Thinking back to the rock celebrity from the 1970s, Alice Cooper, and your mind will probably conjure up images of a creepy long-haired guy with runny black eye makeup who plays with snakes. In an age when hard rock was associated with all things evil, Alice Cooper seemed to epitomise that genre. His style was macabre theatre and he played it up with all his might.
But it wasn’t always that way.
Raised as a pastor’s kid (and the grandson of an evangelist) Alice Cooper grew up in Detroit and Phoenix as Vincent Damon Furnier. He even served in the church as a pre-teen. But as a teen, Furnier wandered off from the church to begin his rock career, eventually adopting the band name “Alice Cooper” as his own. In many respects, he became a completely different person.
Inspired by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, and The Who, Cooper’s band jumped quickly into fame in the 1960s and 1970s with showmanship as well as musical talent. Drugs and alcohol came naturally along with the mix, while violent stage antics began to draw more and more attention. Glam-rock costumes, fake blood, torture of baby dolls, and even mock human executions became trademarks, leaving audiences wondering what could be next.
The effect was controversial in public, to say the least, while Cooper’s life was on a downward spiral in private. Hospitalising himself for alcohol addiction in the late 70s, he wasn’t able to kick his habit of illicit substance abuse. Barely able to remember recording some of his albums in the 80s, Cooper was so addicted that his wife filed for divorce (they then reconciled). He began acting in B-grade horror films as well as appearing as a dark personality in many other formats.
Since then, things have drastically changed again.
The faith of his childhood never went away and Cooper eventually hit rock bottom. He looked around himself and saw his drinking buddies, including Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix, realised they were dying before they were 30, and didn’t want the same for himself.
When he bottomed out, Cooper knew where to turn. He credits his full recovery to God.
Appearing as King Herod in NBC’s live version of Jesus Christ Superstar for Easter 2018, Alice Cooper’s dark experience likely allows him to identify with Herod’s dark side more than the average person.
Now 70 years old, Cooper declares that he and his wife are both Christians who read the bible and pray every day. Alice’s wife, Sheryl, also grew up as the child of a clergyman. The couple has remained faithful to each other throughout their 42-year marriage and are thankful that their three kids have never had any problems with alcohol or drugs.
Alice Cooper doesn’t consider himself to be particularly “religious” but he does go to church every Sunday. He also heads up a faith-based organisation in Phoenix, called Solid Rock, which ministers to teens in partnership with a local church.
Check out these lyrics from Cleansed By Fire from the 1994 album “The Last Temptation”:
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What about truth
What about life
What about glory
What about Christ
What about peace
What about love
What about faith in God above….
And I’m found
And I’m Heaven Bound