The Tragic Real-Life Story Of My Chemical Romance

Artists are often reflections of the experiences that they lived through over time. So, if a musician has endured a series of traumatic events during their life, that is sure to influence the kind of music that they create. This is no more true than with My Chemical Romance, a band that literally spawned as a result of arguably the first major catastrophe of the new century.

Even though the bandmates have often resisted the label, My Chemical Romance instantly became synonymous with the Emo subculture. Whether one agrees with that assessment or not, it is undeniable that emotional journeys are a vital part of the creative process for the band. Gerard, Mikey, and the other members have gone through some seriously tough times, but instead of letting that keep them down, the rock stars used it as fuel to propel them to the top and reach out to thousands of fans who were also struggling like them. Here are the tragic moments that both helped define MCR and make them stronger as individuals and a band.

The Way brothers lived in a dangerous area

When bassist Mikey and lead singer Gerard Way were growing up in New Jersey, they spent a lot of time hanging out together, because they were not allowed to leave the house often — and for good reason. The surrounding area was so bad that their mother just preferred that they played indoors for the most part. In an episode of the "SModcast," the Way brothers described to Kevin Smith how frightening it could be and said that one of their coworkers was brutally bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat.

Regardless of the danger, Gerard frequently went to the local comic store, because he was comfortable there while he felt like an outcast at his high school. According to the biography "My Chemical Romance: This Band Will Save Your Life," the singer said, "I found solace in the comic book store. That saved my life."

Since he was at the store so often, Gerard accepted an offer to work at the place, but that turned out to be a terrible mistake. He told NME, "I was working at the comic store, just watching animé, and we got held up. They put me on the ground and put a .357 Magnum to the back of my head, execution style. I lost a lot of innocence after that. The comic book store closed two weeks later" (via This Band Will Save Your Life).

The band members always saw themselves as outsiders

Gerard Way was not the only one among his bandmates that struggled to fit in, which is a major reason why they got together to form My Chemical Romance in the first place. 

In an interview with Metal Hammer, the frontman said, "We were originally united as a group because we ourselves were obvious outsiders. We were pretty much invisible and insignificant. When nobody pays any attention to you, you realize how mortal you are. That's why teenagers that are troubled or are seen as outcasts are drawn to death" (via This Band Will Save Your Life).

When talking to Kerrang!, rhythm guitarist Frank Iero went so far as to say that even after they had reached a high level of fame and practically become the face of emo music, My Chemical Romance was still a group of misfits. He says, "But I don't think we've ever been accepted. It's always been that way. I don't think this band will ever be on top because we always have to fight to survive."

My Chemical Romance formed immediately after 9/11

September 11th was an utter tragedy for everyone in the U.S., but it was even worse for those who witnessed the carnage in person. Gerard Way was unfortunate enough to be one of those individuals, because he was in Hoboken at the time of the incident, right across the Hudson River. The singer recalled the traumatic experience and said, "Right in front of us it just went down. It was the biggest f****** neutron bomb of mental anguish you've ever felt" (via This Band Will Save Your Life).

The tragic event dramatically changed Gerard's perspective on life and served as a huge motivator in his drive to make a difference in any way he could. After being turned away when he tried to donate blood, the singer's goal then became to find likeminded musicians and reach out to people through their music.

In an interview with Newsweek, Gerard elaborated on the impact 9/11 had on him and said, "One of the biggest reasons I started My Chemical Romance was because I was one of the people to witness 9/11 in New York City. That felt like the end of the world. It felt like the apocalypse. I was surrounded by hundreds of people on a dock on the Hudson River, and we watched the buildings go down, and there was this wave of human anguish that I've never felt before."

Emo music was blamed for the death of Hannah Bond

In 2008, media outlets reported the horrible news that a 13-year-old girl named Hannah Bond had committed suicide in the U.K. One week later, The Daily Mail published an article claiming that the reason Hannah had taken her own life was because she had recently become obsessed with the rising emo lifestyle. While other bands were also blamed for promoting this dangerous subculture, but My Chemical Romance was the primary target.

It made sense that the child's parents, Ray and Heather Bond, were deeply concerned with changes they witnessed as Hannah became more immersed in the emo community, and were quick to blame the subculture. But even the coroner of her case, Roger Sykes, had the same opinion. "The emo overtones concerning death and associating it with glamour I find very disturbing. It is not glamorous; just simply a tragic loss of such a young life."

