42 Musicians Who Spent Time In Prison
Sometimes the “outlaw” myth around rock becomes a reality as this list of musicians who spent time in prison reveals. Lots of drug busts as you’d expect, but a few weird ones tossed in too. Thankfully a good chunk of them learnt their lesson and cleaned up after some time inside, but sadly more than a few were career criminals. There’s also the fact that several of the charges came as a result of people thinking their musical status simply put them above the law… which obviously it didn’t!
The Crime: US punk rocker Allin was a weird – and heavy – dude. His time inside came as a result of a charge of felonious assault of a female fan in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the late-1980s. She says that Allin and his band had raped and tortured her but Allin said, while he did cut her, burn her and drink her blood, that she was a willing participant.
The Time: Served just over 16 months behind bars.
The Crime: In 1998, Brown was flying into Manchester airport when he got frustrated with a flight attendant and threatened to chop off her hands. Then he went up to the cockpit and started banging on the door. He reckoned it was a big joke and he was just mucking around…
The Time: Served two months of a four-month sentence.
The Crime: Charged with possession of narcotics in 1994, spent much of his time inside working on the Train A Comin’ album that was nominated for a Grammy in 1996.
The Time: 60 days of a 12-month sentence.
The Crime: Afrobeat master Kuti was charged with currency smuggling by the Nigerian government. Amnesty International fought the case on the basis they said it was politically motivated. Interestingly, Kuti divorced each of his 12 wives after being released.
The Time: Served 18 months of a five-year sentence.
The Crime: Hill’s crime was pure white collar: tax evasion.
The Time: Currently serving a three-month sentence.
The Crime: On the morning of 12 October 1978, Vicious claimed to have awoken from a drugged stupor to find Nancy Spungen dead on the bathroom floor of their room in the Hotel Chelsea in Manhattan, New York. She had suffered a single stab wound to her abdomen and appeared to have bled to death.Murder (of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen). He later said, “I stabbed her, but I never meant to kill her”. Vicious was arrested 9 December 1978 and sent to Rikers Island metro jail. He was released on bail on 1 February 1979, but died of an overdose the next day.
The Time: 59 days
“Papa” John Phillips
The Crime: The founder of the Mamas and the Papas served just one month of a potential eight-year term for faking drug prescriptions with the help of a local pharmacist.
The Time: One month
The Crime: Charged with sexual assault in 1995. He was shot five times the day before the verdict was announced, and had to enter the courtroom in a wheelchair. While imprisoned, he got married and released his album Me Against the World, so becoming the only person to ever have a number one album while in. Infamous Death Records CEO Suge Knight eventually posted $1.4 million bail for 2Pac in October 1995, in exchange for 2Pac recording three albums for Death Row.
The Time: 11 months of 1.5-to-4.5-year sentence.
The Crime: The Peter, Paul and Mary star was charged with making sexual advances towards a 14-year-old girl in 1970.
The Time: Sentenced to three months but later granted clemency by President Jimmy Carter.
The Crime: Spector is currently serving hard time for shooting hostess/actress Lana Clarkson in 2003, although he claimed that Clarkson’s death was an “accidental suicide” and that she “kissed the gun”
The Time: Four years (so far) of a 19 year sentence.
The Crime: Wayne has had several run-ins with the law including weapons charged and drug offences. The weapons offence led to him being sent to the infamous Rikers Island prison facility in New York.
The Time: Eight months of a 12-month sentence.
The Crime: Take your pick! Doherty has been repeatedly arrested for drug offences and those arising from drug use, such as driving under the influence, car theft, and driving with a suspended licence. Most recently the Libertines/Babyshambles frontman received a 6 month sentace relating to possession of cocaine.
The Time: About six months so far from various charges – with more to come!
The Crime: Berry had spent time inside for armed robbery, but when he was at his biggest he was sentenced to five years in prison for inviting a 14-year-old Mexican girl across the border to the United States to work for him.
The Time: Served approximately 20 months of his sentence
The Crime: In 2002, Sigel was arrested and charged with a federal weapons charge in West Philadelphia.
The Time: One year and one day.
The Crime: The Norwegian drummer with black metal band Emperor was charged with the murder of a gay man who approached him in a park. Faust stabbed him 37 times and the crime was described as an “impulse killing”.
The Time: Nine years and four months of a 14-year sentence.
The Crime: Big Lurch was a Texan rapper who at 24 was hit by a car and broke his neck. To deal with the pain he took a bunch of PCP, but that really messed him up and in 2002 he ended up murdering his 21-year-old roommate and eating her liver!
The Time: Currently serving a life sentence.
The Crime: Best known for his hit The Informer, the song is based on a 1989 incident when Snow was charged with two counts of attempted murder. At the time, he was detained for a year in Toronto before the charges were reduced to aggravated assault, and he was eventually acquitted and freed.
The Time: 12 months
The Crime: On May 16, 1947, Holiday was arrested for the possession of narcotics in her New York apartment. At the end of the trial, Holiday was sentenced to Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia, more popularly known as “Camp Cupcake”.
The Time: 10 months
The Crime: In January 1987 Turner was arrested for trying to sell cocaine to an undercover police officer. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to sell the drug, but not guilty to counts of possessing cocaine for sale, conspiring to sell the drug and maintaining a residence for the purpose of selling cocaine.
The Time: Four years
The Crime: After a long running feud with fellow rapper Foxy Brown, there was a shooting outside a radio station where over 20 shots were fired. After a long running and messy legal dispute, Kim was charged with three counts of conspiracy and one count of perjury in relation to her testimony.
