Alice Cooper is the stage name of Vincent Damon Furnier, an American singer, songwriter, and actor, who is widely considered the godfather of 'Shock Rock', a subgenre he had accidentally popularized during his early career. With the ambition of selling a million records, he originally started out in a band with his high school friends, which, after repeated name change, became known as 'Alice Cooper'. However, after the band went on a hiatus following a whirlwind career spanning about a decade, Furnier legally changed his name and continued to perform and release albums with the same name. In his career spanning over five decades, he has released 27 studio albums, 48 singles, 11 live albums, 21 compilation albums, 12 videos, and an audiobook. Two of his solo albums and four of his band albums were certified platinum by RIAA. He has received two 'Grammy' nominations as a solo artist and has also been inducted into the 'Rock and Roll Hall of Fame' along with his former band mates. He has also made appearances in many films and television shows.
Childhood & Early Life
Alice Cooper was born as Vincent Damon Furnier on February 4, 1948 in Detroit, Michigan to pastor, Ether Moroni Furnier, and his wife, Ella Mae. His family suddenly became religiously active when he was 11-12 years of age, and he accompanied his father to the church every day.
He attended Washington Elementary School and Nankin Mills Jr. High in Detroit, but later enrolled into Cortez High School after the family relocated to Phoenix, Arizona. He later earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Glendale Community College.
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Career with his Band
At the age of 16, Alice Cooper formed his first band, the 'Earwigs', with Glen Buxton, Dennis Dunaway, John Tatum and John Speer, to participate in the local annual Letterman's talent show in 1964. They dressed up as the Beatles with wigs and costumes, and performed parodies of their songs, which earned overwhelming response from the audience and won them the show title.
Encouraged by the positive response, they decided to form a real band and renamed themselves the 'Spiders', with Cooper as the lead vocalist. In 1966, guitarist John Tatum, was replaced by Michael Bruce and the band began playing at bars and on stage, eventually coming up with their first original single, the local hit 'Don't Blow Your Mind'.
The band, renamed themselves as 'Nazz' and began traveling regularly to Los Angeles for shows, in 1967. By the end of the year, the band relocated there and replaced drummer, John Speer, with Neal Smith. However, upon learning that Todd Rundgren also had a band by the same name, they decided to go with the more gimmicky stage name 'Alice Cooper'.
After a chance meeting with music manager, Shep Gordon, following a disastrous gig and another wrongly-timed audition for record producer Frank Zappa's label, Straight Records, they bagged a three-album deal mostly because of their bizarreness. Their first album, 'Pretties for You' (1969), which was an experimental presentation of their psychedelic rock music, was a critical and commercial failure.
The band's eventual 'shock rock' reputation was also the result of an accident involving a chicken at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival concert in September 1969, which had became a sensation on tabloids. Their next album, 'Easy Action', failed despite the media attention, following which they relocated to Pontiac, Michigan, where their violent stage theatrics were better received and helped their third album 'Love It to Death' succeed.
Their next album 'Killer' (1971) surpassed the success of its predecessor by reaching No.21 on the U.S. 'Billboard 200' charts and included hit singles like 'Under My Wheels', 'Be My Lover' and 'Halo of Flies'. Their fifth studio album, 'School's Out', reached No.2 on the US charts, while the title single became recognized as a classic rock track.
The band's most successful album was 'Billion Dollar Babies', released in 1973, which reached the top of both the US and UK charts. The band faced increasing pressures from political groups and also fell apart internally following the release of their final album, 'Muscle of Love', released later that year.
Vincent Furnier, who had already changed his name legally to 'Alice Cooper' to avoid legal complications over ownership of the band name, released the album 'Welcome to My Nightmare’ as a solo artist in 1975. Despite the album's success, his next three albums of the decade; 'Alice Cooper Goes to Hell', 'Lace and Whiskey' and the semi-autobiographical 'From the Inside' progressively failed at the charts, partly thanks to his alcoholism.
His commercial failure continued to the next decade with the albums 'Flush the Fashion', 'Special Forces', 'Zipper Catches Skin' and 'DaDa', which he reportedly doesn't even remember recording because of drug addiction.
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He returned to the music sphere with the albums 'Constrictor' (1986) and 'Raise Your Fist and Yell' (1987), but his 1989 'Grammy'-nominated album 'Trash' became his most successful album of the decade.
His popularity waned again in the next decade, which only saw two releases from him, 'Hey Stoopid' (1991) and 'The Last Temptation' (1994). His next four albums in the new century – 'Brutal Planet' (2000), 'Dragontown' (2001), 'The Eyes of Alice Cooper' (2003) and 'Dirty Diamonds' (2005) – barely managed to stay in the US 'Billboard 200' albums chart.
His 25th studio album, 'Along Came a Spider', released in 2008, peaked at No.53 in the US and No.31 in the UK.
His 2011 album 'Welcome 2 My Nightmare' made it to No.22 on the US charts, while his last album so far, 'Paranormal', reached No.32.
Alice Cooper's first solo album, 'Welcome to My Nightmare', is considered his best work so far. It earned platinum certifications in US and Canada.
'Billion Dollar Babies' is the most commercially successful album from his band. It reached peak position in the US and UK charts and was certified platinum in the US.
Awards & Achievements
Alice Cooper has been honored as a 'Legend' at the 'Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards' and the 'Kerrang! Awards', and has received two 'Grammy' nominations in 1984 and 1997. In 2011, he and his former band members were inducted into the 'Rock and Roll Hall of Fame'.
Personal Life & Legacy
Alice Cooper was in a relationship with the GTOs member Miss Christine, who died of an overdose on November 5, 1972. He subsequently lived with Cindy Lang for several year before separating in 1975, following which she sued him for palimony.
Following a brief link-up with actress, Raquel Welch, in 1976, he married ballerina instructor and choreographer, Sheryl Goddard, who performed in his shows. She sought divorce from him in 1983, when he was severely alcoholic, but they reconciled the following year and have three children together: Calico, Dash and Sonora Rose.