'70s Rock Stars Accused Of Serious Crimes

The 1970s were packed with some of music's biggest stars, with legends and icons whose songs continue to be sung to this day — from rockers like Led Zeppelin, crooners like Ike Turner, and flashy showmen like David Bowie. But the 1970s were also one of the wildest decades in America's history, with the pall of war in the east hanging over counter culture, while free love movements gave way to disco fever. So it should come as no surprise that some of the decade's most prominent musical acts — rock stars, or otherwise — got into just as much trouble off stage as they had hits on stage.

Whether it was during the decade that they ran afoul of the law, or decades later that serious allegations were leveled against them, here are some of the biggest artists of the 1970s who were accused of serious crimes.

Ozzy Osbourne

Frontman of the pioneering heavy metal group Black Sabbath throughout the 1970s, Ozzy Osbourne had arguably his biggest career moments in that decade. Known for his wild personality, and even wilder on-stage persona (he infamously bit the head off of a real bat on stage), he's also had his share of run-ins with the law. Arrested in 1984 in Memphis for public drunkenness (via the Kentucky New Era), and accused of domestic violence by his wife Sharon Osbourne, as per the Sun, it was his antics in Texas in 1982 that top the list.

As Rolling Stone details, while visiting San Antonio for a concert in February of that year, Ozzy was caught urinating at a monument near the famous Alamo landmark and was subsequently arrested and jailed for public intoxication and urination. Thankfully for his thousands of fans who came to the city to see him perform, Ozzy was able to make bail and play the gig at the HemisFair Arena. Banned from the state for a decade, he would eventually be pardoned for the offense after donating to a local charity, and in 2015 he made an emotional visit back to the site of his famous failure, with the return chronicled by Rolling Stone.

Jackson Browne

Jackson Browne reached the height of his fame in the mid 1970s and has been nominated for seven Grammys. His 1972 self-titled debut album made it to No. 53 on the Billboard top 200, with the song "Doctor, My Eyes" becoming an unexpected hit and topping out at No. 8 on the singles charts. He had four more albums released through the rest of the decade, as per AllMusic, and while he's never stopped recording, he has never matched that prolific output. A success with his guitar, he found trouble in love and had serious accusations leveled against him by at least one former partner.

Following his split from Hollywood actress Daryl Hannah in 1992, the starlet made serious allegations of domestic abuse against Browne, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. Accusations that he had beaten Hannah followed Browne for years, but the artist eventually prevailed in a defamation suit in 2003 (via Billboard), putting to rest the long-standing rumors following a documentary released by 20th Century Fox that repeated the allegations. "I never assaulted Daryl Hannah, and this fact was confirmed by the investigation conducted at the time by the Santa Monica Police Department," a statement read from Browne following the suit.

Dickey Betts

Though The Allman Brothers struggled to chart in their first couple of years, the band had a breakout success with "At The Filmore East," a double live album released in 1971, turning them from underground rockers to influential stars (via AllMusic). Rounding out the group after the pair of siblings Gregg and Duane Allman were bass guitarist Berry Oakley, percussionists Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny Johanson, and guitarist Dickey Betts. The rock icons went on to release 12 studio albums and even more live albums. As with most musicians in the 1970s, members of the group were heavily involved in drug use, notes the New York Daily News, but that's not what earns Betts a spot on this list. Instead, it's his arrest for trespassing and indecent acts while at a strip club in Sarasota, Florida.

As a report stated in the Tampa Bay Times, Betts was accused of "acting obscenely" at the club. Though as a legendary rocker you might think this incident occurred while on tour in the 1970s, it instead occurred in 1997, when Betts was 53 years old. According to the report, Betts refused to leave the establishment and was arrested. He was later released after being fingerprinted and photographed by Sarasota County police.

Donald Fagan

A mix of jazz, pop, blues, and rhythm and blues, the '70s rock group Steely Dan was formed by Walter Becker and Donald Fagan, with some of their hits including "Do It Again" and "Dirty Work" from their debut album (via AllMusic). They'd survive a decade-plus hiatus throughout the 1980s and into the '90s, during which Fagan would go solo, releasing a pair of his own albums (via Discogs). As a part of Steely Dan, Fagan would be elected to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2001. Fagan however would also find himself running afoul of the law — and his partner — after being accused of and charged with domestic assault against his wife, Libby Titus, in 2016, according to the Denver Post.

