The Tragic Real-Life Story Of Travis Barker

For more than two decades, Travis Barker has been one of the most visible, active, and productive drummers in rock, keeping the beat for the consistently popular pop-punk band Blink-182 as well as side projects like the Transplants, Box Car Racer, and +44. A beloved of icon of millennial music and tattoo culture, Barker is responsible for the frenetic, hard-charging rhythms in such 2000s-era classics like "Feeling This," "All the Small Things," "First Date," "The Rock Show," and "What's My Age Again?" He's also been a near-constant tabloid presence, making headlines for his many high-profile romances and even higher-profile breakups.

While his music and public persona are built mostly on fun and good times, Barker's life not committed to wax and digital recordings has been tough, dramatic, and laced with trauma, tragedy, and heartbreak, a lot of it lived out in public. Here's a look at the darker, painful side of Blink-182 drummer (and new Kardashian romantic affiliate) Travis Barker.

Travis Barker's mother died when he was 13

A few major losses would fracture Travis Barker's family life for good, and he suffered them throughout his childhood. According to his memoir "Can I Say," when Barker was three years old, his paternal uncle died of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 62. He'd contracted the condition after acquiring hepatitis C via transfusion of infected blood.

During the summer before he started high school, Barker's mother, Gloria, suspected that her husband Randy was having an extramarital affair. A private investigator found evidence, and the young Barker recalled listening to them fight all night long.

Not long after Barker's parents' marriage fell apart, Gloria sought medical attention for neck pain, extreme fatigue, and a mouth so dry it made it hard for her to speak. Doctors diagnosed her with Sjogren's syndrome, a serious autoimmune disorder. At the end of the summer, when Barker was 13 (per his Instagram), his mother died on the day before the start of high school. He'd later commemorate Gloria Barker's memory with a large tattoo of her face on his back.

He experienced multiple traumatic situations as a young man

Travis Barker grew up in the Inland Empire of California, in the middle-class community of Fontana. "It was a tough city: there were shootings and stabbings," Barker said of his hometown in his memoir, "Can I Say." The drummer wrote about an incident in a nearby town in which an intoxicated man entered Barker's truck and ordered him to drive, pointing a gun in his direction for the entire 20-minute trip which ended without shots fired.

On his first day on the job as a delivery driver for Pizza Hut, Barker was sent with a pizza to what he called a "sketchy" part of Fontana. "I was heading into this apartment building when I got robbed by seven dudes with knives," Barker wrote. They took the pizza and let Barker go; he returned to the Pizza Hut and resigned.

Barker recounted more tales of violence averted in his young life to Vice. "Having a gun to my head while almost getting carjacked, being in a house that got shot up two days before my friend was killed," he said. "Walking away from a house as all my friends are outside shooting at a moving car," he added, describing a retaliatory situation for another shooting.

His first marriage lasted only a few months

Travis Barker has been married a few times, and the final two relationships have been well-documented by reality television camera crews. The 2005-2006 MTV show "Meet the Barkers" chronicled the drummer's life with actor and model Shanna Moakler, while his relationship with Kourtney Kardashian (whom he married a total of three times in May 2022, per People) provided much material for Hulu's "The Kardashians."

Not counting brief, ill-fated flings with model Tara Conner, singer Rita Ora, and professional celebrity Paris Hilton, Barker's other major relationship was with a woman named Melissa Kennedy, whom he married in 2001. According to Newsweek, she kept a low profile during and after her marriage to Barker, although she made brief appearances in two Blink-182 documentaries, 1999's "The Urethra Chronicles" and 2001's "The Urethra Chronicles II." Per Life and Style, the marriage fizzled out quickly, the pair filed for divorce less than a year after their wedding.

He endured major Blink-182 personnel issues

Blink-182 has always been a trio, but the musicians comprising the lineup has changed a couple of times, always fraught with drama and tension to which Drummer Travis Barker was exposed firsthand. Barker is the most famous person to ever sit behind the kit for the popular pop-punk band, drumming for the group throughout its late '90s/early 2000s commercial peak, but he wasn't the first man with the job. According to Drum!, original percussionist Scott Raynor drank so much that it affected his playing, and thus the sound of the band. After the rest of the band confronted him about the problem, Raynor went to rehab, but was fired over the phone after an intra-band fight. Barker replaced Raynor, entering a frayed band dynamic.

