." Eventually, she had to shave her head just to feel normal.
But was Brit really crazy? Or just doing a lot of drugs? After all, they can't drug test your hair and take your babies away if you have none! Oh wait, they did take her kids. Nevermind.
9. Sinead O'Connor
The Irish singer-songwriter shot to worldwide fame with her cover of "Nothing Compares 2 U" in 1990. She first raised eyebrows after refusing to play a show at New Jersey's Garden State Arts Center if the national anthem was gonna be her opening act.
But O'Connor wasn't really an icon for crazy until she ripped a picture of the Pope in half while performing on Saturday Night Live. In a shocking display of political protest, she turned a bunch of God-fearing Americans against her forever.
But is Sinead crazy? Or just a rebel with a controversial cause? Maybe both. But in 2007, she admitted to Oprah that she'd been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She even attempted suicide on her 33rd birthday. Of course, O'Connor's still alive. But she's hurting. Yesterday, the Irish pop star cancelled her North American summer tour, citing another breakdown.
8. Mariah Carey
On a lighter note, there's almost nothing funnier than watching Mariah Carey totally lose her mind on MTV. In 2001, the sexy songstress made a surprise appearance on Total Request Live, wearing almost nothing and pushing an ice-cream cart. She did a little strip-tease before confiding, "Every now and then, somebody needs a little therapy."
The next day, she started writing a bunch of crazy person crap on her website. She admitted to not getting enough sleep or taking care of herself. And a short time later, Mariah was hospitalized for "exhaustion."
No big deal, this diva just needed a nap. And we get it ... You need some reaffirmation and instant love from your fans after you release a cinematic turd like Glitter.
7. Sid Vicious
He's the poster boy for punk and the ultimate poser. Sid Vicious couldn't play bass. But he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Sex Pistols. And it doesn't really matter if he was talented or not. The guy's story is romantic, gory, and drug-fueled. Basically, the best burnout of all time.
Friends say he was actually a driven and gentle guy before meeting ill-fated girlfriend Nancy Spungen and her buddy heroin. Then his life slipped into mumbled nonsense and sharing needles. After the Pistols disbanded and a less-than-stellar attempt at a solo career, Vicious sealed his spot in rock 'n' roll history by waking up in a bloody hotel room with his dead girlfriend.
He was taken to jail. But he made bail and went home with his mom, who did the motherly thing and bought him heroin to help the boo-hoos. Predictably, Sid overdosed. His mom later found a suicide note reading, "We had a death pact, and I have to keep my half of the bargain. Please bury me next to my baby in my leather jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots. Goodbye."
6. Brian Wilson
Though clearly a musical genius with a rich legacy that will last well beyond his years, Brian Wilson was definitely hanging off the edge. He met cocaine in the late '60s and shit got weird. He became increasingly removed from the Beach Boys' recording sessions -- and the world in general. By 1973, Wilson's father had died and he spent most of his time sleeping, eating, and doing drugs until he went from Beach Boy to beach ball.
His totally whacked therapist, Eugene Landy decided the best thing to do was fire him from the band and sequester him in Hawaii. (Note: Landy was eventually stripped of his license, though Wilson did start talking again.) Later diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, Wilson has since made a decent recovery and returned to music. He's back with the Beach Boys, recording and touring with them on their upcoming national reunion. That's reason to smiley smile.
5. Carlos Santana
Everyone was stoked when Santana came back hard, going platinum 15 times over and winning nine Grammies with Supernatural. But did you know the man is totally out of his mind?
That same album we all jammed to in the '90s was apparently his holy mission, as ordained by an angel named Metatron. He told Rolling Stone that "Metatron is the architect of physical life. Because of him, we can French kiss, we can hug, we can get a hot dog, wiggle our toe."
So, uh, the story goes that Metatron told Santana to make Supernatural as a way to reach the youth: "You will be inside the radio frequency ... for the purpose of connecting the molecules with the light." Or maybe he just took a bunch of acid before going into a label meeting where management asked him to make a record with the guy from Matchbox 20 to save his career.
4. Whitney Houston
After she was America's sweetheart (but before she was a dead saint), Whitney Houston was a straight-up crack head all over television. In the late '90s and early 2000s, the highly decorated and multitalented powerhouse started making headlines for the wrong reasons. Rumors abounded of her abusive relationship with Bobby Brown and alleged drug use.
In an infamous interview with Diane Sawyer, Houston admitted to using drugs while denying the crack allegations. Later in 2004, though, she let it all hang out on the reality television series Being Bobby Brown.
Of course, being a maniac drug abuser in the privacy of your own home and seeing yourself act like one on TV are very different things. So the show ended with Whitney and Bobby's marriage as the diva checked herself into rehab.
Unfortunately, Houston couldn't be cured of her addictions. And she died in February.
3. Michael Jackson
Bubbles the monkey. Neverland Ranch. The Elephant Man's bones. Lisa Marie Presley. Outbidding Sir Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono for the rights to The Beatles' songs. Naming his sons Prince and Blanket. Dangling his baby over the edge of a balcony. Child abuse scandals. Permanent makeup. That nose. That voice. That skin. 'Nuff said.
Without a doubt, original Pink Floyd frontman Syd Barett was batshit crazy. His music sounded like the purest insanity. Then he fell into a bottomless pit of insanity. And all subsequent Pink Floyd albums are in fact love letters to Barett, musing on the concept and sad reality of insanity.
Nevertheless, his erratic and distortion-heavy sound helped pioneer guitar playing into what we recognize today. He died in 2006 at the age of 60, having spent more than 30 years of his life in self-imposed seclusion. A genius, yes. But a mad one. The best kind.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Miami New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Miami's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
1. Phil Spector
He invented the Wall of Sound. He brought the songs you love to life. He held The Ramones at gunpoint. He was convicted of murder. This guy is the total embodiment of that line between genius and insanity.
Gunplay was an apparent theme throughout his life. Many girlfriends claimed that when they wanted to leave, he'd just point a gun at them and they'd somehow change their minds. Perhaps the murder of actress Lana Clarkson was the result of a similar experience. But seeing as he was 64 at the time, his trigger finger must have been a little shakier than in the days of his youth. Too bad for Spector, "I shot her but it felt like a kiss" isn't a good excuse.