On Wednesday (September 22), [artist id=”1204674″]Steven Tyler[/artist] officially began the latest chapter of his long and winding career: “American Idol” judge .
It’s a logical step for a guy who’s spent the better part of the last five decades in the spotlight as the iconic frontman of Aerosmith, one of the truly great American rock bands with a catalog of hits that, if stacked, would undoubtedly tower over “Idol” host Ryan Seacrest. He’s been everywhere, seen everything and lived to tell about it all. Clearly, if there’s anyone who knows what it takes to be a star — and to have success — it’s Tyler.
Born in Yonkers, New York, Tyler formed Aerosmith in Boston in 1970, along with guitarist Joe Perry, bassist Tom Hamilton, drummer Joey Kramer and guitarist Ray Tabano (who was replaced by Brad Whitford the following year). They began gigging around the city, developing a loyal fanbase thanks to their white-hot, blues-drenched live sets and Tyler’s magnetic stage presence. The band signed with Columbia Records in 1972 and began an ultra-successful run that spanned the remainder of the decade, releasing classic albums like Toys in the Attic and Rocks, which, featuring singles like “Dream On,” “Same Old Song and Dance,” “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk This Way,” sold millions and made the band famous.
Of course, with rock and roll superstardom came the inevitable excesses, and Tyler took full advantage. He and Perry’s hard partying earned them the nickname “the Toxic Twins,” but while the good times were rolling, behind the scenes, Aerosmith were in turmoil. As the ’70s became the ’80s, Perry and Whitford would leave the band, and Aerosmith’s fortunes began to fade.
Many feared that Tyler’s voracious appetite for drugs and alcohol would get the better of him, and an onstage collapse in 1980 (along with a motorcycle accident later that fall) only seemed to back up those fears. Still, he battled on, tried to get sober and eventually reconciled with Perry and Whitford. Aerosmith would release a comeback album — tellingly titled Done With Mirrors — and would famously re-record “Walk This Way” with Run-DMC, a move that thrust them back into the mainstream and kicked off the second leg of their career.
By the time Aerosmith released 1989’s Pump, Tyler and the rest of the guys were clean and sober, and the band rolled on. Both Pump and its follow-up, 1993’s Get a Grip, were massive successes, thanks to hits like “Love in an Elevator,” “Janie’s Got a Gun,” “Livin’ on the Edge” and “Cryin’.” As the ’90s drew to a close, Aerosmith had pulled off perhaps the rarest of rock feats: They were just as popular as they had been some 20 years ago, if not more so.
In the 2000s, Aerosmith were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and continued to tour and release albums. Tyler was awarded an honorary degree from the Berklee College of Music, collaborated with a host of high-profile artists, including Santana and Billy Joel, and made appearances in film and television. But after nearly two decades of sobriety, his old demons resurfaced, and he twice entered rehab, once for a dependency on sleeping pills and a second time for an addiction to painkillers .
In 2009, during an Aerosmith gig at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, Tyler fell off the stage into the crowd , leading to the cancellation of their summer tour and then a string of rumors that he had left the band to pursue a solo career. Yet, despite all that, Aerosmith still hit the road again this summer, with Tyler very much on-board. It was a fitting way to wrap up their 40th year as a band; with Tyler’s new job, it may be their last. Then again, who knows? If Tyler and Aerosmith have proved one thing after all these years, it’s that you should never, ever count them out.
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