My Chemical Romance quickly rejected any suggestion that their music was a cause for the tragedy and released a statement that said, "As a band, we have always made it one of our missions through our actions to provide comfort, support, and solace to our fans ... Our lyrics are about finding the strength to keep living through pain and hard times."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

The Way brothers have struggled with substance abuse

To get over his extreme social anxiety, Gerard Way turned to cocaine and alcohol until he became completely dependent on the substances during Warped Tour in 2004. In an interview with, the frontman described the dire situation he was putting himself in. "I've always had a problem with drinking and mixing alcohol with pills, and it started to get the best of me. So the same way I was functioning just to sing when we were doing the record, I functioned just to play the shows when we did Warped" (via This Band Will Save Your Life). When Gerard's addiction became so severe that it nearly killed him while touring in Japan later that year, the singer was ready to seek help, and his bandmates fully supported him. 

Years later, Mikey Way found himself headed down a similarly dark path, and also received help from loved ones to enter rehab. In a statement released to the public, the bassist said, "I had been self-medicating for more than half my life ... When the band broke up, my using had intensified and I fell into total darkness. In the true form of an addict, I disconnected from everyone I knew and pushed away everyone I loved" (via Alternative Press).

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Helena is a tribute to Gerard and Mikey's late grandmother

Mikey and Gerard Way were very close with their grandmother, Helen Lee Rush, who strongly supported them in all their goals and dreams since they were children. So, when they learned that she had passed away after entering the hospital for what was supposed to be a routine surgery, the brothers were both shocked and beyond saddened.

In an interview with Alternative Press, Gerard described the depressing circumstances and said, "It was really sad because I had just gotten off tour and she died the next day. If you combined all the tours together and called it 'the tour,' I missed the last year and a half, practically, of this woman's life. And I get home, she dies the next day and I didn't get to see her. I was pretty devastated because she taught me how to sing and paint: basically everything I apply to this band, I got from her" (via This Band Will Save Your Life).

When putting together their second studio album, "Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge," the two then decided to write the song "Helena" in honor of their grandmother, nicknamed Elena. "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" may be the top hit from the album, but "Helena" and its accompanying video are also classics of the band.

A series of terrible injuries for Bob Bryar

While filming the music video for "Famous Last Words," drummer Bob Bryar's pants caught on fire from getting too close to pyrotechnic effects and he received third-degree burns that were so severe that he needed a skin graft. But Bryar did not go to a hospital and instead had a doctor treat his wounds in a hotel room, which later led to a staph infection. In an interview with Spin, the drummer revealed the horrific details of his condition and said, "An abscess was resting on my brain. I couldn't move, I couldn't talk. When I tried to leave the hospital they said I'd die in two days if I left. So I sat back down." 

The next year, Bryar was forced to cancel more shows because he had developed a serious issue with his wrist that prevented him from playing. In a statement posted to his Myspace, he talked about experiencing increasingly severe "problems with [his] wrists" in previous years. He also stated that he had sought medical attention numerous times so that his wrist pain would not get in the way of his career. "I guess I pushed it too hard this time. During our show at Maxwell's, I got a golf ball-sized lump in my wrist, I started to not only have pain, but lose control and feeling in my fingers" (via NME).

My Chemical Romance no longer enjoyed making music

After My Chemical Romance had made it big and were still popular with many of their fans, the band decided to call it quits. When talking to The Guardian, Gerard Way explained the reasoning behind the shocking announcement and said, "When things start to succeed and go really well, that's when a lot of people start to have an opinion and that's when you run into struggle. Everybody had a f****** opinion about what MCR should be. So it made it difficult to figure out what direction to take next. You get caught up in this trap of 'Is it ever gonna be good enough?' It wasn't fun to make stuff any more."

On the more positive side, another reason that the singer said the group decided to split up was because the world seemed to be in a better place by 2013 than it was when the band first started a decade before. On the other hand, Gerard also expressed his opinion that society had seemed to regress, especially after the shift of the political climate in the U.S.

