Sly Stone and Six Other Musicians Who've Claimed Homelessness
Funk pioneer Sly Stone announced in the New York Post this week that he's homeless. Fans are lamenting Stone's predicament, but we see it as karmic retribution for the annoying omnipresence of his music (those who have heard "Everyday People" 90 times during a morning commute can relate).
Stone, notorious for drug abuse and a tendency to ditch concerts, is hardly a sympathetic guy. We feel bad that he lost his house, but his current digs--a tricked-out van that he parks on a quiet residential street--seems appropriate. Stone actually claims to enjoy the hobo lifestyle, recording new songs in a portable studio and emerging from his camper occasionally to prance around in an old stage costume.
Is it a tragedy, a sad footnote to a promising career? Not really. Stone will bounce back, because erratic behavior aside, he's maintained enough name recognition to earn a decent living on the oldies circuit--if he ever starts showing up for gigs.
Just as homelessness won't be the end of Stone, it's rarely been the end for other musicians, famous and otherwise. Vagrancy and pop music often go hand-in-hand, as evidenced by the list of once and future homeless musicians we've assembled below.
6. JD Fortune (INXS)
J.D. Fortune. Nice eyebrows, guy.
Prior to earning the singing job for INXS in 2005, Fortune, a pouting Canadian girlie man, claimed to be sleeping in his car. After getting fired from INXS for drug use, Fortune, proving that a good hobo is hard to pin down, went back to living out of a vehicle.
The guys in INXS took pity on Fortune and rehired him in 2009, only to release him again this year, presumably so J.D. could get back to doing what he does best--performing as a solo artist. Just kidding! As it turns out, INXS found a more reliable replacement, Ciaran Gribbin, a guy who not only can sing the INXS classics, but has no inclination to ride the rails anytime soon.
Anyway, based on Fortune's tendency to bolt from any obligation requiring a bank account and a fixed address, we're going to assume that his sole hit with INXS, "Dirty Vegas," wasn't about the sordid highlights of a weekend bachelor party but the piles of skid-marked underwear, takeout sandwich wrappers, and crushed beer cans strewn about the sedans and hatchbacks that he likes to call home.
5. Kurt Cobain
Smells like one scary dude.
As a teenage runaway, the Nirvana leader logged time in all the usual tragic spots, including floors, couches, and basements across his native Pacific Northwest. Consequently, we find stories of Cobain sleeping in a cardboard box on a friend's porch to be heartbreaking.
On the other hand, we find the persistent rumors that Kurt once lived under a bridge to be hilarious, and can only presume that Cobain perversely enjoyed the arrangement, judging by his propensity to hunch his shoulders and make cartoonish troll faces back in the day.
Whereas peers like Kim Thayil of Soundgarden embodied the sex offender archetype, Cobain, with his soiled hair, slight stature, and homicidal, acid-tweaked eyes, perfectly evoked a creature that terrorizes unsuspecting goats and children who dare to cross his path.
Jewel and her formerly homeless cleavage.
Dig up any old piece of press about Jewel and it's sure to mention how she once lived on a crusty old school bus in Alaska, where she wrote poems by candlelight, taught herself to play acoustic guitar, and studied law before running for President and freeing the slaves... er, sorry, wrong story.
We suspect the lite-folk drama queen actually slept in a fancy RV while touring the country and later embellished the details to look more tragic or uplifting, or just to distract jaded audiences from questioning how an unknown, unremarkable singer scored heavy airplay and got her first video directed by Sean Penn (note: Sean Penn seems to have a thing for younger blondes).
3. Tupac Shakur
Tupac: Better off dead?
Along with detention centers, the late hip-hop icon reportedly spent part of his youth in homeless shelters. We know it sounds condescending, but Tupac definitely gained from his troubled upbringing, creatively speaking.
Had he grown up in a stable two-parent home in Forest Hills, Queens, Tupac may have ended his recording career right where he started it--as a backup singer for the asinine party band Digital Underground, better known as the guys who sang "The Humpty Dance." Of course, Tupac would probably still be alive, but rather than receive global acclaim as an urban martyr-poet, he'd be performing (with special guests Tone Loc and Young MC) in a "Kings of Classic Hip-Hop" tour, which is basically like being dead, but way less exciting and dignified.
2. Scott Stapp
Tarzan + 3,000 McGriddle sandwiches = Soggy Ole Douche
Creed vocalist Stapp supposedly lived in a squat house and a car at different times in his youth. We find that fitting, since Stapp is pretty much destined to spend the final moments of his life shitfaced, soaked in urine, and sprawled out on the backseat of a 1992 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cierra.
1. Rob Thomas
Basically a gypsy.
Rob Thomas reportedly spent his teen years and early 20s as an itinerant songwriter who journeyed from one college town to the next, forming bands and decamping for a new locale once his colleagues graduated or tired of his ambition to write Tomorrow's Soft Rock Favorites Today.
In other words, Thomas appears to have been that weird college archetype--the guy who hangs out on campus all day (but doesn't take any classes), knows all the club owners (but isn't old enough to drink), and, based on his stories, has accumulated decades of creepy and depressing life experience while inexplicably avoiding the early onset of crow's feet (or psychosis). Most of the guys we knew like this in college dropped dead at 26 by the railroad tracks or disappeared one night in the woods. Thomas, of all people, somehow made sketchy rootlessness work in his favor.
That's not to say that we want to hear the song "Smooth" ever again in our lives. Or "Push," "3 A.M.," "Someday," "Disease," "Ever the Same," "Lonely No More"...