Gene Simmons is getting controversial again. In an interview with Newsweek, the legendary Kiss bassist said he thinks it’s pathetic that Prince “killed himself” with prescription drugs. Gene Simmons says that while other rock star deaths this year were tragedies, Prince’s death was by his own choice.
“Bowie was the most tragic of all because it was real sickness,” Simmons said. “All the other ones were a choice.” [Prince’s] drugs killed him. What do you think, he died from a cold?”
While the cause of death of the music icon has not yet been confirmed, Simmons, 66, said he once thought Prince was one of the greatest musicians of all time, but that his use of prescription painkillers led him to a long, slow death at age 57.
“I think Prince was heads, hands, and feet above all the rest of them. I thought he left [Michael] Jackson in the dust,” Gene said. “Prince was way beyond that. But how pathetic that he killed himself. Don’t kid yourself, that’s what he did. Slowly, I’ll grant you… but that’s what drugs and alcohol is: a slow death.”
Gene Simmons said he met the Purple Rain singer decades ago at a club when he was just starting out. At the time, Simmons was dating Diana Ross and he was shocked that Prince couldn’t even look the legendary songstress in the eye when they met.
“Backstage when we came up to say ‘you were great,’ we were expecting this huge personality and he was a very small, slight human being,” Simmons said. “He might have been five-foot-four, very shy, with his eyes to the ground, very self-effacing. He just couldn’t take a compliment: ‘Thank you, thank you.’ He spoke in a whisper. It was shocking actually. He couldn’t look Diana Ross in the face—he kept his eyes to the ground.”
Gene Simmons has long said that he has never been high or drunk in his life, so he questions why so many rock stars succumb to the partying lifestyle or get hooked on prescription meds. Still, Gene doesn’t think Prince’s early death will hurt his legacy. In fact, quite the contrary.
“Your legacy becomes even bigger, you become more iconic, if you die before your time—Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and all that. They capture the youth,” Gene said. “If you die before your time it adds to your iconic nature. But I’m not willing to do that—sorry. If it means at the end I become a pathetic version of what I am, so be it.”
Gene Simmons’ controversial comments about Prince are surprising, especially because after he praised the late singer immediately after his shocking death. Simmons was on a panel that spoke to CNN after the singer was found dead in an elevator in his Paisley Park compound last month. In the CNN interview, Gene called Prince a “unique guy” and praised his humanism.
“Very few people know that during his concert tours, he asked him fans, ‘If you bought tickets to a Prince concert, I want you to bring canned goods and contribute to those less advantaged.’ C’mon! That’s cooler than any rock star that gets up on stage and says, ‘Look at me! Look at me!'” Simmons said.
Gene Simmons even said he hoped that the next generation of musicians would look up to the late Purple Rain singer.
“It would be a crime if the next generation of 14-year-olds don’t look up and say, ‘You know what? That’s who I’ve gotta emulate,’ instead of the modern, sort of pop artists who have producers… Remember: it’s a guy who wrote, produced, arranged, engineered… did it all,” Gene said.
But even with all of that praise, Gene Simmons seems to thinks Prince’s death is more pathetic than tragic. Gene’s comments about the late musician are just the latest outrageous soundbites from the outspoken rocker. Last month, Gene Simmons made headlines for saying hip-hop legends N.W.A. had no business being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and he went toe to toe with Ice Cube on the subject.
[Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images for John Varvatos]