Billy Idol Biography

Guitarist, Singer(1955–)
British singer Billy Idol rose to fame in the 1980s on the strength of studio efforts like 'Don't Stop' and 'Rebel Yell.'

Synopsis

Singer Billy Idol was born on November 30, 1955, in England. He joined the punk band Chelsea in 1976, and delivered his first hit single, "Dancing with Myself," with Generation X in 1980. Idol's success continued into the following decade, his popularity bolstered by singles such as "White Wedding," Eyes Without a Face," and "Cradle of Love."

Early Life and Career

Billy Idol was born William Michael Albert Broad on November 30, 1955, in Middlesex, England. While studying English literature at Sussex University, Broad became a member of the Bromley Contingent, a group of Sex Pistols followers that included members of the Clash and Siouxsie and the Banshees. He changed his name to Idol after a schoolteacher returned a paper proclaiming him "idle" in class.

Idol teamed with lyricist and bass guitarist Tony James, and together they joined the punk band Chelsea in 1976. Idol and James subsequently left and formed Generation X—a name they took from a book about 1960s youth rock culture. Though the band never toured the United States, they did take the nation by storm in 1980 with the single "Dancing with Myself." They broke up following their second release, Kiss Me Deadly, due to managerial problems.

Solo Career

In 1981, Billy Idol launched his solo career in New York City with the release of the EP Don't Stop, which included two Generation X songs, (a remix of "Dancing with Myself" and "Untouchables") and a cover of Tommy James's "Mony Mony." He then pulled together a new team, including producer Keith Forsey, ex-KISS manager Bill Aucoin and New York guitarist Steve Stevens. The group released four successful records together: Billy Idol (1982), Rebel Yell (1983), Whiplash Smile (1986) and Vital Idol (1987).

Despite his legendary excessive lifestyle, Idol participated in several charity shows. He took part in Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit concert in 1988, and appeared in a charity performance of the Who's Tommy in London the following year. A motorcycle crash in February 1990 seriously damaged his leg, but he recovered quickly enough to appear in the video for "Cradle of Love," off that year's album Charmed Life.

Idol attempted to rebrand his image with 1993's computer-driven Cyberpunk, but the recording was a commercial and critical failure. The following year, he narrowly escaped death for a second time when he suffered a drug overdose. Idol remained out of the public eye until the end of the decade, when he made a cameo appearance in the Adam Sandler comedy The Wedding Singer (1998).

Recent Projects

In 2005, Idol released his first studio album in more than a decade with Devil's Playground, featuring such songs as "World Comin' Down," "Scream" and "Romeo's Waiting." The following year, the musician released Happy Holidays, which included several traditional Christmas songs along with a few original singles. The Very Best Of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself, a career-spanning collection, followed in 2008. "Everyone should idolize themselves, shouldn't they?" Idol said with a laugh when asked about the album's title, according to his website.

Idol signed up to perform at the 2013 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, alongside the likes of Paul McCartney, John Oates of Hall & Oates, Jeff Tweedy and Björk. Around that time, the veteran singer returned to the studio to create a new album, releasing Kings & Queens of the Underground in 2014. That same year, Idol also published his autobiography, Dancing With Myself.

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