Monday, April 23, 2012 at 11:05 a.m.
James Newell Osterberg Junior, better-known to the world simply as Iggy Pop, is and will always be one of rock's most indelible icons, a man who literally put himself on the edge and defied his fans to get the better of him. Iggy, who was born April 21, 1947, could be considered a punk pioneer, and indeed, those insurgents who followed in his wake idolize him as much today as they did when he debuted with the Stooges toward the tail end of the '60s.
These days, at age 65, he remains as unrepentant as ever, still baring his chest onstage, contorting his body, and making the occasional stage dive like he used to when he was rampaging through the clubs and concert halls of his native Detroit.
Iggy's outrageous antics still set him apart, but it wasn't simply his penchant for bizarre behavior that made him a legend. Several of his songs have become ingrained in the rock 'n' roll lexicon, among them "Lust for Life," "Real Wild Child," "China Girl," "Nightclubbing," and "Search and Destroy." Indeed, the Stooges -- guitarist Ron Asheton, Asheton's brother Scott on drums, and bassist Dave Alexander -- are still considered one of the most innovative outfits of their time, a savage, frenzied quartet whose brash style and markedly noncommercial approach kept them well removed from the mainstream. Legend has it that Iggy even called Moe Howard of the Three Stooges to ask permission to borrow the comedy trio's name. According to all accounts at the time, Howard replied, "I don't care what they call themselves, as long as they're not the Three Stooges!" and then hung up the phone.
Signed to Elektra Records, once a folk label as well as home to the Doors, the band recorded two landmark albums, The Stooges and Fun House, the latter produced by the Velvet Underground's John Cale. Not surprisingly, neither sold well, but regardless, Iggy's image was quickly established.
He would go on to achieve a more respectable status after meeting David Bowie in 1971, and the two then became fast friends. In fact, Bowie quickly signed on to produce the final album credited to the Stooges, 1972's Raw Power
. The two men's friendship endured, despite the fact that Iggy was now consuming prodigious amounts of drugs, resulting in his decision to check himself into a mental institute to clean himself up. Bowie visited him there, and it was rumored that he was even smuggling in cocaine. However, once Iggy was released in 1976, Bowie did him one better, taking him along on tour. Afterward, the two relocated to Berlin, where they cowrote "China Girl," "Tonight," and "Sister Midnight," songs that became staples in both of their repertoires. Bowie also produced Pop's two initial solo efforts, The Idiot
and Lust for Life
, records that would establish Iggy's singular presence as a solo star.
Iggy would continue to make albums throughout the '80s, '90s, and into the new millennium, during which time he convened a successful Stooges reunion. However, it's his bizarre onstage behavior -- rolling over on broken glass, mutilating himself with sharp objects, and stage-diving into the audience -- that ensures his image forever. In 2010, he insisted that those antics were behind him, and yet his penchant for flinging himself into the crowd continues, even though it's less frequent. You have to admire a guy who puts himself on the edge, especially at his age. Hey, Iggy, you're a senior citizen now. Be careful how you abuse yourself!
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