Like their music that still spins on radio airwaves 50 years after its release, sometimes it feels like our favorite classic rock artists and idols will live forever. But life marches on, and unfortunately we’ve lost some of the best singers and songwriters of the modern era in recent years. Fans of David Bowie, Prince, and Tom Petty know the feeling all too well.
And yet on the other hand, our rock gods often push the envelope their entire lives in pursuit of their art. Really, every survival story should be celebrated, and every classic rock star who is still kicking ass and taking names deserves their own tune of appreciation. Here are four classic rock artists who faced serious health scares over the years, but lived to tell the tale.
Some musicians lived hard, and some musicians acted erratically. But few ever blended the outrageous with the insane quite like Ozzy. A favorite son of the Grim Reaper, we could choose any number of outbursts or accidents to symbolize Ozzy’s life on the wild side. But one fateful day in 1993 stands out above the rest.
While driving a four-wheeler of all things, Osbourne flipped and nearly lost his life. Suffering a broken collarbone, eight fractured ribs, and damaged neck vertebrae, Osbourne was placed in a coma for eight days at Wexham Park Hospital while undergoing emergency surgery.
“My ribcage is still full of screws and bolts and metal rods,” Ozzy joked in his 2009 autobiography, I Am Ozzy. “When I walk through an airport metal detector these days, a klaxon goes off in the Pentagon.”
Ozzy wouldn’t tour heavily again for over a decade, with 2006’s Ozzfest dates across the US being his first full shows following the accident.
Not exactly known for his antics or the general insanity of some rockers, David Crosby still almost passed away in 1994 due to hepatitis C diagnosis. The former Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young star received the diagnosis because his liver was functioning at just 20 percent of its capacity after many years of hard living (and hard drinking) on the road.
And for the trivia buffs out there, guess who paid for Crosby’s surgery? None other than fellow musician Phil Collins. Crosby acknowledged the gesture by saying “[Phil] loves me… it was incredibly kind of him to do it.”
After a historic run of Led Zeppelin shows at London’s Earl’s Court in 1975, legendary frontman Robert Plant went on vacation (ahem, holiday) with his family. During the retreat, a horrific car crash left his wife Maureen in critical condition; and Plant, who had been driving at the time, also broke a few bones.
Zeppelin management cancelled tour dates in support of the Physical Graffiti album, and the follow-up album Presence stalled as Plant recovered in a wheelchair.
Two years later, a 1977 run of dates in the US would become the band’s biggest and most distinguished tour of their careers. They split in 1980, although Plant continues to tour as a solo act today. As for Plant’s health, the story basically ended after he recuperated. But Benji Lefevre, a Zeppelin staff member during the era, recalled in an interview years later that the crash had lasting effects on Plant: he still “can’t move his arm completely to this day,” according to Lefevre.
The enigmatic singer songwriter with one of rock’s most unique voices was lucky to live long enough to even have a career. Growing up in 1950’s Canada, Young contracted polio as a young child, and was rushed to the hospital.
“It was a very serious situation. It was obvious his life was on the line,” older brother Bob Young said on Neil’s fight.
During Neil’s recovery, health officials even placed a quarantine sign on the family’s lawn to ward off visitors — that’s how seriously they took polio at the time. And in the years after his recovery, Young experienced so much pain that he had to sometimes wear back braces during concerts. In the years since, Young has suffered from diabetes, epilepsy and, in 2005, a brain aneurysm. He’s still playing music to this day (and speaking his mind, especially when it comes to health issues like COVID-19).
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