James Newell Osterberg, Jr. (born April 21, 1947), better known by his stage name Iggy Pop, is an American rock singer, songwriter, and occasional actor. Although he has had only limited mainstream success, Iggy Pop is considered an innovator of punk rock, garage rock, and other related styles. He is sometimes referred to by the nicknames "the Godfather of Punk" and "the Rock Iguana", and is widely acknowledged as one of the most dynamic stage performers. Pop began calling himself Iggy after his first band in high school, The Iguanas. His direct influence extends to the present day: a Cadillac ad in rotation since February 2007 features his vocal performance on the song "Punkrocker", recorded in 2006 with the Swedish band Teddybears.
Iggy Pop was the lead singer of The Stooges, a late 1960s/early 1970s garage rock band who were influential in the development of the nascent heavy metal and punk rock genres. The Stooges became infamous for their live performances, during which it was not uncommon for Pop (who traditionally performs bare-chested) to consume narcotics, self-mutilate, verbally abuse the audience, expose himself and leap off the stage (thus being the first or among the first to "stage dive"). Countless subsequent performers have imitated Pop's antics.
Pop's popularity has ebbed and flowed throughout the course of his subsequent solo career. His best-known solo songs include "Lust for Life", "I'm Bored", "Real Wild Child", the Top 40 hit "Candy" (with vocalist Kate Pierson of The B-52's) and "The Passenger". A film about Iggy Pop's life and career titled The Passenger is currently in development.
Österberg began his music career as a drummer in different high school bands in Ann Arbor, Michigan. One band was the Iguanas, from the name of which he adopted his future moniker Iggy. After exploring local blues-style bands such as the Prime Movers (with brothers Dan and Michael Erlewine), he eventually dropped out of the University of Michigan and moved to Chicago to learn more about blues. Inspired by Chicago blues as well as bands like The Sonics and The MC5, he formed the Psychedelic Stooges and began calling himself Iggy. The band was composed of Iggy on vocals, Ron Asheton on guitar, Asheton's brother Scott on drums, and Dave Alexander on bass. After almost two years they made their debut in Ann Arbor.
The seeds of Iggy Pop's stage persona were sown when he saw The Doors perform in 1967 at the University of Michigan and was amazed by the stage antics and antagonism displayed by singer Jim Morrison. Morrison's extreme behavior—while performing in a popular band—inspired the young Pop to push the boundaries of stage performance. Later, while inventing the stage-dive in Detroit, rolling around in broken glass, exposing himself to the crowd, and vomiting on stage, among many other exploits, Iggy himself would inspire others.
In 1968, one year after their live debut, and now dubbed the Stooges, the band signed with Elektra Records, again following in the footsteps of The Doors, who were Elektra's biggest act at the time (reportedly, Pop called Moe Howard to see if it was alright to call his band "The Stooges", to which Howard responded by merely saying "I don't care what they call themselves, as long as they're not the Three Stooges!" and hung up the phone). The Stooges' first two albums, The Stooges, (on which Iggy was credited, much to his chagrin, as "Iggy Stooge") produced by John Cale, and Fun House, sold poorly. Shortly after the new members joined, the group disbanded because of Pop's growing heroin addiction.
In 1971, Iggy Pop and David Bowie met at Max's Kansas City, a nightclub and restaurant in New York City. Pop's career received a boost from his relationship with Bowie when Bowie decided in 1973 to produce an album with Pop in England. With James Williamson signed on as guitarist, the search began for a rhythm section. However, since neither Pop nor Bowie was satisfied with any players in England, they decided to re-unite The Stooges. It would not be a true reunion insofar as Dave Alexander, who had succumbed to alcoholism, was unable to play on the record; he later died, in 1975. Also, Ron Asheton grudgingly moved from guitar to bass to make way for Williamson to play guitar. The recording sessions produced the punk rock landmark Raw Power. After its release Scott Thurston was added to the band on keyboards/electric piano and Bowie continued his support, but Iggy's drug problem persisted. The Stooges' last show ended in a fight between the band and a group of bikers, documented on the album Metallic K.O.. Drug abuse stalled his career again for several years.
Bowie and Iggy Pop relocated to West Berlin to wean themselves off their addictions. Iggy Pop signed with RCA and Bowie helped write and produce The Idiot and Lust for Life (both 1977), Pop's two most acclaimed albums as a solo artist, the latter with another team of brothers, Hunt and Tony Sales. Among songs they wrote together were "China Girl", "Tonight", and "Sister Midnight", all of which Bowie performed on his own albums later on (the last being recorded with different lyrics as "Red Money" on the album Lodger). Bowie also played keyboards in Pop's live performances, some of which are featured on the album TV Eye (1978). In return, Pop contributed backing vocals on Bowie's Low.
