The one moment that destroyed these musicians' careers

It sometimes feels like musicians can get away with anything. Justin Bieber can get arrested and still keep cranking out mediocre music. Ozzy Osbourne can bite the head off a bat and still land a mediocre reality show. Johnny Cash can publicly confess to shooting a man in Reno, just to watch him die, and still get to cut a record in Folsom Prison. Man, what would a musician have to do to get in some real trouble?

Depending on the musician in question, maybe not so much. While some can get away with near-murder, other crooners find themselves looking down the barrel of a ruined career just for having the wrong backup dancers. If you're struggling with a hyper-successful music career and need to take the pressure off, take note. Any one of these could have you on food stamps faster than you can say "career suicide."

Jerry Lee Lewis introduces Britain to his child bride

Britain might be a strange sort of place, what with its endless cups of tea and citizens' insistence on talking about the weather like it's an actual topic of worthwhile conversation, but there's "strange to American eyes" and then there's "so strange they're totally down with the idea of incestuous child brides." In 1958, rock 'n' roll icon Jerry Lee Lewis accidentally mistook the former for the latter and decided to take his underage wife with him on his tour of England. As History Channel details, career-destroying chaos ensued.

The Killer had neglected to tell anyone he was newly married, so when he rocked up with Myra Gail Lewis (pictured) in tow, the British press were naturally curious. A Daily Mail reporter, Paul Tanfield, happened to ask how old the newlywed was. Lewis said she was 15. His transatlantic career was over.

The truly shocking part is that Lewis was lying. Myra was actually 13. Worse, she was actually Lewis' cousin. Let that sink in. Jerry Lee Lewis flew to Britain with the barely teenage blood relative he was (presumably) having massively illegal sex with and didn't think this would somehow come back to bite him. Bite him it did. His British tour collapsed. Those that showed at his gigs went only to boo him. Concerts were canceled. His expensive hotel kicked him out. When he finally high-tailed it back home to the States, he found he'd been blacklisted by the music industry. Even America has standards.

Eric Clapton goes on a drunken anti-immigrant tirade

British guitarist Eric Clapton is the only person to have been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame three separate times. He's also the only musician to have sparked an anti-racism movement in direct response to a speech he made. Rock Against Racism was a major music movement in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s. The BBC has described it as a "turning point in British culture." It was the forefather of the Love Music Hate Racism movement that you'll find at most modern British festivals. And it only exists because Clapton once acted like a drunken Archie Bunker.

The year was 1976. Race relations were at an all-time low in Britain. The far-right National Front was attracting millions to its marches. Asian teenagers were being murdered in the streets. Even David Bowie was expressing admiration for fascism (admittedly while also doing all the cocaine). At the height of all this, a drunk Eric Clapton clambered onto stage in Birmingham and yelled "Enoch was right … we should send them all back" (via The Guardian).

The rest of Clapton's speech reads like a Dummy's Guide to inflaming racial tensions. The guitarist said Britain was becoming a "black colony" and his audience should vote the controversial politician Enoch Powell (like a British George Wallace) to "keep Britain white."

While Clapton's outburst didn't see him totally ostracized, it did permanently stain his career in his native country. Forty years later, his name is still synonymous with racism.

Marilyn Manson gets blamed for the Columbine massacre

On April 20, 1999, two kids named Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into their Columbine high school and started shooting. They kept shooting until 13 people were dead and over 20 injured. In the aftermath of the tragedy, America started casting around for someone to blame. Enter Marilyn Manson.

At the time, Manson was already seen by Middle America as the antichrist. When word got out that Harris and Klebold had listened to his music and were goths, the nation's moms and pops went nuts. In an interview with The Guardian, Manson later said the massacre destroyed his "entire career." His concerts were protested. He received hundreds of death threats. Bomb threats were called in to his gigs. The most aggravating part? As Manson later wrote in an article for Rolling Stone, Harris and Klebold weren't goths. They weren't even fans of Manson's music. They were into KMFDM and Rammstein.

