Johnny Cash: Known as “The Man in Black,” Johnny Cash started out singing gospel music and then, with fame, he moved on to drugs, suicide, adultery, prison, love, death and even killing people, including his wife. Mind you, this all happened roughly four decades before Eminem. Cash is controversial and still popular today (maybe even more so than fifty years ago). He died less than four months after his second wife – some would say of a broken heart. An outlaw image made this controversial man one of the biggest and most memorable country/rock figures of all time.
Marilyn Manson: He broke boundaries by legally changing his name: “Marilyn,” paying homage to the late Marilyn Monroe and “Manson” in tribute to Charles Manson. Shattering the Christian base of America, the self-proclaimed antichrist superstar stands against God, government and America all while wearing makeup and sporting provocative clothing (we all remember the outfit with the fake breasts). His music was blamed for the Columbine shootings along with suicides and acts of violence across America. Today, he’s 42-years-old and still playing up his image and music to shock and sell across Western society.
Britney Spears: Leave Britney alone! As a child, she began her climb to fame by starring on the Mickey Mouse Club and was America’s pop princess by the age of 17. Her fame in music peaked with her first two albums and declined as her personal life started playing out in tabloid headlines. Random marriages, alcohol abuse, custody battles, rehab and the infamous head-shaving seen around the world are just a few examples of Brit giving the middle finger to fame, all the while having the world still root for her.
Ozzy Osbourne: Known as the “Prince of Darkness,” “The Godfather of Heavy Metal” and the one to leave his teeth marks in something. One minute he’s chomping the head off a dove (ironically, the symbol for peace) and the next, it’s a bat that he thought was rubber—big mistake because the bat bit him back! Taking a bite out of music history, Ozzy leaves his legacy as the front man of Black Sabbath.
Madonna: This is a woman who adores controversy. Her music videos feature saints kissing in church, fiery crosses, nudity, homosexuality and dominatrix-stlye activities, which is why so many have been banned from MTV. She was featured in Playboy and Penthouse and released her own erotic picture book that featured her involved in sexual acts. During live performances, she’s entered the stage on a cross and in a memorable MTV moment, made out with both Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera on-stage. This sex symbol and controversial mouth loves attention, good or bad, and with her penchant for pushing the boundaries, she is a force to be reckoned with.
Kurt Cobain: “Smells like teen spirit.” We all know it and the lead singer of Nirvana, a heroin addict and inventor of the genre of grunge, ironically hated it for its fame. His career died young, and so did he—by means of suicide, which was said to be because of immense suffering and a rejection of fame. Through his death, Cobain and Nirvana never had the chance to slide downhill musically and are remembered for their untainted greatness.
Trent Reznor: The man behind Nine Inch Nails is one of the few musician-advocates who is for the downloading or “stealing” of digital music. Allowing his music to be downloaded for free off his website and for his music to be edited by followers has given him a dedicated, growing and interactive fan base. Reznor writes philosophically and truthfully about life, politics, pop culture and religion. Not music, but a sound— and a sound unlike any other.
John Lennon: “We’re more popular than Jesus now.” This famous line from Lennon caused uproar across America through the burning of records and threats against his life. The drug-addled musician imagined through his political and religious lyrics and forever changed a generation and the future of music.