Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Cooper, Alice

Alice Cooper is credited with being the godfather of Shock Rock. He was born Vincent Damon Furnier on February 4, 1948 in Detroit, the son of a minister. His family moved to Phoenix where he started a high school band first called the Earwigs, then the Spiders, with some classmates. With Furnier as their lead singer they performed regularly around the Phoenix area and recorded their first single in 1965.

In 1968, Furnier and his band, renamed Alice Cooper, debuted in California. They chose the name because it was a severe contrast to the band’s image of villain-like characters in black clothes, with heavy theatrical makeup. An audition with Frank Zappa resulted in a three-album deal with Straight Records. When the accidental death of a chicken at a performance was misrepresented as Cooper biting off the chicken’s head, the band decided to take the attention of the press as a positive thing, further developing their image and giving rise to a subgenre of rock called Shock Rock.

With two unsuccessful albums behind them, in 1970 Alice Cooper returned to Detroit, thinking their gory theatrics would be more appreciated there than in California. In 1971, Love It to Death, the final album in their contract with Straight Records, produced their first successful single, “I’m Eighteen.”

In 1971 the band’s tour performances incorporated mock fights, gothic torture, and a staged execution in an electric chair, enhancing their Shock Rock reputation. In 1972 the title track single from School’s Out, became an instant hit and a rock classic. In 1973 the band released their most commercially successful album, Billion Dollar Babiesfollowed by their last album, Muscle of Love. Disagreements among band members prompted a hiatus.

In 1973, Furnier legally changed his name to Alice Cooper to avoid legal problems over the ownership of the group name. Their last performance as a group was April 1974. In 1975 Cooper released his first solo album Welcome to My Nightmare. Battling serious alcohol issues, he released two more albums, Alice Cooper Goes to Hell and Lace and Whiskey, before seeking treatment for alcoholism in 1977.

In 1978, a newly sober Cooper released From the Inside, inspired by his stay at a sanitarium. However, after releasing four more albums, in 1983 he relapsed and was re-hospitalized for treatment. Instead of returning to the music industry he went to Arizona to work on his marriage, be a full-time father, and play golf, one of his favorite pastimes.

In 1986, Cooper returned to music with the album Constrictor, which included the theme song to one of the Friday the 13th movies. In 1988, he signed with Epic Records and released the Grammy-nominated album Trash, regaining his commercial success. In 1991, Cooper released his 19th studio album, Hey Stoopid. By this time, Alice Cooper had become a cultural icon, doing guest vocals on other rock artist’s albums and making appearances in movies, including Wayne’s World. In 2004 he starting hosting a radio show called Nights with Alice Cooper that showcases classic rock with his commentary. 

Cooper was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003, won the Living Legend Award at the Classic Rock & Roll Honour Awards in 2006, and in 2007 received a Rock Immortal Award at the Scream Awards. In 2011, the original band Alice Cooper was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Cooper continues to release albums that are commercially successful and performs on tours. In 2018 he portrayed Herod on “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert” to favorable reviews. He is a cultural icon for the city of Detroit, for the music industry, and for the world of rock and roll.



Copy of "Welcome to My Nightmare" signed by Alice Cooper

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