Iggy Pop is, without any doubt, one of the most iconic musicians in world history. Widely regarded as the godfather of punk, the American singer first rose to fame as the frontman of the legendary band, The Stooges. He later went on to record a successful solo career in the 70s and 90s, releasing hit tracks such as Lust for Life, The Passenger and Wild One. Even though Pop’s visibility has declined with the passage of time, his impact and legacies remain undisputable.
Early Years and Musical Beginnings
James Newell Osterberg Jr., as the musician was named after his birth, was born on the 21st of April 1947 in Muskegon, Michigan. He hails from a family of three comprising of him, his mom, Louella, and his dad, James Newell Sr. Pop spent the majority of his formative years in a trailer located in a mobile home park. Despite these circumstances, he still had a wonderful childhood as his parents cared a lot about him and made tremendous investments in him. They also encouraged him to explore his interests and when they discovered his love for music, they gladly gave up their master bedroom so that he could have enough space for his drum kit.
As a teenager, Pop performed for several bands, including Prime Movers and The Iguanas (from where he derived his stage moniker – Iggy). He later dropped out of college and relocated to Chicago to pursue a full-time career in music. He formed the band “The Psychedelic Stooges” in 1967 alongside Ron Asheton (guitarist), Scott Asheton (drummer), and Dave Alexander (bassist). Having signed to Elektra Records, The Stooges released their self-titled debut album in 1969, followed by their sophomore album, Fun House, 1970. Both albums performed poorly. This poor commercial success, coupled with increasing drug addiction by most of the band members, cost The Stooges their record deal and they subsequently disbanded in 1971.
Solo Career and Subsequent Reunion of The Stooges
As a solo act, Iggy Pop earned a major boost to his career after striking a friendship with English musician, David Bowie, in the early 70s. Within this period, The Stooges had a brief reunion as the band teamed up with Bowie on their 3rd album Raw Power (1973). The album did better than their previous works but the group had to disband again in 1974, no thanks to Pop’s drug addiction. The Michigan native thus spent the next several years trying to rid himself of drug obsession. In 1977, Pop collaborated with David Bowie on the release of his first two solo albums, The Idiot and Lust for Life, both of which remain his most successful solo releases yet. The duo also collaborated on Pop’s 3rd studio album, TV Eye Live, which was released in 1978. This was followed by a couple of other albums, however, they were not commercially successful.
Iggy Pop’s fortunes changed for the better in 1990 following the release of his Gold-certified album, Brick by Brick. The singer gained more prominence in 1996 when his 1977 single “Lust for Life” was featured in the highly successful British film Trainspotting. By the turn of the century, Iggy Pop had recorded 13 studio albums as a solo artist. His 14th album, Skull Ring (2003), featured collaborations with his former bandmates Ron and Scott Asheton, as well as several other artists. Being the only surviving members of the band, Iggy Pop and the Asheton reformed The Stooges with the addition of bassist, Mike Watt, and saxophonist, Steve Mackay. Despite the reunion of the band, Iggy Pop maintained his solo career even as he performed and created music with his bandmates. The Stooges released their 5th and final album, Ready to Die, in 2013.
Musical Legacy and Achievements
Iggy Pop is often referred to as the godfather of punk and the reason is not far-fetched. The Michigan native and his Stooges bandmates helped to invent and refine punk rock; a genre of music that is characterized by fast-paced songs, hard-edged melodies, and anti-establishment lyrics. Consequently, Pop and his bandmates have influenced a whole generation of artistes including Sex Pistols, Nirvana, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Their songs have also been covered by numerous punk-rock bands and Rolling Stone named them amongst the 100 most influential artist of the past 50 years.
On an individual level, Pop has also established himself as one of the most dynamic stage performers in history. At the height of his career, the Stooges frontman was notorious for brutal onstage antics such as barfing, taking his clothes off, dragging furniture or bodies around, exposing himself, and even cutting himself. Pop also helped to invent and popularize the art of stage diving. He persisted at this art for decades despite some injuries he suffered. It was only in 2018 that the Michigan native announced that he would stop the antics.
Another important part of Iggy Pop’s legacies is the numerous accolades he has accumulated in his career. The legendary rocker has received several honours, including Commander of the Order of Arts & Letters from the French government in 2017, Lifetime Achievement Award from GQ in 2019, as well as induction, together with his Stooges bandmate, into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.
Family Life of the Rock Star
The Stooges frontman has been married on three occasions. His first marriage was to a lady named Wendy Weissberg in 1968. The union lasted for only a couple of weeks before it was annulled. The singer next tied the knot with Japanese actress, Suchi Asano, in 1984. Their matrimony lasted for 14 years and they divorced in 1994. Pop is presently married to his long-term partner, Nina Alu. The couple first met in 1999 while Alu was working as an air stewardess. They moved in together the next year and eventually got married in November 2008. The couple has remained together ever since and in September 2018, reports emerged that Pop had transferred sole ownership of his Miami home to his wife.
Meanwhile, even though Pop’s three marriages have not produced any children, he does have one child. The singer welcomed a son, Eric Benson, with his then-girlfriend, Paulette Benson, in 1970.
Where is Iggy Pop Now?
Pop is presently based in Miami, Florida, and is still going strong. The Stooges frontman continues to pursue his solo music career and in September 2019, he dropped his 18th studio album titled Free. The album featured ten tracks and received positive reviews. It also made it to the top echelons of the Billboard Rock and Alternative Albums Charts. Pop has also continued to make the occasional dabble into acting. The singer appeared in the 2019 horror comedy film, The Dead Don’t Die, a zombie movie that revolves around a town trying to survive a zombie uprising. The movie features A-Listers such as Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, and Bill Murray while Pop played the role of a zombie. Finally, you can also catch Iggy Pop on a weekly radio show on BBC 6 Music known as Iggy Confidential. The program debuted in 2015 and sees the punk pioneer serving up a combination of new hits, as well as old classics.