Traumatic circumstances gave Frank Iero some pretty close calls

Before joining My Chemical Romance, Frank Iero was plagued with serious health problems as a child that caused him to frequently seek medical treatment and eventually led to an even worse condition. In an interview for the biography "Not the Life It Seems: The True Lives of My Chemical Romance," he explained, "I always feel tired and run down, my immune system is destroyed because I have Epstein Barr virus." Iero has had EBV symptoms even into adulthood, so the rise of Covid-19 has made his health concerns even more frightening, since EBV may make a coronavirus infection significantly worse

However, the closest the guitarist came to death was when he was hit by a bus and dragged underneath it in 2016. While on tour with his new band Frank Iero and the Patience, the group was struck as they were loading equipment on the side of the road. The guitarist described the harrowing experience to MTV News: "I ended up underneath the bumper of this massive vehicle ... I thought whoever I couldn't see or hear had to be dead, and if they weren't dead yet, then we all would be soon."

Iero believes his huge rucksack prevented his death. "The way I got hit, it hooked on underneath the bumper and lodged me between the curb and the bus." Though his bandmates were seriously injured, all of them fortunately made it out alive.

My Chemical Romance was devastated by the loss of Lauren Valencia

In 2019, Lauren Valencia, a manager from entertainment agency Roc Nation who worked with My Chemical Romance, passed away from cancer. Gerard Way was especially saddened by the loss, as the two had become very close in the years that she managed the band.

In a tribute posted on Instagram, Way said, "You were my friend, but you will always be my sister. The world is dimmer today, but I will always have your light to get me through. Your family is my family and I will miss you terribly. I will think of you every day, and every time I get on a stage you will be with me. I will love you forever" (via Variety). Frank Iero also tweeted a brief tribute to Valencia and said, "Today is going to be a tough one. RIP LV. #f—cancer."

The tragic passing of stage manager Jacob Raggio

Only two years later, the band members were rocked by another loss, with the death of stage manager Jacob Raggio. The former carpenter moved his way up through production to become a manager, but not just for My Chemical Romance. In fact, his extensive career also included working for other musicians like the rock band Slipknot, R&B artist Beyonce, and rapper Jay-Z.

This time, Frank Iero was the most affected by the tragedy and wrote a long, heartfelt tribute on Instagram. He said, "Today I stumbled across this clip that @laurapaggs posted and I began to cry, because it was just perfect and I felt that beautiful glow of your soul peaking through. Jacob Raggio was such a kind person. Sweet and amazing, talented and hardworking, and everyone that met him loved him. We were so lucky to have known you and spend a little time in your presence" (via iHeartRadio).

The death of Chester Bennington deeply saddened Gerard Way

The heartbreaking news that Chester Bennington had taken his own life rocked the music world. The singer was not just beloved by the many fans of Linkin Park, but also well-liked amongst his fellow musicians. Because of his friendship with Bennington, Gerard Way was one of the rock stars who was especially hurt by the loss.

Way got hitched while My Chemical Romance was on tour with Linkin Park for Projekt Revolution in 2007, and Bennington was happy for any part he had to play in the joyous moment. He told Rolling Stone, "I felt really proud...that Gerard and [Linds] reignited their friendship and then ended up getting married backstage on the last show. I was like, 'This is freaking awesome'."

In an interview with Nerdist after the singer's passing, Way recalled the impact that Bennington had made on his life and said, "I was devastated to hear about Chester. He was actually at my wedding. Not a lot of people were there because we got married super quickly at the end of the tour when half the people had gone home." Way then added, "His band and bringing us on tour, that changed my life. I met my wife. We have an amazing life now and a daughter. My memories of that period and meeting Linds again are tied into Chester and his band. It's so sad."

A dead body was found after the band's reunion concert

After several years apart, My Chemical Romance began to discuss getting back together in 2017 and then reformed, to the delight of their many fans. They performed their first show together at the end of 2019, but then the coronavirus pandemic delayed their long-awaited reunion tour.

In 2022, the band was finally able to perform again. However, tragedy struck in the U.K. at their concert in Milton Keynes. According to MK Citizen, an unfortunate death occurred either as the show happened or afterwards, and the body was found in the car park used for the venue at the MK Stadium. Local law enforcement did not release a cause of death, but did give out an official statement that said, "Thames Valley Police is investigating an unexplained, non-suspicious death in Milton Keynes. As such, it is not being treated as a crime."