Dark-themed rocker Alice Cooper — whose onstage theatrics included handling boa constrictors and staging mock suicides with guillotines — has returned to the God of his childhood after dumping alcoholism and feeling dissatisfied with riches.
“When you get out there and realize you’ve had every car, every house, and all that, you realize that that’s not the answer,” Cooper told CNSnews. “There’s a big nothing out there at the end of that. So, materialism doesn’t mean anything. A lot of people say that there’s a big God-sized hole in your heart. And when that’s filled, you’re really satisfied, and that’s where I am right now.”
“The so-called “Godfather of shock rock” was born Vincent Damon Furnier in 1948 to a pastoral family in Arizona. He performed missionary work with his dad among the Apaches. His grandfather was a pastor too. But when he went AWOL on God, he stretched the outer limits of what it means to be a prodigal.
His high school band from Phoenix was discovered by Frank Zappa in 1969. They struck gold with the album Love It to Death, which gained national notoriety.
Meanwhile, he drew on lessons from Edgar Allan Poe to optimize publicity with lurid dramatizations of horror in his concerts. His creepy makeup and macabre shenanigans drew ire from Christian leaders, which only served to fuel his sales to disaffected, rage-filled adolescents. Giddy with his success, Cooper conveniently forgot the early chapters of his life and his relationship with God as he entered the stratosphere of mega-stardom.
What brought him back to Earth was the booze.
“I was throwing up blood every morning,” he said. “I was really a bad alcoholic. I wasn’t a cruel or mean alcoholic, but I was certainly self-destructive. My doctor said I was a textbook alcoholic. He said, ‘You drink in order to get things done, it’s like a medicine for you.’ I said, ‘You’re right.’ I was always on a golden buzz. I drank all day, but I never slurred my speech or anything.
“When I came out of the hospital, I kept waiting for the craving to come, and it never came. It was a miracle,” he said. “I tell people I’m not a cured alcoholic, I’m a healed alcoholic. I never went to AA or anything like that, and I give all credit to God for that. Even the doctor said, ‘This is a miracle that you’re not falling back on alcohol every time there’s a stressful situation.’ So, it’s gone. It’s just gone.”
When God delivered him from alcohol, he went back to church. Cooper and his current wife of 41 years, Sheryl Goddard, now attend the Camelback Bible Church in Paradise Valley, Arizona, to focus on growing and strengthening their faith in Christ.
“When you get out there and realize you’ve had every car, every house, and all that, you realize that that’s not the answer,” he said. “There’s a big nothing out there at the end of that. So, materialism doesn’t mean anything. A lot of people say that there’s a big God-sized hole in your heart. And when that’s filled, you’re really satisfied, and that’s where I am right now.
“God has a plan for everybody. I look at my life and I think, ‘How is it possible that I didn’t die?’” he said. “God’s chipping away at your life all the time to try to make you more like Him. That’s what a Christian is, a person that’s being molded and shaped all their life. I think the Lord expects you to do your best in His name. I had to struggle a long time about rock and roll. I realized it’s not really the music. It’s what’s being said with the music. So I think you have to be careful of what you’re writing, what you’re representing.”
In the early stages of rekindling his relationship with God, he didn’t think he could continue his career, considering his controversial image. But his pastor advised otherwise. “I said to him, ‘I can’t be Alice and a Christian.’ He said that God doesn’t make mistakes. He said that God had put me in an unusual situation for a reason and now I should let my lifestyle do my talking for me and my beliefs. It wasn’t the answer I was expecting.”
In an effort to follow God’s will in his life, he’s made a few adjustments to his signature act. Some of his older repertoire is no longer performed, especially any song that promotes promiscuity or drinking. The rocker now tries to write songs that are thoughtful and influenced by the content of his faith. “I’m very careful about what the lyrics are,” Cooper said. “I try to write songs that were equally as good, only with a better message.”
Cooper explains that his stage persona is a villain role, and he acts a part much like MacBeth to expose the dangers of evil. He’s now calling himself as “the prophet of doom” and prophesying against the doom of the devil.
“Be careful! Satan is not a myth. Don’t sit around pretending like Satan is just a joke,” Cooper said. “I think my job is to warn about Satan.”
When discussing temptations of this world, Cooper said: “Sure, what is the world made up of? It’s made up of that. The world doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to Satan. We’re living in that world. We’re bombarded with that every day. So how do we react to that? If you don’t have Christ in your life, then you’re a victim to it. So I think what we have to be very careful about is how we react to the world. If we have Christ in our life now, we have to react humbly. React in a teaching way and at the same time be humble about it.”
As for the critics who try to judge Cooper by his wild, sinful past, he said “I was one thing at one time, and I’m something new,” Cooper said. “I’m a new creature now. Don’t judge Alice by what he used to be. Praise God for what I am now. The very fact that He cared enough about me to save my life about 20 times, and help me survive a million different things, to put me where I am now, and the challenge I have now to be a Christian in the rock business,” said Cooper. “He kind of put me in the camp of the Philistines, which is OK.”
After overcoming his own addictions in the mid-1980s, Cooper has reached out to fellow rock stars to offer to help them with similar struggles. “I’ve made myself very available to friends of mine,” he said. “They’re people who would call me late at night and say, ‘Between you and me, I’ve got a problem.'” In 2008, he received the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award at the fourth annual MusiCares MAP Fund benefit concert in Los Angeles for his continuing effort to help colleagues beat addiction.
When he first started re-attending church, Cooper wasn’t vocal about his return to faith. But as the years have passed on, he’s started to become more vocal about his faith. Cooper’s just grateful that God removed his thirst for liquor.
“If God can part the Red Sea and create the universe, He can certainly take alcoholism away from somebody,” he said.
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Hasset Anteneh studies at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Westside Los Angeles.