Scandals are as big a part of classic rock history as the music itself. Famous names from the 1970s that we still know and love today, like David Bowie and Led Zeppelin, were not universally adored in their era. Sometimes it was because of the artistic choices they made for their onstage persona, and sometimes it was due to their actions and lifestyle choices offstage. Whatever the reason, their fame was often rooted in controversy as opposed to artistry.
Below is our list of the top 4 controversial rock musicians from the 70s.
1. John Lennon
John Lennon’s musical career took off when the band that he was a member of, the Beatles, rocked the world in the 1960s. By the 1970s, however, Lennon shed his boy band skin and became a solo artist and a political activist. His infamous Bed-In For Peace protest against the Vietnam War with his then-wife, Oko Ono, won them both international ire and ridicule.
In addition to his strong political opinions, Lennon was also prone to anger. He cheated on his first wife Cynthia and his second wife Oko, and at times displayed abusive as well as homophobic behavior.
In December 1980, Lennon was shot by a fan named Mark David Chapman. He died from his wounds at the hospital – an unconventional end to an unconventional career.
2. Ozzy Osbourne
Ozzy Osbourne was a singer in the rock band Black Sabbath from 1969 to 1979. His decade-long stint with the group, as well as his entire career, was shadowed by controversy. Among his offenses were allegations that he was a Satanist and promoted Satanism with his music.
Osbourne denies these claims, although the self-titled Prince of Darkness didn’t help much with his actions. He even wrote a song called “Mr. Crowley,” named after occultist Aleister Crowley. Eventually, he was booted from the band because of his exorbitant drug and alcohol use – although Osbourne claims he didn’t drink or do drugs any more than the other Black Sabbath members.
3. Led Zeppelin
The rock band Led Zeppelin has a torrid history of controversy, some of which remains unproven even to this day. The most scandalous rumor about them is that they defiled a groupie in their hotel room by tying her to the bed and stuffing shark parts in her vagina. However, another band called Vanilla Fudge claims they were responsible for what is now known as the mud-shark incident.
No other witnesses have come forward to confirm or deny the event. It remains a black mark on Led Zeppelin’s multi-platinum record career.
4. David Bowie
David Bowie was always a unique artist, but he really pushed the limits of the music industry – and his own sanity – with his alter ego Ziggy Stardust. His songs went to the top of music charts all around the globe, but his stage performances as Ziggy got more and more wild. In one performance, he wore nothing but a sumo wrestler’s loincloth, and in another he acted as if he was giving oral sex to guitarist Mick Ronson’s instrument.
After just one year, he retired the character, but according to Bowie himself, Ziggy Stardust still affected his personality for years afterwards.
Even though these musicians struggled with scandal, we still love their music. Which one is your favorite? Request your favorite “controversial” hits from our music library here.