Hive Five: A Brief History of Death Cheatin’ Musicians
Robin Gibb in Berlin, Germany, February 2011

Robin Gibb in Berlin, Germany, February 2011. Photo: Toni Passig/WireImage

Things looked pretty bad for Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees when he went into a coma on April 14 after contracting pneumonia. Gibb had been treated for complications from cancer of the colon and liver over the last couple of years, and when his health took this sudden, disastrous turn, doctors predicted the worst. But after several days with his loyal family by his bedside, and his only surviving brother Barry singing to him in an effort to rouse him, Robin miraculously emerged from his coma, and was reported to be “laughing and joking” from his hospital bed. But just in case this happy, unexpected development makes you think Robin is the only musical hero who ever cheated death, here’s part two of (most likely) an ongoing series of musicians who came within a hair’s breadth of bidding this world goodbye too soon.

1. Ozzy Osbourne

You might expect that the original heavy metal madman, rock & roll’s self-proclaimed prince of darkness, would have danced with death under some sort of satanic circumstances, knee-deep in devilish, unsavory acts. But in fact, the Black Sabbath singer nearly met his maker by falling off of a mountain bike. The event occurred in 2004, and besides breaking several bones, Ozzy went into a coma for eight days before finally coming around. In his account of the experience, errant cyclist Osbourne said that while he was comatose, he saw “a white light shining through the darkness, but no f***king angels.”

2. Bryan Ferry

Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry is the epitome of suave chic and aristocratic hedonism, to the extent that it’s almost impossible to picture him passing away in any other manner than sexing himself to death, clad in a silk smoking jacket, on a four-poster bed piled high with European models. In fact, Ferry’s brush with fate was considerably less romantic. In 2000, he was on a plane to Nairobi with his wife and two of his sons when the flight was hijacked by a madman, who attacked the pilot and set the aircraft onto a downward course. Thankfully, the co-pilot saved the day, but Ferry subsequently reported that, “The pilot said afterwards we were five seconds away from death.” It is not know whether any female passengers had approached the gracefully aging roué for last-minute membership in the mile-high club.

3. Al Jourgensen

It should probably come as no surprise that the man behind Ministry, makers of some of the most punishing, assaultive industrial rock ever recorded, should have an analogous amount of destruction going on inside his own body. After a long period of ignoring his bleeding ulcers, Jourgensen found himself in an emergency room in 2010 after experiencing seizures. “I flat-lined and they brought me back,” he told Revolver magazine. But even amid such dire circumstances, Jourgensen was the irreverent, iconoclastic rocker to the end. “I checked into the hospital under the name Dick Sohard because I didn’t want the attention,” he explained.

4. Nikki Sixx

You didn’t imagine for a moment that this list would be complete without representing at least one of the members of Motley Crüe , did you? While there’s no telling how many times the various Crüe men have gotten within spitting distance of the Grim Reaper, one of the most widely told tales is that of bass man Nikki Sixx. In 1987, when the band was at the height of both their popularity and their decadence, Sixx overdosed on heroin and was clinically dead for a full two minutes before being pulled back into our world Pulp Fiction-style, by an adrenaline shot to his ticker. Not only did Sixx survive, he turned the situation to his advantage by getting a song out of it – “Kickstart My Heart.”

5. Roger Waters

Upon hearing that a member of Pink Floyd almost died in the ‘60s as a result of an acid trip, one’s mind immediately and understandably goes on to fill in the name of the unfortunate acidhead – Syd Barrett. But although the original Floyd frontman was indeed rock’s first famous acid casualty, it was in fact the generally more restrained Roger Waters who was the reckless LSD dropper in question. According to Mark Blake’s Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd, the band was on its second trip to America, in 1968, staying at the Chelsea Hotel. After engaging in a little DIY chemical experiment, Waters walked out into the middle of the street and simply froze, with hectic Eighth Avenue traffic roaring by all around him. Fortunately, he ultimately avoided pulverization, but the man who wrote “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” subsequently vowed never to take another cosmic journey.

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