Police reports indicated that Fagan was alleged to have violently pushed his wife into a window and knocked her to the ground during an altercation in their Manhattan apartment. The criminal complaint against Fagan stated that Titus suffered significant injuries, including "bruising and swelling to her right arm, as well as substantial pain." Just a few days following the incident, however, it was reported that Fagan and Titus had reconciled (via Page Six)

George Clinton

Trailblazing funk legend George Clinton came to fame in the 1970s as the leader of the iconoclastic Parliament, as well as founder of psychedelic funk rock group Funkadelic. Over the years his collective of rotating musicians became known as "Parliament-Funkadelic," and Clinton has become widely known as the Prime Minister of Funk (via Metro Times). With the brilliance and ability to blend disparate musical styles together, Clinton was an industry outsider who managed to forge a legacy in the genre matched by few others, and his style and influence in music and fashion cannot be understated, notes The New Yorker

But as the foremost artist working in the psychedelic genre, it should come as no surprise that Clinton has been mixed up in the drug scene since the very beginning. He faced serious charges in different instances throughout his career, but at least one of those charges led to consequences. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, in 2003 he was arrested on drug possession charges when officers found him in his car with a large quantity of cocaine and other drug paraphernalia. Clinton voluntarily admitted what he had on him and pled no contest. He was handed down a sentence of 200 hours of community service and two years of probation. 

Pete Townshend

Co-founder of '70s band, The Who, Pete Townsend's crime ultimately proved to be false, but in an unexpected twist, was a life-changing incident. In 2003, he was arrested on suspicion of possessing child pornography (via the New York Times). The accusations stemmed from his connection to a website that purveyed such content, with Townshend using his credit card to access the site. Townshend immediately denied the charges. Though he admitted to using the website, he claimed he did so as part of his research into child abuse for his own autobiography, saying he was intending to prove how banks played a part in the exploitation of children.

Thankfully for Townshend and his fans, the star was cleared of all charges following an investigation, although he was placed on a national register of sex offenders, reports MTV. But what makes this story even more remarkable is that Townshend believes that the incident saved his life (via the Daily Mail). According to the musician, the duration of the investigation gave him time to get a much-needed colonoscopy that revealed malignant polyps. "The doctor showed me the polyp. He said, 'This would have killed you in six months.'" Despite the positive outcome, Townshend admits the arrest and charges still trouble him.

Sid Vicious

Possibly one of the most famous true crime stories in music in the 1970s, controversial singer/guitarist Sid Vicious was accused of murdering his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. Fueled by a mutual addiction to hardcore drugs — and a risky lifestyle of unpredictable behavior — the two were together when the Sex Pistols broke up in 1978, after which they began collaborating musically, with Spungen acting as a quasi-manager, as per Biography, as Vicious embarked on a solo career. Sadly, neither Vicious' post-Sex Pistols career, nor Spungen's vibrant life, would continue much longer after that. 

As Rolling Stone details, in October of '78, Spungen would be found dead in her room at the Chelsea Hotel, having bled to death on the floor of her bathroom from a stab wound to the stomach. She was just 20 years old. Found stumbling through the hotel hallways afterwards, Vicious was taken into custody and charged with her murder. He seemingly confessed to the crime initially but recanted shortly thereafter. There have been rumors that it may have been an attempt at a murder-suicide, but the rocker would die of a drug overdose before trial, leaving the truth a mystery.

Gene Simmons

Clad in over-the-top theatrical costumes and covered in facial make-up, the rock 'n' roll foursome called KISS took on supernatural identities as "The Starchild," "The Cat," and "The Spaceman," and became the idol of millions (via Biography). But leading the crew was "Demon," Gene Simmons, with his long black cape and suggestively long, waggling tongue. Unfortunately, the sexual innuendo of Simmons-penned KISS songs like "Love Gun" and "Nothin' To Lose" became more than lyrics when in 2017 the rocker was accused of sexual misconduct by a local radio DJ.

Though the disc jockey would go unnamed, she would file suit in Los Angeles Superior Court, reports IndyStar, in December of that year on charges of sexual battery and "unwarranted sexual advances" during an on-camera interview that occurred at the San Manuel Casino location of the Rock & Brews restaurant co-owned by Simmons. The suit alleged that the advances began when Simmons placed the woman's hand forcefully on his own knee. It went on to state that he continued the advances to the point of turning innocent interview questions into "sexual innuendos" before he "forcibly flicked/struck" her in the throat, as per The Sun. The lawsuit was eventually settled out of court, but in its wake came more allegations of groping and sexual misconduct, including an accusation from his bandmate Ace Frehley, reports USA Today, who claimed Simmons once groped his wife.

Don Henley

Don Henley was the longtime guitarist, singer, and drummer of The Eagles, a group that successfully straddled the line between pop, rock, and country. Founded in 1971, the group went on to amass 18 Grammy nominations and six wins (via Grammy.com), including a nomination for Best New Artist for their self-titled debut album. Henley boasted a successful solo career as well, with five studio releases, with his latest, the 2015 release "Cass County" debuting at No. 1 on the Country Billboard charts, as per Rolling Stone. Despite his success though, there's one incident in his career that he'd surely like to forget. It all originated with a call to 9-1-1 in 1980 placed from Henley's Los Angeles home.

