Bret Michaels is a true survivor. He has survived a lifelong battle as an insulin dependent diabetic; a well publicized near fatal car crash in 1994; health scares including brain hemorrhaging and an appendectomy, and physical altercations. And miracuously, he survived being a rock star. This last, is no easy feat. It requires a full plate of tenacity and fortitude to make it through the countless musical trends and fads of the last two decades. Michaels has a pantry well stocked with tenacity and fortitude.
As front man for the pinnacle glam-metal rock band Poison, Michaels has sold 25 million records and scored 15 chart-busting Top 40 singles, including “Talk Dirty to Me,” “Something to Believe In,” “Nothing But a Good Time,” and the timeless Number One smash “Every Rose Has its Thorn.” He re-recorded this last hit with Miley Cyrus for her 2010 album Can’t Be Tamed and most recently with Loretta Lynn on his latest release.
Miley Cyrus and Loretta Lynn in the same sentence. The glue that makes this happen is Bret Michaels. His talent is appreciated by all quarters.
One thing Michaels learned early on was the power of the music video. Poison’s first album with Enigma Records, Look What the Cat Dragged In, didn’t see great success until 1987 when the glam-rock band filmed a video for their song, “Talk Dirty to Me.” Poison became one of the darlings of MTV, along with several “pretty” boy bands sporting the popular French tart look that was the 1980s’ fashion. The album went platinum and the pretty boy band became pretty damn famous.
“MTV was a huge launch pad for us obviously, but it was just part of the evolution in the music industry,” Michaels related to us in a correspondence when he last played Laughlin. “Songs like ‘Every Rose,’ ‘Something To Believe In’ and ‘Unskinny Bop,’ were just as big at radio as they were on MTV and still get played to this day.
“I will say that maybe for a few years it may have hindered the careers of some people who’s image wasn’t as strong as the ones being played on MTV. But long before the video age, image was crucial. Look at KISS and Alice Cooper. Even Skynyrd had an image.
“We dressed like we did because we wanted to and were influenced directly from what was happening on the streets of L.A. It had nothing to do with turning on MTV. We were so broke back then we didn’t even have it.”
Does he miss those days of the painted on pants, teased hair and makeup?
“Ya know, that was 25 years ago,” he said. “Life was certainly different—not just me and our band but the whole world seemed to be a bit more innocent. Maybe it’s the Internet and instant access to everything in the world, but there is always bad news and a lot to be concerned about. I’m not saying life was simpler then, but there certainly was a more carefree sense to the world and we were lucky be a part of it.
“With that being said, life is great right now, I have two amazing daughters, a great solo career, and Poison stood the test of time, which is unheard of in the music biz. And while I had some great times back then, my life is amazing right here and now.”
Throughout the ‘80s and early ‘90s, Poison became one of the biggest glam metal bands in the world, recording their second album, the multi-platinum selling Open Up and Say… Ahh!, and their third album, the multi-platinum selling Flesh & Blood.
In 1987, Michaels penned a song about his break-up with then girlfriend Tracy Lewis, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” Michaels has explained that the rose represented his fame and success, whereas the loss of his relationship represented the thorn. The power ballad is regarded as the “ultimate ‘80s anthem about heartbreak.”
“Obviously, I think it’s great that the song has that distinction,” Michaels said. “Ya know its such a raw and honest song. I didn’t write it to be a hit, it’s just the story of how I felt that very moment, while I was going through a painful breakup. The record company fought me on it and said it would ruin my career.
“To me, it goes to show you what can happen when your honest with yourself as a songwriter. That’s when the good stuff comes.”
And the good stuff kept coming.
His 2010 release (and fourth solo album), Custom Built contained the cut “Nothing to Lose,” performing again with Cyrus. The album immediately rose to Number One on hard rock and independent Billboard charts, making it his most successful solo album to date.
And then there is TV and film (and even a video game—”Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock”).
In the mid-’90s Michaels formed a film production company with actor Charlie Sheen. The partnership ultimately led to Michaels writing, directing and starring in several films including “A Letter From Death Row”, which he executive co-produced with Sheen.
Michael’s “Rock of Love” television series is one of the most successful in VH1’s history. With three record-breaking seasons under his belt, Michaels has embarked on several other television projects, including winning 2010’s season three of “Celebrity Apprentice” on NBC.
In addition, VH1, 51 Minds and Michaels teamed up for the new docu-series “Bret Michaels: Life As I Know It,” which gave viewers an insider’s look at Michaels’ home life and his most important role as “Poppa Rocka” to his two daughters.
Michaels has positioned himself as a star beyond the confines of rock music. His signature bandana and cowboy hat, and regular appearances on all manner of TV programs makes him an easily recognizable face and personality.
He has taken advantage of that recognition, not only to better his own career, but to do good deeds. His work with the American Diabetes Association has earned him the role as their celebrity spokesperson.
Michaels has played for charity on “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” winning $250,000 for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Among Michaels’ recent projects are the release of his autobiography, Roses and Thorns: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy to My Reality; hosting the reality TV show “Rock My RV” on the Travel Channel; and the release of his latest album, Jammin’ With Friends, this past June.
And, oh yeah. He continues to tour the concert route delivering music with a rocker’s edge. He does just that at Riverside’s Amphitheater, Saturday, October 26.
Saturday, October 26. 8:30 p.m. (See Showtimes for tickets)