The album was moderately successful in Australia and New Zealand, however, and this led to Iggy Pop's first visit there to promote it. While in Melbourne, he made a memorable appearance on the ABC's nationwide pop show Countdown. During his anarchic performance of "I'm Bored", Pop made no attempt to conceal the fact that he was miming, and he even tried to grab the teenage girls in the audience. He was also interviewed by host Ian "Molly" Meldrum, an exchange which was frequently punctuated by the singer jumping up and down on his chair and making loud exclamations of "G'day mate" in a mock Australian accent. His Countdown appearance is generally considered one of the highlights of the show's history and it cemented his popularity with Australian punk fans; since then he has often toured there. While visiting New Zealand, Iggy Pop recorded a music video for "I'm Bored", featuring him outside The Beehive, part of the country's Parliament buildings, and at a record company function where he appeared to slap a woman and throw wine over a photographer. This was widely aired on New Zealand television.
While in Australia Iggy Pop was also the guest on a live late-night commercial TV interview show on the Ten Network. It is not known whether a recording of this interview exists, but the famous Countdown appearance has often been re-screened in Australia.
During the recording of Soldier (1980), Iggy Pop and Williamson quarrelled over production - the latter apparently wanted a big, Phil Spector-type sound - and Williamson was fired. Bowie appeared on the song "Play it Safe" performing backing vocals with Simple Minds. The album and its follow-up Party (1981) were both commercial failures, and Iggy Pop was dropped from Arista. His drug habit varied in intensity, but persisted.
In 1985, Pop recorded some demos with guitarist Steve Jones, previously of the Sex Pistols. He played these demos to Bowie, who was sufficiently impressed to offer to produce an album for Pop: 1986's New Wave-influenced Blah Blah Blah, featuring the single "Real Wild Child", a cover of "Wild One (Real Wild Child)", originally made popular by Australian rock'n'roll pioneer Johnny O'Keefe in 1959. The single was a Top 10 hit in the UK and was successful around the world, especially in Australia, where for the last twenty years it has been used as the theme music for the ABC's late-night music video show Rage. It remains Pop's solitary brush with major commercial success. Blah Blah Blah was Pop's highest-charting album in the U.S. since The Idiot in 1977, peaking at #75 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart.
Also in 1985, the movie Rock & Rule was released featuring performances by Iggy Pop and Lou Reed for the character Mok. Pop's song in the film was Pain & Suffering from the final sequence of the film.
In 1987, Pop appeared (along with Bootsy Collins) on a mostly instrumental album, Neo Geo by Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. The music video for "Risky", written and directed by Meiert Avis, won the first ever MTV "Breakthrough Video Award". The ground breaking video explores transhumanist philosopher FM-2030's ideas of "Nostalgia for the Future" in the form of an imagined love affair between a robot and one of Man Ray's models in Paris in the late 1930s. Additional inspiration was drawn from Jean Baudrillard, Edvard Munch's 1894 painting "Puberty", and Roland Barthes " Death of the Author". The surrealist black and white video uses stop motion, light painting, and other retro in-camera effects techniques. Meiert Avis shot Sakamoto while at work on the score for "The Last Emperor" in London. Sakamoto also appears in the video painting words and messages to an open shutter camera. Iggy Pop, who performs the vocals on "Risky", chose not appear to in the video, allowing his performance space to be occupied by the surrealist era robot.
The follow-up to Blah Blah Blah, Instinct (1988), was a turnaround in musical direction. Its stripped-back, guitar-based sound leaned further towards the sound of the Stooges than any of his solo albums to date. His record label, which had most likely been expecting another Blah Blah Blah, dropped him. Nevertheless, the King Biscuit radio show recording of the Instinct tour (featuring guitarist Andy McCoy and Alvin Gibbs on bass) reaching Boston on 19 July 1988 remains one of punk-rock's most enduring live albums.
Also in 1990, Pop starred in the controversial opera The Manson Family by composer John Moran, released on Point Music/Phillip Classics, where he sang the role of prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi. That year he was also involved in the Red Hot + Blue project, singing a version of Well Did You Evah! in a duet with Deborah Harry.
In 1991, Pop contributed the song "Why Was I Born (Freddy's Dead)" to the soundtrack of the film Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare. The song also plays over the end credits of the film, with a compilation of clips from the A Nightmare on Elm Street series running alongside the end credits.
