VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild
WRITTEN BY: George Pacheco
These rock and rollers crossed the line and paid the price. For this list, we'll be looking at rock stars who were accused of breaking the law. Our countdown includes Vince Neil (Mötley Crüe), Chuck Berry, Varg Vikernes (Burzum & Mayhem), and more! Did any of these tales shock you? Let us know in the comments!
Top 10 Infamous Crimes Committed by Rock Musicians
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Infamous Crimes Committed by Rock Musicians.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the most infamous headlines that focused on stars of the genre being accused or convicted of breaking laws. We won’t be discussing the death of Nancy Spungen since Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols was never convicted for this crime.
Did any of these tales shock you? Let us know in the comments!
Vince Neil (Mötley Crüe)
Hanoi Rocks was a formative Finnish glam band whose work was hugely influential to the 1980s hair metal scene. After gaining fame, it made perfect sense for the band to join forces with U.S. heavyweights Mötley Crüe for their first American tour. Unfortunately, tragedy struck during a break from the tour. Hanoi Rocks and The Crüe were enjoying a party at singer Vince Neil’s California home. At one point, the homeowner and Hanoi drummer Razzle drove out to grab more beer while both being heavily intoxicated. After Neil struck a car on the way home, two people were severely injured and Razzle succumbed to his injuries. The surviving musician went on to prison for less than 20 days for the tragic accident.
Dave Holland (Judas Priest)
While Judas Priest went through a number of drummers during their career, Dave Holland was something of a mainstay who worked with the band on a number of high-profile albums. But Holland’s legacy was forever tainted in the early 2000s. During a court case, he was convicted for assaulting and attempting to initiate indecent contact with a young drumming student. Despite his insistence that nothing inappropriate had happened, he was sentenced to eight years in prison. Holland also had his work on an upcoming album completely taken off so someone else could come in and record his part. After the grim news story broke, the musician unsuccessfully attempted to refute the claims and recover his reputation.
Soliciting a Hitman
Tim Lambesis (As I Lay Dying)
Vocalist Tim Lambesis led the popular metalcore outfit “As I Lay Dying” as they achieved chart success and garnered various awards. However, the band nearly came to a permanent end due to his actions. Lambesis once asked a criminal to assassinate his ex-wife while the vocalist was watching his kids. But the musician didn’t know that he was actually speaking to a detective who immediately reported the meeting. Lambesis eventually pleaded guilty and spent a little over a decade in jail for his grim solicitation. After serving his time, he managed to reunite with the band and release more music. In the years since his attempted crime, Lambesis has admitted that his actions were wrong.
The Norwegian Black Metal Scene
The Norwegian Black Metal Scene gained worldwide attention in the early 90s thanks to some truly infamous crimes. One of the most visually arresting and notorious crimes from the scene was the rash of church burnings perpetrated by members of the scene. According to several interviews and reports, members of the musical collective resented various religious groups. Throughout the 90s, a number of Norwegian churches were burnt down. Individuals like Varg Vikernes of the band Burzum and Samoth from a group called Emperor were both caught. However, many cases still went unsolved. Both historic churches and at least one life was lost during these arson attacks.
Illegal Surveillance & Trafficking
This godfather of rock ‘n roll was infamous for committing several serious crimes. A woman once accused Berry of attacking and injuring her at a hotel. A few years later, he was accused of illegally recording people within bathrooms of his restaurant that bore his name. Officers were able to find tapes that supported those claims as well as marijuana. Berry ultimately spent a small fortune in fines and for his defense to address the case. Decades before that scandal, the musician was brought to court after he brought a girl from Mexico to Missouri. Although he claimed it was to give her a job opportunity, she claimed he had darker intentions. The jury found Berry guilty after a trial and he received a three-year-sentence.
A Career Predator
Although Gary Glitter saw a meteoric rise in popularity back in the 1970s, the disgraced singer’s fall was equally quick and irreparably sharp. It all began when obscene materials featuring young people were discovered on his laptop. After spending some time in jail and being placed on a sex offender registry in England, Glitter moved abroad. But his change of scenery didn’t stop him from getting into additional trouble. While living in Vietnam, Glitter was accused and convicted of several crimes related to young people. He served time in that country before having to return to the UK. Upon reaching England, Glitter faced additional charges and was told to spend 16 years in jail for his past crimes.
Possession of Illegal Content
Karl Logan (Manowar)
Karl Logan was a long time guitarist for American heavy metal legends Manowar. His tenure with the band was brought to an abrupt end when he was arrested in 2018. During an investigation, it was found that Logan had multiple illegal recordings of young people being assaulted. Within a week of the arrest, Manowar officially severed all ties with the guitarist. Logan eventually stated that he knowingly possessed the exploitative content in a court. Ultimately, he was tasked with spending just over a decade of his life in prison in 2022. Manowar’s swift reaction to Logan’s arrest makes it highly unlikely he’ll reunite with the band again.
Attempted Assault & Possession of Harmful Materials
Ian Watkins (Lostprophets)
Charges against former Lostprophets singer Ian Watkins were so severe that he was the subject of a sting operation dubbed Operation Globe. The investigation uncovered that the musician had participated in a number of malicious crimes. During court proceedings, Watkins admitted that he had assaulted victims who could not consent to adult activity on multiple occasions. Authorities also discovered that he had a large amount of videos of illegal acts in his possession. Additionally, the former musician’s co-defendants were also mothers of a few of his alleged victims. After receiving a 29 year prison conviction, Watkins was still caught trying to to reach and exploit women outside of his facility.
The Murder of Euronymous
Varg Vikernes (Burzum & Mayhem)
Oystein “Euronymous” Aarseth faced criticism over reports that he used the bone fragments of a deceased friend to make accessories. (xref) However, he would later become the center of a grim act of violence. In 1993, he received a visit from his old bandmate Varg Vikernes that resulted in a violent confrontation. Euronymous was found dead by the end of the night. Although Vikernes later claimed he was defending himself, the jury still found him guilty for murder. The musician also had to face charges of arson against churches and for having explosives. After spending 15 years in jail, he returned to music. However, movies like “Lord of Chaos” that depicted the violent confrontation proved that people haven’t forgotten what Vikernes did.
The Death of Lana Clarkson
Phil Spector’s brief time on the performing side of rock was soon eclipsed by his legacy as one of the genre’s most talented and successful producers. But those accomplishments were then overshadowed by an infamous crime. On a fateful night in 2003, actress Lana Clarkson went over to Spector's house. A driver soon heard a gunshot and found the performer dead. In the wake of this discovery, Spector both said he did it and claimed that she was responsible. The first attempt at convicting him of the crime resulted in a mistrial. But the second trial found him guilty. After he was sentenced to nearly two decades of jail time, he died in prison in 2021.