Sabotage Times

Drugs, planes, cars and bullets – a musician’s mortal enemy. Celebrity and artist’s deaths are always heavily talked about in the media, obsessed over by fans and talked about for decades but the tales of staring death in the face often become forgotten.

This list of survival covers some of music’s most enduring enigmas. It isn’t just drugs that kills musicians (see here) and it isn’t just drugs that set them on the road to having a finely balanced mortality rate – it’s guns, nearly all forms of transport and a disregard for life.

Still, some survive the curse and live to tell the tale. The following five have stared death in the face, danced on the edge transience, and walked away as free men…

1. Keith Richards

Arguably rock 'n' roll’s ultimate icon, Keef and The Rolling Stones have now been on the scene for over 50 years. In a journey that has seen band mates come and go, the charismatic guitarist has eluded death's advances for much of it.  Whether it's inciting a riot at a 1964 Blackpool gig after kicking a man in the face from the stage, enduring a decade long heroin addiction or flirting with guns, Richards has lived on a precipice for much of his 68 year long life.

Apparently known in the late Sixties for his night driving abilities, one of Richards’ greatest escapes was in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Driving back to Marrakech after a trip to Fez in a rented Peugeot, the guitarist came across two military motorcycles covering the road. He explains in his autobiography, 'Life': "Military, I realised by the uniforms, and they were covering all of the road. So he managed to swerve there, I managed to get around here, but down below is half a mile of forget about it."  Swerving the bikes, Richards then passed an articulated truck, complete with missile. As he had "one wheel over the abyss," he and his passengers managed to survive: "I just managed to save us." The lorry didn't as seconds later the guitarist describes hearing a ‘boom’, with the lorry toppling into forget about it.

He has also survived a life threatening brain operation after falling from a tree branch. Take that, death.

2. 50 Cent

In 2000 50 Cent was preparing to release his debut album, Power Of The Dollar, through Columbia Records. On May 24 2000, Fiddy, real name Curtis Jackson, was sat in the back of a car outside his grandmother's house (living there since the death of his mother) in Jamaica, Queens. He was approached and shot nine times, including a hit to the face. Shot in broad daylight and from close range with one of the bullets lodged in his jaw, the rapper was rushed to hospital where he stayed for nearly two weeks.

His supposed attacker, Darryl Baum, was shot in the head and killed three weeks later.

Dropped from Columbia with his debut officially shelved (though widely available as a bootleg), Jackson went to Canada, changed his name and built a back catalogue that later saw him become one of the biggest rappers on the planet.

In 2007 reports surfaced that alleged Jackson hadn't actually been shot nine times, but three, with a police report from the night appearing on the Internet. Whatever the truth, he got shot in the face and lived - kudos.

3. Slash

One of rock 'n' roll's most notorious hedonists, Slash has managed to get himself out of more than a few tangles since his Guns 'n' Roses career started in 1985. With a monstrous drug and alcohol addiction, the guitarist's tongue apparently turned black while on a three-year diet of heroin and Jack Daniels. While on tour, he bought up a San Francisco drug dealer’s entire supply. He indulged, later dropping outside an elevator and scaring the shit out of a maid, who raised the alarm immediately.

His heart had stopped by the time paramedics arrived and he was revived by an adrenaline shot. When Slash came around he checked himself out of the hospital in the same night and finished the tour.

In 2001, due to his past habits, it was discovered Slash had an enlarged heart and the doctors gave him weeks to live. Doctors inserted a pacemaker and he began therapy. Unbelievably, he still stands twelve years later.

4. Travis Barker

In 2008, Travis Barker boarded a plane in South Carolina with three friends and two pilots. He and DJ Adam Goldstein were the only two survivors. As the plane took to the runway sparks coming from the carrier were noticed by onlookers and the Learjet never made it into the air, crashing through a fence, over a road and settling on an embankment.

With second and third degree burns to his torso, the Blink 182 drummer made it out alive, losing his personal assistant and security guard to the flames that engulfed the aircraft. Surviving a plane crash is rare, with similar incidents claiming the lives of Otis Redding, Buddy Holly and Lynryd Skynryd to name only a few. It makes Barker one of music’s greatest survivors, though he won’t fly anymore. Understandable.

5. Steven Adler

Another survivor from the Guns’ early days, Adler’s addiction has taken him to the edge and back, and back to the edge again. The drummer spent over twenty years in a heroin and coke-induced haze and was fired from the Guns in 1990 for being so high he couldn’t properly operate his drum kit during the recording for ‘Civil War’.

His banishment fuelled a further self-destruction, including two suicide attempts. Drinking a bottle of Jaegermeister, popping 100 valium and shooting up with three quarters of a gram of heroin, Adler merely slept for eight uninterrupted hours claiming it was “the best sleep of his life.” Hardcore.


He’s totalled 28 overdoses along the way, which have caused a minor heart attack and two strokes, one of which resulted in the left side of his face becoming paralysed and a permanent speech impediment.