Los Angeles Firefighters responded to the call and discovered a shocking sight: a naked 16-year-old sex worker suffering from an overdose of cocaine (via Broward Palm Beach New Times). While it may be tough to believe his story, Henley insisted he didn't know the girl's age and claimed he never had any sexual contact with her. While he blamed his band's roadies for her drug use, Henley still pled no contest to charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and was sentenced to two years of probation. Some consider it a light punishment and feel he should have seen more accountability, notes The Week.

David Crosby

The man behind the first name in the '70s folk rock group Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, David Crosby has had quite the musical career, but also a controversial personal life. While he and Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and Neil Young were lighting up the airwaves with hits like "Our House," Crosby himself was battling drug problems (via the New York Post), particularly a startling cocaine addiction. In 1982, however, things became more serious when he was arrested on drug and weapons charges at a Dallas nightclub for possession of a handgun and use of cocaine. After failing a stint in rehab as part of a plea deal, he was sentenced the next year to five years in prison, as per Ultimate Classic Rock. Though incredulous at the ruling, he still managed to be released on parole after just five months.

Unfortunately, his drug problems — and legal issues — were far from behind him, as his arrest some 22 years later will attest. In March of 2004, Crosby was taken into custody at his Times Square hotel in New York City after playing a show in Wayne, New Jersey. Apparently, Crosby had left behind an incriminating piece of luggage that contained not just drugs — in this case marijuana and associated paraphernalia — but also a loaded .45 caliber handgun (via the New York Times). Crosby pled guilty this time and received a fine.

Gary Glitter

Gary Glitter was born Paul Gadd (via BBC) but took up a stage name persona as the glam rock movement picked up steam in the 1970s. Unfortunately, nearly the entirety of his career has been checkered with trouble including a decade-long driver's license suspension for which he nearly got prison time (via The Guardian). But Glitter would take his drug and alcohol problems much further with offenses far more heinous than drinking and driving or snorting cocaine.

The worst of it began in 1997, when Glitter was arrested in a computer shop after a stash of child pornography was found on his computer's hard drive, reports the Irish Times. After being sentenced to just four months prison in 1999, Glitter took up a new name and relocated to Spain where he lived for a time before being discovered. He then fled to Cambodia (via Olive Press), then Vietnam, all the while assaulting underage girls. Finally caught (via People), Glitter was extradited and sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2015, reports The Daily Mail.

Ronald Isley

One of the original Isley Brothers trio that also included his brothers O'Kelly and Rudy, Ronald Isley would welcome many other members of the family into and out of the group over the years. Though they entertained audiences with Motown and doo-wop inspired tunes as early as the 1950s, the Isley Brothers found further success in the '70s, when they began mixing rock 'n' roll and funk into their repertoire (via AllMusic). As lead singer, Ronald is also the only Isley brother to be a part of the group for their entire lifetime, from their 1959 album "Shout!" right up until 2017's "The Power Of Peace." His tremendous success with the group led to legal troubles, though, as he amassed a small fortune in earnings from his musical career and wanted to make sure he kept every cent of it.

It was in 2006 that Ronald was brought to trial for tax evasion, as per Today, with $3.1 million in back taxes unpaid and still owed to the Internal Revenue Service. Sentenced to three years and one month in prison for his financial crime, Ronald's attorney pleaded for a reduced sentence due to the artist's deteriorating health following a stroke, but the judge wasn't convinced. In 2010, Ronald was released from prison and immediately began recording again, with the album "Mr. I" dropping in November of that year.

Ike Turner

As talented and popular of a singer as Ike Turner was in the 1970s, he seems to have been equally successful when it comes to getting into trouble, with dangerous habits and bad behavior that caused legal problems throughout his career. Along with his wife, Tina Turner, Ike was part of one of the most popular double acts of their day. Together they were The Ike and Tina Turner Revue, but in 1976 it all came crashing down, thanks entirely to Ike Turner's abuse and unpredictable drug use. After years of violent outbursts aimed squarely at his wife, Ike's musical act with her fell apart when Tina fled from him while together in Dallas (via Biography).

Over the years, Tina Turner would discuss in great detail the abuse she endured while in her relationship with Ike, including broken bones from physical altercations, and fights that left her battered, bruised, and bloody, as per Hollywood Reporter. Ike Turner's troubles didn't end after Tina left however, with additional drug charges coming in 1985, according to the AP. He would ultimately die of a cocaine overdose in 2007, reports the Los Angeles Times.