In 1992, he collaborated with Goran Bregović on the soundtrack for the movie Arizona Dream by Emir Kusturica. Pop sang four of the songs: "In the Deathcar", "TV Screen", "Get the Money", and "This is a Film". Also in 1992, he collaborated with the NYC band White Zombie. He recorded spoken word vocals on the intro and outro of the song "Black Sunshine" as well as playing the character of a writer in the video shot for the song. He is singled out for special thanks in the liner notes of the band's album La Sexorcisto: Devil Music, Vol. 1.
In 1993, Pop released American Caesar, including two successful singles, "Wild America" and "Beside You". The following year Pop contributed to Buckethead's album Giant Robot, including the songs "Buckethead's Toy Store" and "Post Office Buddy". He appears also on the Les Rita Mitsouko album - Système D - where he sings the duet "My Love is Bad" with Catherine Ringer.
In 1995, Pop again found mainstream fame when his 1977 song "Lust for Life" was featured in the film Trainspotting. A new video was recorded for the song, with clips from the film and studio footage of Iggy dancing with one of its stars, Ewen Bremner. An Iggy Pop concert also served as a plot point in the film. The song has also been used in TV commercials for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (with many music critics denouncing the usage of the song to promote peppy cruises) and as the theme music to The Jim Rome Show, a nationally-syndicated American sports talk show.
Also in 1995, Pop released Naughty Little Doggie, with Whitey Kirst returning on guitar, and the single "I Wanna Live". In 1997 he remixed Raw Power to give it a rougher, more hard-edged sound; fans had complained for years that Bowie's official 'rescue effort' mix was muddy and lacking in bass. Pop testified in the reissue's liner notes that on the new mix, "everything's still in the red." He co-produced his 1999 album Avenue B with Don Was, releasing the single "Corruption". Pop produced 2001's Beat 'Em Up, which gave birth to The Trolls, releasing the single "Football" featuring Trolls alumni Whitey Kirst and brother Alex.
Pop supplied vocals for the 1999 Death in Vegas UK Top 10 single "Aisha". The same year he appeared on "Hashisheen, The End Of Law", a collaborative effort by Bill Laswell, reading on the tracks "The Western Lands" and "A Quick Trip to Alamut". He also sang on "Rolodex Propaganda" by At the Drive-In in 2000.
For New Years Eve 1997, Iggy was the headliner for the annual Australian 3 day concert the Falls Festival. He gave one of the best performances in the history of the festival. A lucky fan got to do the countdown for the new year with Iggy as part of a competition to guess Iggy's new year's resolution. It was: 'To do nothing and make a lot of money!'.
Pop's 2003 album, Skull Ring, featured collaborators Sum 41, Green Day, Peaches, and The Trolls, as well as Ron and Scott Asheton, reuniting the three surviving founding members of The Stooges for the first time since 1974. Pop made a guest appearance on Peaches's song "Kick It" as well as the video. Also in 2003, his first full-length biography was published. Gimme Danger - The Story of Iggy Pop was written by Joe Ambrose; Pop did not collaborate on the biography or publicly endorse it. Having enjoyed working with the Ashetons on Skull Ring, Pop reformed The Stooges with bassist Mike Watt (formerly of the Minutemen) filling in for Dave Alexander, and Fun House saxophonist Steve MacKay rejoining the lineup. They have toured regularly since 2004. That year, Pop opened Madonna's Reinvention World Tour in Dublin.
In 2005 Pop appeared, along with Madonna, Little Richard, Bootsy Collins, and The Roots' ?uestlove, in an American TV commercial for the Motorola ROKR phone. In early 2006, Iggy and the Stooges played in Australia and New Zealand for the Big Day Out. They also began work on a new album, The Weirdness, which was recorded by Steve Albini and released in March 2007. In August 2006 Iggy and the Stooges performed at the Lowlands pop festival in the Netherlands, Hodokvas in Slovakia and in the Sziget festival in Budapest.
Author Paul Trynka completed a biography of Iggy Pop (with his blessing) called Open Up and Bleed, published in early 2007. More recently, Iggy and the Stooges played at Bam Margera's wedding and Pop appeared on the single "Punkrocker" with the Teddybears in a Cadillac television commercial. Pop was also the voice of Lil' Rummy on the Comedy Central cartoon Lil' Bush and confirmed that he has done voices for American Dad and Grand Theft Auto IV, which also included The Stooges song "I Wanna Be Your Dog" (though the game's manual credited Iggy Pop as the artist). Iggy and The Stooges played the Glastonbury Festival in June 2007. Their set included material from the 2007 album The Weirdness and classics such as "No Fun" and "I Wanna Be Your Dog". Pop also caused controversy in June 2007 when he was interviewed on the BBC's coverage of the Glastonbury Festival. He used the phrase "paki shop", prompting three complaints and an apology from the BBC.