Manson would later tell NME (recounted here via CNN) that "When it comes to things like Columbine, it would have been different if [Harris and Klebold] had actually liked my music, but I think that I have had more blame accredited to me than any person in the history of music," although, to be fair, he qualified this thoughtful take with the claim "there should be some sort of Grammy for that." What's that old adage about there being no such thing as bad publicity?

Michelle Shocked tells San Francisco that God hates LGBT people

For someone who once told Dallas Voice that she'd "be honored" to be called an honorary lesbian, Michelle Shocked sure seems to have a strange grasp of what "honored" means. In 2013, the famously leftie country singer dropped an H-bomb's worth of LGBT slurs while playing a club in, of all places, San Francisco. According to The Guardian, Shocked took time out from her set to yell on stage "When they stop Prop 8 and force priests at gunpoint to marry gays, it will be the downfall of civilization, and Jesus will come back," before adding, "You are going to leave here and tell people, 'Michelle Shocked said God hates f—-ts.'"

Shocked is a one-time big artist who once shared a stage with Madonna and Sinead O'Connor. After suing her record label under the 13th Amendment (which bans slavery), Shocked dropped out of the big time and started self-releasing, relying on her hardcore fanbase to make ends meet. Her hardcore fanbase who just happened to be largely made up of liberals and lesbians. Whoops.

The LGBT-slur controversy left Shocked at the center of a media storm and on the wrong side of her own fans. In a long interview piece with the singer, Dallas Morning News claimed in 2017 that the outburst sent Shocked's career into a near-terminal nosedive, losing her bookings and wiping out a planned tour. For her part, Shocked says her comments were misunderstood and weren't meant literally. So that'd make them … figuratively homophobic?

Sly Stone gets busted for cocaine possession

The collapse of Sly Stone's career was less a single moment than a whole series of increasingly desperate moments that finally culminated in one uber-moment that effectively ruined his reputation forever. Having ended the '60s playing Woodstock as the head of pioneering funk outfit Sly and the Family Stone, he segued into the '70s stuffing enough cocaine up his nose to get a whole galaxy of Scarfaces high.

The singer started missing concerts and collapsing on stage. In 1976, his pet dog mauled his son. His wife left him. His band broke up. Still, Sly could have probably recovered from all this. Failed marriages, band breakups, and drug addiction are part of the job description for troubled musicians. But there's one thing record labels in the '80s still took a much dimmer view on. In 1983, Stone was busted for cocaine possession. As People detailed in a 1996 profile, he didn't work again for over a decade.

Amazingly, getting caught with quantities of cocaine big enough to be measured in Escobars wasn't the only ruinous moment of Stone's career. After starting to work again in the 2000s, he was invited to play Coachella in 2010. It was meant to be his comeback. Instead, Sly rocked up late dressed in a blonde wig (pictured), rambled incoherently, played some stuff off his iPod, and then gave up. Only a year later, the former funkmaster was homeless and living in a van.

Lee Ryan responds to 9/11 by insisting people talk about elephants

If you were alive in October 2001, there was only one topic of conversation on your lips. A month before, terrorists had smashed planes into the Twin Towers, killing 3,000. A wounded America was still trying to understand what had happened, while the rest of the world was still looking on in sympathy. With one exception. Lee Ryan of the British boyband Blue was not impressed with all this grief and solidarity. In an interview with the Sun on October 26 (via NME), Ryan asked "who gives a f–k about New York when elephants are being killed?"

The Sun quoted Ryan as then going on to say, "They are ignoring animals that are more important. Animals need saving and that's more important. This New York thing is being blown out of all proportion." The only way Ryan could have possibly dug his already-deep hole any deeper would be if he'd then ended the interview by lynching a bald eagle with a burning American flag.