In 2015, according to Rolling Stone, Blink-182 announced that they'd recruited Alkaline Trio guitarist Matt Skiba for their gig at Barker's Musink Festival, just before releasing a statement revealing that original guitarist Tom DeLonge had left the band. "A week before we were scheduled to go into the studio, we got an email from his manager explaining that he didn't want to participate in any Blink-182 projects indefinitely, but would rather work on his other non-musical endeavors," Barker and bassist Mark Hoppus said. When DeLonge claimed on Instagram that he "never quit the band," his bandmates called him "disrespectful and ungrateful" and his statement "just not true" (via Rolling Stone).

Travis Barker had a painkiller addiction

Early in his adulthood, Travis Barker had a substance use disorder. According to Vice, he tried PCP and various strong prescription painkillers, which had some serious effects on him. "I got so good at taking them," Barker said. "I ended up building a tolerance where they would keep me wide awake and numb. I wasn't sleeping."

At the nadir of his dependency during an Australian tour in 2004, Barker assigned a security guard to watch over him while he slept to make sure he didn't stop breathing, according to Billboard. "My bones were so brittle from so much painkiller use," Barker said. "I had this moment when I got to Europe for that tour where I really identified myself as a dumpster." With suicidal feelings setting in, he reports, he told Blink-182 frontman Mark Hoppus that he needed to leave the tour. "I think that was the most disappointing time," he said. Barker said he kicked narcotics around 2007, and stopped smoking marijuana in 2011. "I had like pre-cancerous cells on my throat. I was meant to be sober, man."

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).

Travis Barker survived a plane crash

In his young adulthood (per Vice), Travis Barker was haunted by the notion that he'd one day die in a plane crash. He lived with a fear of flying, and he'd sometimes skip a flight if anxiety compelled him to do so. "I'd walked off planes before," he told Billboard, and before he boarded a flight out of Columbia, South Carolina, after performing at a college-sponsored event in September 2008, he felt uneasy. "I called my dad. I don't know what it was, but I said, 'Pops, I have a really strange feeling about this one.'"

Barker got on the small Learjet aircraft, according to People. Immediately after takeoff, the plane crashed and four people onboard died: pilots Sarah Lemmon and James Bland, and Barker's friends and employees "Lil" Chris Baker and Charles "Che" Still." Barker left the plane via an emergency exit. "I was in such a hurry to exit the plane I jumped right into the jet, which is full of fuel. My whole body lit up. I had jet fuel on my whole body," he said on The Joe Rogan Experience (via BuzzFeed News). Barker and the other survivor, musician Adam Goldstein (DJ AM), were transported to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Georgia; both were initially listed in critical but stable condition. Barker was treated for severe burns; the jet fuel had burnt two-thirds of his body.

His recovery from the plane crash was so brutal it left him suicidal

Recovering from third-degree burns that cover the majority of one's skin is an intensely painful and timely process. According to Men's Health, Travis Barker was hospitalized for three months after his tragic plane crash in September 2008. After 26 surgeries and many skin graft procedures, Barker was on the road to recovery, but he still had to undergo therapy and re-learn both how to walk and how to play the drums.

After his discharge, according to Salon, Barker refused the heavy-duty pain medications doctors had prescribed, so as to maintain his sobriety. "I couldn't imagine putting another one of those pills in my body, but they had me on other prescriptions. At some point, I flushed all those down the toilet because I didn't like what they were doing." Those pills, per Billboard: bipolar medications, to help curb suicidal thoughts and impulses because his burn recovery was so extraordinarily agonizing. "I was waking up during surgeries and overhearing doctors talking about amputating my foot," Barker told Vice. He asked his Transplants bandmate Rob Aston to arrange his death. "I would call Skinhead Rob all the time and tell him, 'Rob, get one of the homies I don't know to get in here and smoke me, I can't do this anymore."

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

As a result of the plane crash, Travis Barker endured PTSD and survivor's guilt

While Travis Barker's physical recovery from the small plane accident was difficult and painful, it was a less-visible health issue that nearly undid him. Per Men's Health, Barker suffered a multitude of mental health problems after the traumatic event. He reports that after his hospital discharge, he had trouble sleeping for three weeks, generally dozing for an hour a night and only after going into his kids' bedroom for the comfort that proximity to loved ones can provide.

Barker was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. "I couldn't walk down the street. If I saw a plane, I was determined it was going to crash, and I just didn't want to see it." During subsequent tours with his band, Barker believed an accident was a foregone conclusion, and he'd mentally prepare himself for such a happening.

It took Barker three months of therapy to reach a reasonably calm stasis in his mental health to address his PTSD and the aftermath, as two of Barker's friends died in the accident. "I had massive survivor's guilt for a while," he told Salon. "I had to bury two of my best friends, Lil' Chris and Che."

