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Fractured Lives, Part 2

Prince performing at Coachella Music and Arts Festival (2008), Author penner, Source (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

We continue our look at the lives of rock stars who have spoken publicly about their abuse.


“My mom had stuff in her room that I could sneak in and get…books, vibrators.  I did it.  I’m sure everybody does…”

-Prince [1A]

Prince Rogers Nelson a/k/a Prince called the film Purple Rain (the story of a tormented boy with an unhappy homelife) his “emotional biography”, but was contradictory when speaking about the abuse he endured as a child [1B][2].

Prince’s epilepsy was viewed as sinful, and an embarrassment by his parents.  Exposed to pornography early in life, he was thrown out of the house at age 12 when his father, John Nelson, found him in bed with a girl.

“Don’t abuse children or else they turn out like me.”

-Excerpt from the song “Papa” by Prince

Musically, Prince was a perfectionist, driving all the musicians with whom he worked hard [1C].  The musical polymath, known for sexual lyrics, is thought to have bedded dozens of women during his lifetime.  He died at age 57 of an accidental fentanyl overdose [3A].

Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, and the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame in 2016 [3B].  Many artists including Beyonce, Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Usher, and Alicia Keyes have cited him as an influence [3C].


“It’s funny that way, you can get used
To the tears and the pain
What a child will believe
You never loved me

Chorus:You can’t hurt me now
I got away from you, I never thought I would
You can’t make me cry, you once had the power
I never felt so good about myself”

-Excerpt from song “Oh Father” by Madonna [4A]

Madonna’s relationship with her father, Tony Ciccone, deteriorated after her mother’s death from breast cancer in 1963 and his remarriage [4B].  She describes that relationship in the poignant song “Oh, Father”.

The singer has not mentioned physical abuse, but has acknowledged that her father was a disciplinarian, and that her stepmother was hard on her emotionally.

“Although it was devastating at the time, I know that it made me a much stronger person in retrospect.  It forced me to be a survivor.”

-Madonna speaking of her rape [5A]

In 1978, having moved to New York City to further her career, Madonna was raped at knifepoint [5B].  She was 19 y.o. at the time.

Madonna is today ranked as the best-selling female rock artist of the 20th Century by the Recording Industry Assoc. of America.  She is the recipient of 7 Grammy Awards, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.


Though it may not at first seem obvious, there are lessons to be drawn from these fractured lives.  Here are just a few:

  • Any shame associated with abuse is the predator’s, not the victim’s – even if that predator was a parent.
  • Chaos follows abuse as night follows day.
  • Issues with authority are not uncommon following abuse.
  • Sexuality can be distorted by abuse.
  • Personal relationships are likely to be disrupted following abuse.
  • Self-destructive behavior following abuse can take many forms.
  • Control is often important to abuse victims.
  • Victims remain vulnerable to suicide, long after the abuse has ended.
  • Abuse does not destroy victims’ integrity.
  • Abuse does not preclude victims’ success.

Perhaps the most important lesson is that victims are not alone in their suffering.

[1A, 1B, and 1C]  People, “From People Archive:  Inside Prince’s Risque – and Secretive – Lifestyle” by People Staff, Updated 4/21/16,

[2]  Diffuser, “Prince Condemns Child Abuse on ‘Papa’:  365 Prince Songs in a Year” by Dave Lifton, 8/12/17,

[3A, 3B, and 3C]  Wikipedia, “Prince (musician)”,

[4A and 4B]  Wikipedia, “Oh Father”,

[5A and 5B]  The Cut, “Madonna Talks about Being Raped at 19” by Alex Ronan, 3/12/15,


Fractured Lives, Part 1

Axl Rose, Author Dineshraj Goomany, Source (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

What do Axl Rose, Sinead O’Connor, Prince, and Madonna have in common?  As their fans know, these acclaimed artists have all experienced abuse of one kind or another.

Axl Rose

“I feel that child abuse and sexual abuse…is kind of the key to why there are so many problems in the world today.  The more books I read on it, and the more work I do on trying to overcome the problems that I had in my childhood that I accepted…I knew it was crazy, but I accepted it as normal behavior for my life, and I realize now that it wasn’t normal behavior, and it’s caused me to act in many ways because it’s what I was trained, it’s what I was taught, it’s what I saw.  My formative years were very ugly.”

-Axl Rose [1]

William Bruce Rose, Jr. a/k/a Axl Rose – frontman for the band Guns N’ Roses – had a troubled childhood [2][3].  Sexually abused at the age of two by his biological father, Rose was later physically abused by his stepfather.

Understandably, Rose developed difficulties with authority, becoming a delinquent in his teens.  He was often self-destructive, intentionally overdosing on painkillers in 1986.  His personal relationships have been tumultuous.

Musically, Rose sometimes exercised suffocating control over the bands with whom he sang.  For a time abandoning his career, he spent years in near isolation.

Despite all this, Rose was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.  Guns N’ Roses have sold more than 90 million albums worldwide.

Sinead O’Connor

“Whenever she beats me, which is daily, she makes me take my clothes off.  I have to lie on the floor. I have to open my arms and legs.  I have to let her attack my abdomen.  She wants to burst my womb.  She wants to stop me from being a female.”

-Sinead O’Connor, speaking of her mother [4A]

Sinead O’Connor n/k/a Magda Davitt suffered years of physical and sexual abuse by her mother [4B].  She was beaten, locked in her room, deprived of food and clothes.

O’Connor has characterized her mother either as a sadist and pedophile or demon possessed.  “She used to make me say over and over ‘I am nothing.  I am nothing’ or else she’d beat me”, O’Connor says of her mother.  When confronted, her mother denied the abuse, further fueling O’Connor’s anger.

The Grammy award winning singer, also, acknowledged on the Dr. Phil Show that she was raped by several strangers between the ages of 3 and 12, eventually adopting a masculine look because “it was dangerous to be pretty”.

O’Connor attempted suicide 8 times in a single year, following a hysterectomy.

“As artists I believe our function is to express the feelings of the human race — to always speak the truth and never keep it hidden even though we are operating in a world which does not like the sound of the truth.”

-Sinead O’Connor, Letter to the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences [5]

When O’Connor tore apart a photo of the pope during an appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1992, the backlash was brutal.  But the gesture was meant as a protest against the Catholic Church sex scandal.  A photo of the pope had, also, stood beside her abusive mother’s bed.

Sinead O’Connor finds release from pain through her music.  O’Connor has generated 10 albums, but believes that her strength is in performing live.  She uses music to tell her story, as in the song “Troy”.

[1]  Revolver, “20 Great Axl Rose Quotes:  Guns N’ Roses Singer on Jail, Dancing, Therapy, More” by Kelsy Chapstick, 2/6/19,

[2]  The Guardian, “Reclusive rocker breaks his silence” by Luke Bainbridge, 10/25/08,

[3]  Wikipedia, “Axl Rose”,

[4A and 4B]  iHeart Radio, “Sinead O’Connor Says She Was Abused by Mother” by John Kennedy, 9/12/17,

[5]  Refinery 29, “What She Hasn’t Got:  An Apology for Sinead O’Connor” by Tara Murtha, 9/16/18,

This series will conclude next week.

Sixteen missing children were this week rescued by the US Marshals Service in Philadelphia.  At least four were victims of child sex trafficking. 



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