One fan website says it best about the mad dualities of Iggy Pop, the enigmatic icon many consider the “Godfather of Punk”: “Iggy Pop began as a bad joke that couldn’t last, and ended up being the lasting truth-teller that couldn’t be silenced. There aren’t too many ways of accurately describing Iggy’s music that don’t require the use of industrial adjectives like – corrosive, grating, insistent, driving, unabated, and of course, uncompromising. He is a musical genius who can create a symphony out of the noises you normally silence with a pillow over the head.”
Despite numerous ups and downs throughout his lengthy career, Iggy Pop (and the music he created with The Stooges in the late 60s and early 70s) helped create an entire genre of music. He also remains one of rock’s top live performers. Born James Newell Osterberg in Michigan in 1947, he first joined bands as a drummer, most notably with the Iguanas in 1964 where he picked up the nickname Iggy.
The following year he joined the Denver blues-styled Prime Movers, and he later dropped out of the University of Michigan and moved to Chicago to learn the blues from former Howlin' Wolf and Paul Butterfield Blues Band drummer Sam Lay.
He returned to Detroit as Iggy Stooge and formed the Psychedelic Stooges with Ron Asheton of the Chosen Few. Iggy was vocalist and guitarist, Asheton initially played bass, and they later added Asheton's brother Scott on drums.
The Stooges were signed to Elektra Records in 1968 and recorded two now-classic albums that feature the songs "No Fun" and "I Wanna Be Your Dog." After a few personnel changes, the Stooges broke up due to Iggy's heroin problem. Stooge fan David Bowie tried to resurrect Iggy's career and helped him record Raw Power in London in the summer of 1972.
Bowie's involvement continued as Iggy sailed through stormy seas, including self-admission to a mental hospital. The Stooges made their final live appearance in February 1974 at Detroit's Michigan Palace, which dramatically ended with a battle between the group and a local biker gang; by this time, self-destructive Iggy Pop live events had become a legend in the music industry.
Renewed interest in Iggy came with the arrival of punk, a genre on which his influence was evident. In 1977 Bowie, with whom Iggy had relocated to Berlin, produced two studio albums using Hunt and Tony Sales, with Bowie himself, unheralded, playing keyboards. One of the key songs from these sessions was “China Girl,” which Bowie turned into a hit in the mid-80s.
In the late 70s Iggy signed to Arista Records, and released a handful of so-so albums before going into exile after his 1982 autobiography, and the Chris Stein-produced Zombie Birdhouse. During his time out of the studio the singer cleaned up his drug problems and got married.
He started recording again in 1985 with Steve Jones (ex-Sex Pistols) and developed his acting career, appearing in Sid And Nancy, The Color Of Money, Hardware, and on TV’s ultra-hip Miami Vice. His big return came in 1986 with the Bowie-produced Blah Blah Blah and his first ever UK hit single, "Real Wild Child." His Brick By Brick album featured Guns 'N' Roses guitarist Slash, who co-wrote four of the tracks.
He continued recording actively in the 90s, with American Caesar, Avenue B, Beat 'Em Up and Skull Ring, the latter reuniting the singer with former Stooges bandmates Ron and Scott Asheton.