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

His best friend died of a drug overdose

Apart from Travis Barker, another musician survived the September 2008 Learjet crash in South Carolina (via People) that killed four people: the drummer's best friend, Adam Goldstein, a.k.a. DJ AM, an electronic musician who performed with the Blink-182 member as the duo TRVSDJ-AM. In the aftermath of the accident, Goldstein struggled mightily and publicly with survivor's guilt. "There's no reason why I lived and they didn't," he said at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in July 2009 (via People). "It's something that I struggle with every day, you know, kind of wondering." On August 28, 2009, Goldstein was discovered dead in his New York City argument, after police responded to a wellness check request after the musician hadn't been heard from in days. According to the New York medical examiner (via CNN), Goldstein died from an overdose of a combination of prescription drugs and cocaine.

"It destroyed me when Adam overdosed," Barker told Salon. "He was such a positive person; anyone who knew him would say so. He helped keep me sober. He was always helping me sober up."

His split from Shanna Moakler was acrimonious

Travis Barker and Shanna Moakler seemed to have the makings of a picture-perfect, reality TV-ready celebrity marriage. According to People, the Blink-182 drummer and the former Miss USA welcomed their son Landon in 2003, got married in 2004, and introduced daughter Alabama in 2005, the same year they debuted "Meet the Barkers" on MTV. That series ended its run in 2006, the same year that the marriage did, too, with Barker filing for divorce (according to Us Weekly).

The estranged couple aired their grievances and tossed accusations at one another in public settings. Via his MySpace page, Barker alleged infidelity and called his soon-to-be-ex-wife a laze-about; Moakler said to TMZ that Barker needed therapy and reportedly approached the women with whom Barker was possibly seeing on the side. Barker and Moakler reunited after the former's plane crash, but wound up calling each other out for cheating again, finalizing the divorce in 2008 but living in the same household to more effectively parent their kids. In 2014, Barker told a custody court that Moakler was a negligent, disinterested mother, and she brought up her former husband's threats, labeling their relationship in court documents "a very sick cycle."

Travis Barker fell severely ill in 2018

In 2018, Blink-182 rescheduled a number of dates of "Kings of the Weekend," its ongoing Las Vegas residency show at The Palms. The reason, according to a statement issued via the band's Twitter page: Drummer Travis Barker was severely ill, suffering from blood clots in both of his arms. According to Healthline, blood clots can manifest in swelling and cramping, and dislodge and enter the lung in the form of a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism. "I have blood clots," Barker told E! News. "I have, I think, like 30 in my right hand and arm, and I have about 10 in my left so I'm just waiting for them to clear up. I'm on blood thinners."

Barker was treated for his medical emergency in a Los Angeles area hospital and was released after a few days, according to TMZ, only to be quickly readmitted. While recovering with the blood clots and the treatment for them, he developed a staph infection as well as cellulitis, a skin infection. Barker was hospitalized once more, and was closely monitored to ensure that blood thinners didn't break off any parts of the clot and head for his lungs or heart.

He survived a nasty car accident

Just a few weeks after he was hospitalized for a series of serious blood clots, a staph infection, and cellulitis in the summer of 2018, Travis Barker was released from the hospital to recover at home. One evening, he was driving his son and a friend of his son's, in Calabasas, California. That's when a school bus (free of passengers and with only the driver on board) ran right into Barker's Mercedes SUV.

According to E! News, the bus had sped through a red light, and then collided with Barker's well occupied vehicle. "My car is totaled but I pretty much walked away okay," he said of the traffic mishap, in which no one in either vehicle was reported to be injured. "I have a really big 4x4 G-Wagon and if I wasn't in that, it might have been different but it held up pretty well."

The death of Taylor Hawkins upset Travis Barker

The community of elite, mega-successful alternative rockers drummers is a small one, and tight-knit at that. Thus, when one of their own dies, it hits hard. 

In March 2022, Foo Fighters announced via its Twitter account the death of its long-time drummer, Taylor Hawkins. "His musical spirit and infectious laughter will live on with all of us forever," the statement read, with authorities later revealing the cause of death (via The Daily Mail) to be cardiovascular collapse of an enlarged heart, brought on by drug use.

Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker posted a remembrance of Hawkins on his Instagram page."I don't have the words. Sad to write this or to never see you again. I'll never forget Laguna Beach days when I was a trash man playing in a punk rock band and you were playing with Alanis [Morissette]," he wrote. "You'd come watch me play in dive bars and be like, 'kid you're a star.'" A few weeks later, per Instagram and Billboard, Barker got a new tattoo above his foot: hawk wings, in honor of Hawkins.