Born James Newell Osterberg, Jr on April 24, 1947, the young Iggy Pop grew up in humble Michigan surroundings. With an English teacher for a father and a traditional homemaking mother, Osterberg’s future as a wild, stage-performing musician is almost surprising. Beginning his musical endeavours as a drummer for a band called the Iguanas, Osterberg eventually left his home state to go explore the world of Chicago blues, leaving behind his Iguanas bandmates, but taking the name Iggy with him. As his appreciation for blues grew, 1967 brought Iggy back to Detroit with the intention of re-inventing the blues sound he had come to know, and it was with guitarist Ron Asheton, drummer (and brother of Ron’s) Scott Ashton, and bassist Dave Alexander that The Psychedelic Stooges were born.
Inspired after attending a concert by The Doors, Pop was motivated to try his own hand at stage antics, for which he ultimately became famous. It was Iggy Pop, in fact, who holds the honor of being the first rock star to stage dive into a crowd of fans. The first years of The Stooges got off to a rocky start. While their first two albums, The Stooges (1969) and Fun house (1970) flopped, Pop continued to foster a growing heroin addiction, which ultimately led to the breakup of the band. 1971, however, brought a life changing experience for Pop after he met and befriended David Bowie. When the two decided to produce an album together, they recruited the help of guitarist James Williamson and reunited with the Asheton brothers: Scott on drums and Ron switching to bass. With their new lineup, The Stooges released their third album, Raw Power, in 1973, however Pop’s continuing drug addictions once again derailed the band, forcing them to break up for a second time in 1974. It was following this breakup that Pop checked into rehab, but continued to foster his relationship with Bowie. Cleaner and inspired by Bowie’s growing success, Pop was invited to accompany Bowie on tour in 1976, giving him a taste of professional music performance. Collaborating together, Bowie helped Pop produce two solo albums, The Idiot, and Lust for Life, both released in 1977. Finding hits with songs such as “China Girl,” “Sister Midnight,” and “Tonight,” Iggy Pop was moving up in the world.
Trading RCA for Arista Records, Pop released the album New Values in 1979. While not a commercial success in the US, its popularity in Australia and New Zealand led to a visit for which he is still famous down under. After jumping on chairs and making fun of the Australian accent during an interview on the TV show Countdown, Pop secured a continent’s worth of fans who would continue to support his music. After the release of his 1980 album Soldier, and its follow-up, Party (1981) both flopped, Pop was kicked off of Arista Records and left to fend for himself. Things continued to look bad for Pop after his 1982 album, Zombie Birdhouse, was no more well-received, however Pop found financial security thanks to his friend Bowie. After Bowie re-recorded collaborative songs such as “China Girl,” “Tonight,” and “Neighborhood Threat,” Pop found himself reaping the benefit of royalty checks, and found enough financial security to re-enter rehab and kick his heroin addiction for good. Cleaned up and re-energized, Bowie helped Pop produce Blah Blah Blah in 1986, which became his best-selling album to date. His single “Real Wild Child” became a top 10 hit in the UK, while the album itself reached #75 on the US’s Billboard Top 200 chart. Mischievous as ever, Pop’s next album, Instinct (1988), proved radically different than the sounds heard on Blah Blah Blah, and failed to attain the same commercial success as Blah Blah Blah. Following the commercial letdown of Instinct, Pop found himself dropped, once more, by his record label.
Undeterred, Pop released Brick by Brick in 1990, which truly jump-started Bowie’s American career. Certifying gold with over 500,000 copies sold, Brick by Brick was helped along thanks to the song “Candy” which became his first true American hit, reaching the top 40 on the Billboard charts. Three years later, American Caesar was released, and with hits such as “Wild America” and “Beside You,” the album sold well throughout the 90’s. In 1995, Pop’s 1977 song “Lust for Life” was used in the film Trainspotting, and Iggy Pop found himself the subject of part of the film’s plot. Throughout the second half of the 90’s Pop released two more albums: Naughty Little Doggie (1996) and Avenue B (1999), which featured singles such as “I Wanna Live” and “Corruption,” which failed to prove as successful as previous singles.
The new millennium opened countless collaborative doors for Pop. Following his 2001 album Beat ‘Em Up, Pop released Skull Ring (2003) which featured bands such as Sum 41, Green Day, and even the Asheton brothers from his old Stooges days. It was this album which led to the reunion of The Stooges, which helped bring about their first album in more than 30 years, The Weirdness, which was released in 2007. This was followed by a wave of success for The Stooges, who were invited to perform at Madonna’s 2008 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (according to Ron Asheton, because Madonna resented the fact that The Stooges had not yet been inducted). Unfortunately, Ron Asheton’s unexpected death due to heart failure in 2009 meant that he did not get to see the band finally inducted in 2010, and the fate of The Stooges is unclear. By continuing to remain in the spotlight through guest appearances on TV shows and through collaboration work with numerous bands, and even lending voice work to the video game Lego Rock Band, Iggy Pop has ensured a long and varied career. Whether influencing the world of Rock or participating in the production of films and TV shows, Pop’s influence on the world cannot be denied.
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