Alice Cooper – The Prodigal Returns

Alice Cooper

Legendary rock star Alice Cooper says that he nearly died from alcoholism when he was 33 years old, but he says that God saved him.

I was drinking with Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix and trying to keep up with Keith Moon and they all died at 27.”

When he was 33, Alice (whose real name is Vince Furnier) woke up vomiting blood and was taken to hospital. His condition was a result of alcoholism wreaking havoc on his internal organs. Doctors told him that he would die if he did not stop drinking. He said, “Everything that could go wrong was shutting down inside of me.” This was very serious. He had been given the ultimatum to change or die young, but there was a silver lining. His condition was one of the many things that led him on a pathway back to Christ. He stopped partying, changed direction in life, and eventually returned fully to his Christian faith. Alice says, 

My wife and I are both Christians. My father was a pastor, my grandfather was an evangelist. I grew up in the church, went as far away as I could from it, almost died, and then came back …”

He has often been criticised for combining ‘religion’ with rock music. But he does not see this as at all incompatible:

There’s nothing in Christianity that says I can’t be a rock star. People have a very warped view of Christianity. They think it’s all very precise and we never do wrong and we’re praying all day and we’re right-wing. It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with a one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Nowadays Alice Cooper finds time for Bible study every day and goes to church every Sunday. He is grateful that none of his children have a problem with alcohol or drugs.Their father’s brush with death together with their parents’ prayers have protected them from the life-threatening danger that he faced. 

Alice Cooper shot to super-stardom in 1972 with the single ‘Schools’ Out’. It was a worldwide hit reaching number one in the UK and number 7 in the US. The album of the same name was also a huge success worldwide reaching platinum sales status. This was followed by a string of big hits. Surprisingly, Cooper was a bigger success in the UK than in his native USA, but he had a run of hit singles in both nations and across the world throughout the 1970’s and 80’s. His albums have continued to sell well through the decades with his 2017 album “Paranormal” again becoming a worldwide success and reaching number 6 in the UK album charts, an outstanding achievement for a singer in his 70th year! In many ways he is as popular today as he was in his heyday.  

Christian Roots

Cooper says, 

I grew up in a Christian house. My dad was a pastor, he was an evangelist for 25 years, and I used to go up and do missionary work with him with the Apaches in Arizona.  My grandfather was a pastor for 75 years. I grew up in a Christian home. And my wife’s father is a Baptist pastor. So, I was like, we were PK’s – preacher’s kids – so we married each other.”

But he drifted away form his faith and rock music became his God for a while. Alice went for shock rock tactics to entertain and woo his audience. He became famous for his outrageous gothic horror stage show and hard rock songs. Southern Baptist preachers railed against the male singer with a girl’s who acted like the devil, and for a while it did appear that he had sold his soul to the enemy. But he was brought up with strong Christian roots. Cooper says,  

So I always refer to myself as the real Prodigal Son, because I went out and the Lord let me do everything – maybe didn’t let me but allowed it – and then just started reeling me back in. You know, ‘you’ve seen enough. Let’s bring you back to where you belong.’ ”

Materialism and the trappings of success lured him for a season, but just as the Prodigal Son in the parable of Jesus came to his senses and returned to his father, so did Alice Cooper. 

When you get out there and realise you’ve had every car, every house, and all that, you realise that’s not the answer. 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.”

Getting Dry

Cooper’s return to Christ occurred when he tried and eventually quit drinking alcohol in the mid-1980s. He also overcame cocaine addiction.

I stopped drinking and I started going back to church. I was throwing up blood every morning; I was really a bad alcoholic. I wasn’t a cruel or mean alcoholic but I was certainly self-destructive. When I stopped drinking, I started going back to church with my wife, and there was this pastor in Phoenix who was just Hell-fire. I mean, there were 6,000 people there and he was talking to me every Sunday. Of course, he wasn’t, but he was – just nailing me. Every weekend I’d get out exhausted. I’d come out of there and be, ‘I don’t want to go back.’   It was like torture – and I always came back.

Realising that he was still sitting on the fence, Alice was convicted by the Holy Spirit. 

I finally realised, I had to go one side or the other. I had to make a decision for one side or the other, because I was so convicted. The Lord really convicted me, saying, look, it’s time to make a decision here. I said okay, and I joined a church called Camelback Bible over there, and that’s where I go now. It’s a really good teaching church, good strong Bible-teaching church.”

The singer admits that he was a self-centred materialist heading for self-destruction during his heyday, but God didn’t let him go too far;

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, He kind of put me in the camp of the Philistines, which is okay.”

What people don’t realise is that when you become a Christian it doesn’t make things easier, it makes them harder. It makes your life harder. It makes your soul at ease with God because you know where you are with Him.  It doesn’t make your social life or your normal life in America any easier. In fact, it puts you under the microscope.”

For those who were Alice Cooper fans in the 1970’s it may be difficult for some to believe that he has changed so much, and he realises that. He has had more money, fame and adulation than most people could dream of, but he discovered that it was all empty, pointless and unfulfilling. Jesus said, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul? 

But he has a challenging message for his critics, he says, “I’m a new creature now. Don’t judge Alice by what he used to be. Praise God for what I am now!

In December 2014, the enormity of Cooper’s early work was realised when the single “School’s Out” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame along with music from artists Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Otis Redding, Neil Young and Harry Belafonte.

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