Throwback: Iggy Pop

Early Life: James Newell Osterberg, Jr. wasn’t born into an affluent life of wealth.  Osterberg was born on April 21st, 1947 in Muskegon, Michigan.  While his father maintained a job as a high school teacher, they mostly lived in poverty, and Osterberg grew up in a trailer park in nearby Ypsilanti, Michigan.  Little could have foretold that this young man would grow up to be the infamous Iggy Pop.

While growing up with little wealth of his own, Iggy Pop went to school with the son of the president of Ford Motor Company.  Surrounded by people of great wealth, Iggy Pop had greater aspirations for himself, which were deeply supported by his parents.  At a young age, he developed an interest in music, particularly the drums.  While his parents couldn’t help finance these dreams, they did what they could to accommodate his interests.  In high school, his parents forfeited their master bedroom in the trailer in order for him to be able to play his drum set, which didn’t fit anywhere else.  With this backing, it helped push Iggy Pop to play in bands in high school during the late 60’s.  Iggy played drums in several bands, even cutting a record with the Iguanas in 1965. 

At this time, Iggy was attending the University of Michigan.  As he jumped from band to band, he began his fascination with the blues genre.  This interest pushed him to drop out of school and move to Chicago.  There he played drums at blue clubs, building on his talent. In 1967, Iggy watched the Doors perform live.  Captivated by Jim Morrison’s notoriously raucous stage performance, Iggy decided to mold his stage persona in the same unpredictable and exciting way.  From this, many consider Iggy Pop the father of the stage dive.  In the late 60’s and early 70’s, he pioneered the now popular move for artists to jump into the group and be paraded throughout the pit.

Rise to Prominence: Later that year, Iggy Pop formed a new band, the Psychedelic Stooges.  This time he moved from drums to center stage as the lead singer.  At this time he also gave himself the stage name Iggy Pop.  The band traveled and performed around the Detroit area, soon cutting the name to just The Stooges.  In 1968, the band signed with Elektra records, the same label as The Doors.  This gave the group enough of a backing to record their first studio album.  Released in 1969, their first effort was titled The Stooges.  The album itself sold very little, and their follow up album the next year, Fun House, did about the same.  Consequently, Elektra Records dropped the group and their fate was left uncertain.

The next year was spent playing club gigs sporadically, before the band took a brief hiatus.  Iggy Pop’s career was in doubt before one fateful night in NYC, where he met David Bowie in a night club. The two hit it off, and recorded a live album together the same year.  Off that popularity, The Stooges reunited and signed with Columbia records, using the opportunity to record their third album Raw Power.  While today it is considered one of the trailblazers for punk rock, it was not an initial success.  The group was soon dropped by Columbia as well.  In 1974, the band officially broke up, and Iggy Pop would spend the following years in and out of rehab for heroine addiction. 

Again with his career in doubt, David Bowie seemingly came to the rescue, bringing Iggy on tour with him in 1977.  Now a solo artist, Iggy Pop released two albums in The Idiot and Lust For Life, both wrote in collaboration with David Bowie.  The albums would go on to be two of the most popular of his career. Iggy Pop received his first mainstream success in 1986, when he released the song ‘Real Wild Child.’ His musical interest then geared more toward heavy rock, emphasized in his most popular single ever ‘Candy.’ Since the 80’s, Pop has maintained a reputation in the music scene as one of the fathers of punk rock.

Bestselling Albums

Fun House (1970): While it wasn’t met with initial success, Fun House is now viewed as one of the best punk rock albums of all time.  It paved the road for countless of artists that followed it, and artistically it is by far Iggy Pop’s best work.  It swings from punk to rock to R&B on a wild 40-minute ride.  Just goes to show that commercial success doesn’t mean everything.

 Lust For Life (1977): Pop’s first record for RCA and first co produced by David Bowie, this album showed his ability as a solo artist. He separated himself from Bowie hear, whereas the British artist had an affinity for gospel and ballads, Iggy Pop charged away with a high octane rock and roll record.  If it weren’t for this record, it’s very possible Iggy Pop’s career would have been lost.

 Raw Power (1973): The third and most popular of the Stooges albums, Raw Power held together the band for one last try before they ultimately split up for good (…until 2003’s reunion.)  With the band in turmoil, Iggy Pop used the success of his joint album with David Bowie to boost the group’s effort both commercially and artistically. The title itself is very fitting, as this album marks one of the loudest and most aggressive of Pop’s career. 

Most Popular Singles

 The Passenger

Lust For Life

Real Wild Child


Awards & Honors

In 2010, Iggy Pop was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the Stooges.

In 2014, won the GQ Icon of the Year Award


Current Status & Impact on Music: Iggy Pop maintains a relatively high profile even today, especially for someone who has been in the business for nearly 50 years.  Over the last decade, Iggy toured with Stooges again, playing tours as well as festival circuits, but that came to an end in 2016.  Iggy Pop’s impact on the music world today is undeniable.  He played a crucial role in giving life to the punk rock movement. He also is an icon for giving generations of artists the motivation to openly express themselves and create more boldly.   Iggy Pop’s legacy is that of an artist who persevered through hardship and failure, and showed the world the art of the stage dive.