You Say It's Your Birthday: Alice Cooper

Legendary shock-rocker Alice Cooper is celebrating his 50th birthday today.

Cooper was responsible for some of the most memorable rock 'n' roll hits of

the late '70s, including but not limited to "Eighteen," "No More Mr.

Nice Guy," and "School's Out." Cooper is probably best-remembered, however,

for taking the voodoo theatrics of Screamin' Jay Hawkins and blowing them

up to arena-rock size, thus paving the way for such artists as Marilyn

Manson, Iron Maiden, W.A.S.P., GWAR, Insane Clown Posse and Ozzy Osbourne.

Cooper was born Vincent Furnier, the son of a preacher, in Detroit. He first started to make his way in the rock scene of Phoenix

in the mid-'60s with a band known as the Earwigs (who later became the

Spiders and then Nazz). In 1968, the entire group moved to Los Angeles and

began performing under the moniker Alice Cooper, a name that a Ouija board

had offered up as the name of a 17th century witch as whom Furnier was

"reincarnated." Once in L.A., Cooper began constructing his outlandish

stage show, which would go on to include such theatrics as decapitations

and baby dolls skewered on swords. Straight Records, a label formed by

Frank Zappa, released the band's first two albums and helped arrange a

tour, but the band ended up no more famous than when it started and

$100,000 in debt. Disenchanted with L.A., the band moved en masse once

again, this time to Detroit.

In 1971, Warner Bros. released Love It to Death, an album that

spawned the group's first hit, "Eighteen." Many hits followed throughout

the '70s, including "Under My Wheels," "School's Out," "Elected," "Hello

Hooray"

and "No More Mr. Nice Guy." While his music was solid rock 'n' roll,

Cooper became best-known for his live shows and was the subject of the kind

of outrageous rumors that dogged Marilyn Manson throughout his attempts to

tour in 1997. In 1974, Cooper parted ways with his band and went forward

with a solo career that almost ended when he admitted himself to a mental

hospital in 1978 because of his alcoholism. Cooper attempted a career resurrection

in the late '80s, hitting the charts once again with "Poison" in 1989 and

guesting on recordings by Guns n' Roses. He also has appeared in a

number of films, including "The Decline of Western Civilization, Part II --

the Metal Years" and "Wayne's World."

Other birthdays: John Steel (the Animals), 57; Florence LaRue Gordon (Fifth

Dimension), 54; Phil Ehart (Kansas), 48; Jerry Shirley (Humble Pie), 46;

and Kevin "Noodles" Wasserman (Offspring), 35.