Happy Birthday to the Comeback Kid, Steven Tyler! A Rundown of Tyler's Setbacks

Few artists have managed to achieve so much and still overcome as many personal setbacks as Aerosmith's Steven Tyler.

Born March 26, 1948, he's gained the distinction of being one of the most successful singers of all time, a colorful character whose band has become exceedingly popular not only with the hard rock fans who are their core followers but with mainstream admirers as well. Rolling Stone included him among its 100 Greatest Singers of all time, while Hit Parader magazine pronounced him third on their tally of great heavy-metal vocalists. Indeed, it was Tyler who penned "Dream On" well before Aerosmith formed, giving the band a leg up when it came to chart contention. 

Had they advanced no further than the first phase of their career,

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Aerosmith's notoriety would already have been assured. After a shaky

start, their albums Toys in the Attic and Rocks -- along

with hit singles "Sweet Emotion," Dream On," and "Walk This Way" found

them ranking among the '70s' most successful recording acts.

Still, drug abuse took its toll, and by the mid-'80s the band had

splintered and all but disappeared from the radar. Tyler himself

suffered a serious motorcycle mishap in 1980, one of several

health-related issues he'd face in the years to come, and by the time he

entered rehab in 1986 -- the result of a collapse onstage -- the band's

future was seriously in doubt.

Shortly thereafter, Tyler began the first of several comebacks he'd manage over the years. In the late '80s, Aerosmith regrouped and launched a string of successful albums (Permanent Vacation, Pump, and Get a Grip among them) that would bring them back to prominence. Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry appeared on Run D.M.C.'s remake of "Walk This Way," a track that not only marked the first rock and hip-hop collaboration but also an effort that brought Aerosmith to a younger generation of music enthusiasts.

The band recruited outside writers like Desmond Child and Jim Vallance and bulked up its sound to make it both radio-ready and stadium-savvy, resulting in another string of hits, including "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)," "Angel," "Rag Doll," "Love in an Elevator," and "Janie's Got a Gun." They became darlings on MTV, helping to launch the successful series Behind the Music with a candid tell-all about the band's earlier misadventures. They also netted their first Grammy and became household names, appearing in such outside arenas as Wayne's World and The Simpsons.

Unfortunately, Tyler's trials weren't quite over. His penchant for writing sexually explicit lyrics garnered criticism in some quarters and sparked rumors to the effect that he was again using drugs and cheating on his spouse. Even so, Tyler managed to overcome adversity once more. Aerosmith's 1993 album, Get a Grip, sold 15 million copies and spawned several more hit singles, two more Grammys, four MTV Video Music Awards, two American Music Awards, a Billboard Award, and a People's Choice Award. Its follow-up, Nine Lives, reaped another Grammy and several more hits. However, while touring to support the album, Tyler suffered yet another setback when a microphone stand fell on his knee and caused a ligament injury. 

Still, Tyler persevered, and in 2001, Aerosmith performed at the half-time show for the Super Bowl XXXV, followed by Aerosmith's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame two years later. Tyler himself received an honorary degree at Berklee College of Music in 2003 and an honorary doctorate from the University of Massachusetts in 2005.

Yet medical problems again came back to haunt him. In 2003, he began undergoing treatment for hepatitis C, a condition that he had suffered from for at least a decade, related no doubt to his use of needles back in his drug-abusing days. In 2006, he underwent throat surgery, and in 2008, he checked into a rehab clinic in Pasadena to recover from a series of leg injuries. Then, on August 5, 2009, he fell off the stage and sustained severe head, neck, and shoulder injuries. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that he had quit Aerosmith and that he had reentered rehab to deal with recurring pain and dependence on painkillers.

As if he hadn't sustained enough injury, on October 25, Tyler slipped in his hotel shower in Paraguay and injured his face, resulting in the loss of several teeth. He was rushed to the hospital but managed to appear the following night, proudly showing off his broken tooth and a black eye. 

For all Tyler's self-destructive tendencies and accident-prone inclinations, his ability to come back from adversity is nothing short of remarkable. Keith Richards may be rock's most invincible death-defying icon, but clearly Tyler is a strong second place. 

These days, Tyler's happily entrenched in the mainstream with a cushy judging job on American Idol, a new autobiography (Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?) and continued work with Aerosmith. If there's any lesson to be learned from this comeback kid, it's that we should all be so lucky to walk that way.

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