To be fair, Ryan was 17 when he gave this interview, and asking for insightful comments from hormonal teenagers might be a bit much. On the other hand … there isn't really another hand. The dude responded to the worst terrorist massacre in history by saying elephants were the real victims. Not even Gary Busey brings that much crazy to the table. Fittingly for those that believe in karma, Ryan and the rest of Blue split a couple years later and all eventually went bankrupt.

The Dixie Chicks say they're ashamed the president is from Texas

Country music and patriotism go together like country music and bourbon, or country music and tragic breakups. Lovin' the stars and stripes is so integral to the heart of the country scene that it'd take a very brave or very stupid performer to say something flagrantly unpatriotic while riding high in the Billboard country charts. The Dixie Chicks are those performers.

In 2003, at a time when Congress had literally changed the name of french fries to freedom fries in a show of patriotic fervor, the Chicks took to a stage in London and gave their thoughts on the upcoming Iraq War. Lead singer Natalie Maines declared to the crowd, "Just so you know, we're on the good side with y'all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas." As The Guardian detailed, that was the exact moment the Chicks' career hit the red, white, and blue fan.

Country music dropped the all-girl outfit like radioactive waste. Their singles plummeted down the Billboard charts before vanishing entirely. Radio stations banned their music. They received so many death threats that they claimed they were forced to install metal detectors at their concerts. Ex-fans held parties where they destroyed their old Dixie Chicks CDs. Their sales never recovered.

As late as 2015, The Guardian was still rhetorically asking if country music would ever forgive the Chicks. At time of writing, the answer is still "no."

Rapper B.o.B claims the Earth is flat

Retro is big business. The 2010s have seen fashion take us back to the 1990s. The 2000s took us back to the 1980s. In January 2016, hip-hop artist B.o.B decided to top all that by taking geography back to the Stone Age. In an unbelievable-before-2016 tweetstorm, B.o.B fired off endless pictures, thoughts, and "facts" all designed to prove one thing and one thing only: that the globe you had in elementary school lied to you and that the Earth is flatter than a bottle of old Pepsi. The Guardian has details, if you can stomach them.

The series of tweets has since come to define what's left of B.o.B's career. While the artist suffered only reputational damage from having the entire internet laugh at him, his subsequent Twitter spats with guys like astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson have sent him careening off down a rabbit hole that has since consumed his entire life. In September 2017, B.o.B even launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $1 million to launch satellites into space for "finding the curve," an impressively obtuse way of saying "for proving the Earth is flat" (via Verge). The campaign was later suspended, but not before institutions and people as respected as Buzz Aldrin, National Geographic, and NASA had taken time out from their busy schedules to troll the one musician on Earth who apparently missed the Age of Exploration.

Alan Freed broadcasts a black man dancing with a white woman

DJ and songwriter Alan Freed's name is obscure today, but he left behind one heck of a legacy. He's credited with being the guy who coined the term "rock and roll." He threw the world's first rock concert. (The BBC has the full, fascinating story.) He helped write some of Chuck Berry's hits. The guy was at least as instrumental as determining the course of postwar American music as Marty McFly. Between 1952 and 1957, he was the kingmaker of rock 'n' roll.

Which begs the question, what happened in 1957? At the time, Freed had a nationally syndicated ABC show, Big Beat, bringing his newfangled rock and/or roll to the entire country. One evening, something so unbelievably and unremittingly anti-American happened that the network had no choice but to immediately pull the plug. Big Beat showed a black performer dancing onstage with a white woman. Gasp!

It sounds ridiculous to 21st-century ears, but that one interracial dance was enough to get Freed's show canceled. As the LA Times detailed, it couldn't have come at a worse time for Freed. His marriage was falling apart and his health collapsing. Two years later, the final blow came. While still on the ropes from his Big Beat controversy, Freed was investigated by the FBI for accepting cash to play records as part of the payola scandal. What was left of his career was over. He died in 1965 a penniless alcoholic. The good ol' days, huh?