10 Musicians Who Committed Real Crimes, Did Real Time - And Had Real Impact

Killings, car chases, robberies, and more didn't stop these ten from making it big...


Rock and roll has always gone hand in hand with rebellion, from early American roots musicians like JB Lenoir who sang songs decrying the racist attitudes of the time, to the anti-establishment antics of The Rolling Stones in the '60s (strange to think how they turned out, led by Sir Mick Jagger!) and on to the unruly pushback of The Sex Pistols at the forefront of the punk movement in the '70s. Likewise, drugs and alcohol have often left a mark – sometimes with excellent musical results, often with dreadful real world consequences.

With all this in mind it’s no surprise that many a musician has had a brush or two with the law. Paul McCartney spent nine days in a Japanese jail for possession of marijuana, and The Stones’ Keith Richards was busted for drugs – more than once. At the other end of the scale there are more recent, serious and horrific crimes such as the murder which Phil Spector is still serving time for.

But beyond the expected wrist-slaps due to excess, and setting aside some of the more distasteful felonies, who are the musicians who served real time, for real crimes, and found their lives changed permanently – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse?

Here are ten musicians whose lifestyle, upbringing or situation brought them to an impasse, who paid for what they did and - sometimes - even learned from it!

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James Brown
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Freelance writer, music reviewer and musician from Glasgow, Scotland.