Many rock stars have learned that money doesn’t buy happiness, but raking in a bunch of loot and then and then losing it certainly can have you singing the blues. And while most indie and alternative rockers can only wish to amass the kinds of fortunes that bands like the Beatles and the Stones can boast, many of them do pretty well for themselves, earning enough from rocking out that losing their savings can certainly be a major blow. Just ask the subjects of the following list: 7 Rockers That Went Broke.
Cat Power (aka Chan Marhall) went broke while making her latest album, which she started working on back in 2006. “I got depressed and didn’t work on [songs for the album] for eight months,” Marshall told GQ in 2012. “I got the itch again, but then I ran out of money. I cashed in a bond and bought some gear and rented a house in Malibu and wrote these other songs.” The resulting disc, ‘Sun,’ dropped last summer.
Years of drug abuse and legal issues caught up to Pete Doherty in 2010, as the former Libertines frontman had reportedly resorted to playing low-key acoustic gigs along London’s Camden High Street to pay rent on the “grubby basement flat” he was calling home. But his money problems probably didn’t last long — the Libertines reformed that summer to play the U.K.’s Leeds and Reading Festivals, with the band hauling in more than $2 million for the appearances.
Goo Goo Dolls
Funny thing, the record business. The Goo Goo Dolls sold more than 2 million albums in the mid-’90s, yet thanks to a questionable contract with Warner Bros., they still owed the major label major money. Warner signed the Dolls for 1998’s multi-platinum ‘Dizzy Up the Girl’ and gave them a substantial advance, and the Dolls didn’t see a penny from the disc’s royalties until Warner had been paid back in full, a process which took several years.
Detroit’s MC5 were never just another rock band seeking fame and fortune; managed by former White Panther Party leader John Sinclair, they were a revolutionary force. But perhaps they took the second of Sinclair’s goals for the band — a nebulous combination of the “total assault on culture by any means necessary, including rock ‘n’ roll, dope, and f—ing in the streets” and “the end of money” — a little too literally. By 1970 the MC5 were reportedly $80,000 in debt and had filed for bankruptcy, with a combination of poor promotion, bad press, internal conflicts and terrible drug habits sealing their penniless fate.
Leonard Cohen is an iconic and massively successful rocker through and through, but when he returned to the road in 1998 after a 15-year absence, he had little to show for it. After years of mishandling by his former manager, Kelley Lynch, Cohen had almost nothing in the bank for retirement. Cohen took her to court, but following a 2004 ruling that she repay $9.5 million in losses accrued, Lynch ignored the order. In 2008, financial desperation forced Cohen to mount his first world tour in nearly two decades. Five years later, he’s still performing live — at the age of 78.
In 1969, 13th Floor Elevators frontman Roky Erickson pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to avoid a possible 10-year prison sentence for possession of a single marijuana joint and was placed in a hospital for the criminally insane, where he was subjected to forced electro-shock therapy and Thorazine treatments. Mismanagement of his estate while he was hospitalized left him nearly penniless when he got out, and Erickson has spent much of the time since digging himself out of the hole. Renewed interest in his music in recent years has certainly helping his plight.
Courtney Love has probably never slept underneath a bridge, but Kurt Cobain’s widow has claimed that somewhere in the vicinity of $530 million was somehow stolen from the vast fortune she inherited from the late Nirvana frontman’s estate. “I have never seen such greed and moral turpitude,” said Love’s lawyer Rhonda J Holmes. “This case is going to make Bernard Madoff look warm and fuzzy.” Things got so bad, in fact, that in 2010, Love was forced to borrow $2.75 million from her daughter Frances’ own trust fund — or she could’ve ended up sleeping under a bridge. Or, at least crashing at Billy Corgan’s house.