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Considered the Godfather of Shock Rock, singer Alice Cooper came to fame in the 1970s, alarming audiences with his garish, often ghoulish stage performances.
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Born in Detroit, rock musician Alice Cooper formed his first band in high school and by the late 1960s had caught the attention of guitarist Frank Zappa. The group hit it big with several successful albums in the mid-1970s. Cooper went solo in 1974 and continued the success. In 2011, Cooper and his former band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
"The hippies wanted peace and love. We wanted Ferraris, blondes and switchblades."
American rock singer Alice Cooper was born Vincent Damon Furnier on February 4, 1948, in Detroit. The son of a pastor, Cooper moved with his family when he was 12, first to California and later to Arizona, where the Furniers lived in a trailer park.
Cooper developed an early passion for music and in high school formed his first rock band. The group, first called the Earwigs and later renamed the Spiders, covered the bands—the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Who—that Cooper adored.
After exhausting the local bar scene, the group moved to Los Angeles, where they hoped to make it big. By this time, the band had developed an angry, up-front and dark sound, which critics initially abhorred. But with Cooper as front man, its music caught the attention of Frank Zappa, who inked the young musicians to a record deal.
In 1969, the group, which had changed its name to Alice Cooper (the name comes from a witch doctor who supposedly spoke to the lead singer through a Ouija board), released its first album, Pretties for You. A follow-up album, Easy Action, came out a year later.
Almost immediately, the group gained a reputation for its outrageous performances. In one famous incident, one fan threw a live chicken on to the stage. Cooper responded by picking up the bird and throwing it into the air. When it landed back in the hands of the audience the chicken was torn into pieces. But in an altered version of the story, Cooper killed the bird himself and then drank its blood.
Other theatrical acts included "murdering" infant dolls, and using fake guillotines and electric chairs during performances. For his part, Cooper relished the shock that accompanied these performances. In 1973 the surrealist artist Salvador Dalí filmed the singer, who donned diamond necklaces and tiara, as he bit the head off a small replica of the Venus de Milo for a holographic work.
In 1971 Warner Bros. signed Alice Cooper, the band, to a new record contract. Over the next several years the group released a succession of hits, such as Killer (1972), School's Out (1972), Billion Dollar Babies (1973) and Muscle of Love (1974).
In 1974, Alice Cooper, the musician, split off from his bandmates and took the name with him. The following year he released his first solo album, Welcome to My Nightmare, which earned him continued critical praise and commercial success, as did 1976's Alice Cooper Goes to Hell.
But Cooper's life was also falling apart. A worn-out and strung-out Cooper eventually ended up in a New York sanatorium, where he was housed with drug addicts and criminals.
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