Sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. It’s the oldest cliche in the business. Rock stars are legendary for their booze consumption, drug abuse, and sexual escapades.
Some, including the legends already profiled in this “Rock and Roll Heaven” series – Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain – have died from this excessive lifestyle.
In April of 1997, the popular Aussie rock band ‘INXS’ released their new album, and front man Michael Hutchence and the rest of the group commenced a tour to support the work. They wound down this leg of the tour in Australia in November and were preparing for a big 20th anniversary world tour for the band.
Hutchence was in a generally upbeat mood. The band was doing well and he had a new girlfriend, Paula Yates. Life was good for the 37-year old star as he went out to dinner with his father on Friday, November 21st.
Later that night he drank and partied with a couple of friends back at his hotel, but the next morning he would miss a hastily arranged breakfast with a former girlfriend.
At noon on November 22nd, the maid went to his room and found Hutchence hanging from the door’s spring lever by a belt wrapped around his neck. He was naked, and the room was reportedly littered with booze bottles and prescription drug containers.
An investigation revealed there was no foul play, and there was no suicide note. Interviews with family and friends found it highly unlikely that he had committed suicide, though that was the officially recognized cause of death.
The scenario that developed as most likely? Hutchence had died during an act of autoerotic asphyxiation. In this practice, a form of masturbation, the participant chokes off their oxygen supply by strangulation with something like the belt used in Hutchence’ case, or by suffocation with a bag over their head.
The sexual sensation is said to be heightened with the loss of oxygen. There is danger of death if the participant loses control of the means of suffocation since they are normally alone when performing this act. There are estimated to be as many as 1,000 deaths per year by this means each year in the United States. Add in the partying, booze, and drugs, and Hutchence’ death in this sexual manner fits right into the excessive depravity of the lifestyle.
Michael Hutchence was born in Sydney, Australia in 1960 and raised in Hong Kong, but the family returned to Sydney in the late-70’s. There Hutchence made a new friend, Andrew Farriss, and joined with Farriss’ brothers and a couple of other friends to form a band called ‘The Farriss Brothers’.
When the Farriss family moved to Perth in western Australia in 1979 the rest of the band followed, and the band changed its name to INXS, releasing their self-titled debut album in 1980. Hutchence was the front man, the songwriter, and the driving force of the band almost from its inception. His sensual lead singing style belied what some called an introverted personality.
Farriss, who co-wrote all the bands songs with him, called Hutchence a ‘genius’. INXS popularity grew and spread during the 80’s, and by the end of the decade they were a top worldwide sensation thanks to numerous hit songs and MTV videos.
Hutchence was also a sensation, dating a string of beautiful models and actresses including supermodel Elle MacPherson, ‘Berlin’ lead singer Terri Nunn, ‘Go-Go’s’ front girl Belinda Carlisle, and singer Kylie Minogue, about whom he wrote the band’s hit song ‘Suicide Blonde’.
Throught the early 90’s the band seemed to lose some of its popularity, but its albums often still received critical acclaim. At some point in the mid-90’s, Hutchence began having an affair with writer and singer Paula Yates, who was then married to Irish rock superstar Bob Geldof and the mother of his children.
Yates and Geldof subsequently separated, and undertook an intense custody battle for their three children. In 1996, Yates gave birth to Michael’s only child, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lilly Hutchence, who they called ‘Tiger’ or ‘Tigerlily’, and INXS released their 10th album.
As the calendar turned to 1997, in addition to another INXS album and tour, Hutchence continued to work on a solo project which he had been putting together over the previous two years. On November 19th, just three days before his death, he cut the final track titled “Possibilities”, which would be the final recording of his life. The album was finally released posthumously in 1999.
But the tragic soap opera of Hutchence life didn’t end with his death. There were numerous battles over his property and money, and ultimately even his daughter. Yates had been battling Michael’s family for custody of Tigerlily when she died of an apparent heroin overdose in 2000.
Ultimately it was decided that Tigerlily would be placed in Geldof’s custody so that she could be raised with her three half-sisters. With Geldof now wanting to adopt the girl and change her name to ‘Geldof’, Hutchence’ mother and sister are again fighting for custody. His brother has also gone to court in an effort to overturn the ‘suicide’ finding on the death certificate.
Whether Michael Hutchence death was a suicide is highly debatable. What is beyond argument is that booze, drugs, and sex were all involved in that death for this rock star. The shame of it is the little girl left behind without her parents, both of whom died in drug-related incidents.
NOTE: This is the continuation of the “Rock and Roll Heaven” series of articles, all items of which can be enjoyed by clicking on that ‘Tag’ below this article