Pop guested on Profanation (Preparation for a Coming Darkness), the new album by the Bill Laswell-helmed group Praxis, which was released on January 1, 2008. On March 10, 2008 Pop appeared at Madonna's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. Together with The Stooges he sang raucous versions of two Madonna hits "Burning Up" and "Ray of Light". Before leaving the stage he looked directly at Madonna quoting "You make me feel shiny and new, like a virgin, touched for the very first time," from Madonna's hit song "Like A Virgin". According to guitarist Ron Asheton, Madonna asked The Stooges to perform in her place, as a protest to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for not inducting The Stooges despite six appearances on the nomination ballot. Pop also sang on the "No Fun" cover by Asian Dub Foundation on their 2008 album Punkara.
In the early hours of August 4, 2008, a rental truck containing The Stooges' musical equipment was stolen near their hotel in Montreal; it was found the following day, sans instruments, requiring Iggy Pop and the Stooges to play in Toronto on the 6th August using borrowed and rented instruments.
He has been featured in five television series, including Tales from the Crypt, The Adventures of Pete & Pete, where he played Nona's dad in the second season, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, in which he played Yelgrun in "The Magnificent Ferengi" episode. With The Stooges, he was also featured in an episode of MTV's Bam's Unholy Union as the main band performing at Bam's wedding. Additionally, a portion of the music video for Iggy's "Butt Town" was featured on an episode of Beavis and Butthead.
Pop has been profiled in four rockumentaries and has had songs on eighteen soundtracks, including Crocodile Dundee 2, Trainspotting, Pretty Woman, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Haggard and the main theme of Repo Man.
In the movie Velvet Goldmine, Ewan McGregor portrays Curt Wilde, a character loosely based on Iggy Pop. McGregor performs Pop's songs "TV Eye" and "Gimme Danger" in the film.
Iggy Pop provides the voice of the DJ of Liberty Rock Radio 97.8 in the game Grand Theft Auto IV
Pop provided the voice for a character in the English language version of the 2007 animated film Persepolis.
Wood revealed during an interview that he is "scared to death" of doing it, because he is a huge fan of Pop and he doesn't want to be the "person responsible for screwing that up." He also said the movie will chronicle The Stooges era, for the most part.
Pop liked the script but refused to take part in the film. He said:
The script ain't chopped liver... It was a work of art. But subjectively, I don't want to be involved in any way. A producer and the writer sent me a very decent letter, and asked me to write back if I didn't want them to do it... I don't feel negative about it at all.
Pop also said that Wood seems like a very poised and talented actor.
The song "Punk Rock" on the album Come on Die Young by Mogwai pays tribute to Iggy Pop, as it samples a speech that Pop gave on punk rock from an interview on the CBC on March 11, 1977. During that interview, Peter Gzowski asked Iggy to clarify music labeled as "punk rock." Pop, dubbed "the Godfather of Punk", sat upright in his chair and first attacked, then reappropriated, the use of "punk", ending his speech (or tirade) in indignant repose.
Pop's solo album The Idiot has been cited as a major influence on post-punk, electronic and industrial artists such as Joy Division and Nine Inch Nails. David Bowie's "The Jean Genie" is about an Iggy Pop like character. Mark E. Smith, Johnny Marr, Henry Rollins, Nick Cave and Jack White have all been quoted as saying that the Stooges' Fun House LP was "the greatest rock record ever made". Cave and The Birthday Party once did a 45-minute set of only Stooges songs back in the early 1980s under the name of 'The Cave Men'. One of the most popular bands of former Yugoslavia, Azra, recorded a song entitled "Iggy Pop" on their first album, released in 1980. UK punk rock bands the She Devils and Die Pretty released a split single called "Dance Like Iggy/Summertime" in 1999.
R.E.M. referenced Iggy Pop in the song, "I Took Your Name". The Red Hot Chili Peppers referenced Iggy Pop in the song, "Coffee Shop". Kurt Cobain many times declared himself a fan of The Stooges and mentioned them frequently in his Journals as an influence, naming Raw Power his favorite album. Industrial band Nine Inch Nails credits the track "Night Clubbing" as inspiration for the 1994 hit "Closer". Kraftwerk mentions him (along with David Bowie) in their song Trans-Europe Express.
James O'Barr, the author and artist of The Crow used Iggy as inspiration for the title character Eric's physicality/anatomy. Iggy was originally approached for the part of Funboy the junkie, but touring commitments intervened. He did play the role of Curve in The Crow: City Of Angels.