The Time: Served ten months of a year-and-a-day.
The Crime: In December 1985, Paycheck was convicted and sentenced to 7 years in jail for shooting a man at the North High Lounge in Hillsboro, Ohio, after he fired a .22 pistol which grazed the man’s head with a bullet. Paycheck claimed the act was self-defense. After several years spent fighting the sentence, he began serving his sentence in 1989.
The Time: 22 months before being pardoned.
The Crime: Gordon was a brilliant session drummer and co-wrote the classic Layla. He later developed schizophrenia and began to hear voices, including those of his mother, which forced him to starve himself and prevented him from sleeping, relaxing or playing drums. In 1983 he attacked his mother with a hammer before fatally stabbing her. Acclaimed drummer Jim Gordon — most famous for being a member of Derek and the Dominos and co-writing “Layla” — went undiagnosed for schizophrenia and murdered his mother with a hammer in ’83.
The Time: Still inside serving 16 years to life at a psychiatric prison.
Crimes: The glam rocker was arrested on possession of child pornography in 1997 when he was found to have child porn on his laptop. Glitter escaped charges by moving to Spain and then Vietnam, where he was later charged with having sex with two underage girls.
The Time: Two months in England and three years in Vietnam
Gary U.S. Bonds
The Crime: Bonds says that the 1967 charge of reckless driving (after running over a neighbour’s dog) he was charged with was a setup.
The Time: Six days.
The Crime: Brown has been inside a couple of times. In 1949 he was charged with stealing clothes from parked cars, and in 1988 he was hit with possession of illegal drugs, resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer, and numerous traffic violations.
The Time: Both times he spent three years in prison.
The Crime: Haggard was arrested in 1957 shortly after he tried to rob a Bakersfield tavern. He was sent to Bakersfield Jail, and was later transferred after an escape attempt to San Quentin Prison. After being released in 1960, Haggard said it took about four months to get used to being out and, at times, he actually wanted to go back in.
The Time: Three years
The Crime: In 1982, after appearing in criminal courts facing several drugs and weapons charges, Crosby spent time in Texas prisons. The drug charges stemmed from charges related to possession of heroin and cocaine.
The Time: 9 months
The Crime: The founder of the funk and soul group The Isley Brothers was convicted of five counts of tax evasion and one count of failure to file a tax return in 2007.
The Time: 37 months
The Crime: Despite several arrests, Brown never spent time in prison until on February 26, 2013, he plead no contest to suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. He was sentenced to a 55 day jail sentence.
The Time: Nine hours!
The Crime: The mid-60s star was charged with having sex with six different teenage boys between 1983 and 1989.
The Time: Three and a half years
The Crime: The bluesman was first jailed in 1915 for assaulting a Dallas prostitute, then escaping the chain gang and living under another name until he killed a man in an argument over a woman and was sentenced to 35 years. A song he wrote begging for clemency got him pardoned, but five years later he was back in jail, convicted of attempted homicide in a similar incident.
The Time: Two years, then seven years (of the 35 year sentence), then four years.
The Crime: James was already awaiting sentencing for allegedly kidnapping and assaulting music executive Mary Sauger at Hollywood’s St. James Club and Hotel when he was arrested for holding another woman hostage and assaulting and raping her for the better part of a week while smoking crack cocaine.
The Time: Two years
David Allan Coe
The Crime: The outlaw country star was sent to a reform school at 9, and he spent much of the next 20 years in prison for crimes such as robbery and possession of obscene materials. Coe liked to tell how he’d spent three months on death row after he killed another inmate who had made sexual advances toward him. Coe was encouraged to write songs by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, who he had spent time with in prison. Racist inmates treated Coe poorly because he was friends with African American prisoners.
The Time: Approx 20 years
The Crime: The ex-Beatle spent 10 days in a Japanese jail after customs agents at the Tokyo airport found 7.7 ounces of marijuana in his luggage.
The Time: Served 10 days then deported (avoiding a possible seven-year sentence)
The Crime: Pickett’s only prison time came when an he ran over an 86-year-old pedestrian in 1993, causing injuries that eventually killed him, while over the limit.
The Time: One year
The Crime: Before becoming a star, Ozzy was arrested for stealing clothes from a shop when he was 17.
The Time: Six weeks
The Crime: Preston was on parole for his part in a million-dollar insurance scam/arson rap the year before when he was convicted of cocaine possession.
The Time: Three years
The Crime: Arrested for trying to sell four vials of coke to an undercover cop, and arrested again a few weeks later after cops found drugs in his home.
The Time: Six months (of a 3-to-9-year sentence)
The Crime: Lee was charged with illegal possession of a firearm and received the harsh sentence as a result of California’s “three strikes” law (he had previous convictions on drug and assault charges.
The Time: Served 5 1/2 years of a 12-year sentence
The Crime: When 17, White was arrested for stealing $30,000 worth of tyres… which is just plain weird!
The Time: Four months
Ol’ Dirty Bastard
The Crime: After numerous arrests over the years, in October 2000 he escaped from his court-mandated drug treatment facility and spent one month as a fugitive. In late November 2000, while still on the run, he was arrested in Philadelphia and spent several days in prison before he was extradited to New York City. A Manhattan court sentenced him to two to four years’ incarceration.
The Time: Two years
The Crime: Named for the fact that the five members of this ‘50s R&B group met in prison with several of them serving life sentences for crimes such as rape, murder, manslaughter and larceny. Eventually all were eventually paroled, largely as a result of their fame and goodwill.
The Time: Approximately 10 years each