One of the most recognizable and dynamic singer-songwriters in rock and roll, Steven Tyler was the voice and chief lyricist for the multiple-Grammy-winning group Aerosmith. He co-founded the group in 1969, and by the mid-1970s their signature blend of blues-driven rock was climbing the charts on the strength of singles like "Dream On," "Walk This Way" and "Sweet Emotion." Though Tyler and his bandmates fell prey to the excesses of the rock and roll lifestyle in the form of drug abuse, sending Aerosmith into a dive until the late 1980s, they rebounded to even greater success with Permanent Vacation (1987). They soon became one of the most successful American rock groups of all time, with 150 million albums sold worldwide and the most gold and multi-platinum albums of any American group. Tyler and his cohorts' three-decade journey from outcasts to icons made him a legend in the history of popular music.
Steven Victor Tallarico, born March 26, 1948 in Scarsdale, NY, was the youngest child of Julliard-trained bandleader Victor Tallarico and his wife, Susan Blancha. He grew up in a household filled with music - some of his earliest pleasant moments were spent under the family piano, listening to his father play Brahms. But the young boy suffered from low self-esteem brought on in part by taunting from neighborhood children over his rather over-sized lips. Music became an outlet for his anxieties, though there was little support from his family, who encouraged him to develop a backup career. Undaunted, Tyler dove headfirst into composition and performing to the detriment of his schoolwork; he was ejected from Roosevelt High School in Yonkers, NY, for drug use, but later graduated from the Leonard Quintano School for Young Professionals.
Tyler began performing as a teenager, first with his father's orchestra and later with local rock bands. Initially, he was the drummer and backup singer for the New Hampshire-based Stranguers - later Chain Reaction - a Top 40 cover band that found steady work on the New England club circuit. While performing in Sunapee, NH, he met a teenager named Joe Perry, who was playing guitar in a local outfit called The Jam Band with bassist friend Tom Hamilton. Tyler was impressed by the Jam Band's volume and speed, and thought that by merging his appreciation for melody with their love for noise they might find some success. After parting ways with their respective bandmates, Tyler, Perry, Hamilton and a Boston-based drummer named Joey Kramer joined forces as Aerosmith in 1970, a name inspired by a doodle Kramer drew on his school notebooks, with rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford joining in 1971. Aerosmith would mark Tyler's debut as a frontman, which he held down the spot with remarkable panache.
Tyler's image - part streetwise tough, part androgynous nightclub fixture - personified the band's sound and image, which drew equally from blues-inspired British rock groups like the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and the Who, and the newer glam and proto-punk outfits like the New York Dolls. Onstage, Tyler was lithe and cocksure, and possessed one of the most formidable voices in modern rock, able to swoop from a bluesman's growl to an earsplitting scream within a few notes. His knack for saucy wordplay helped the band to build a following on the Boston club circuit before drawing the attention of Columbia Records chief Clive Davis at a show at Max's Kansas City; that gig also earned them a spot in rock history as the first band to pay for a spot on a bill at the legendary New York club. Their eponymous debut album for Columbia was released to little fanfare in 1973, but tireless touring and promotion eventually yielded a hit record their next time out with Toys in the Attic (1975). The album featured the band's first Top 40 hit, "Sweet Emotion," and its success led to the re-release of two singles, the epic ballad "Dream On," penned by Tyler a decade earlier, and the funky rocker, "Walk This Way." All three tunes later became staples in the band's live repertoire, while also being featured on classic rock radio station playlists for decades to come.
For much of the 1970s, Aerosmith was a top recording group with chart-topping albums like Rocks (1976) and 1977's Draw the Line (1977), and hit singles like "Back in the Saddle," "Last Child" and "Kings and Queens." As a live act, they were headlining their own shows and selling out arenas across the country. Their fame was substantial enough during this period to even earn them a spot in the bloated, multi-million-dollar Beatles tribute movie "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (1978), where they appeared onscreen as an "evil band" performing "Come Together." However, the writing on the wall was beginning to materialize for Aerosmith; both Tyler and Perry had developed prodigious appetites for drugs and debauchery both on- and off-stage, which earned them the nickname "the Toxic Twins." Their instability rocked the core of the group, leading to on-stage collapses and sub-standard songwriting. It was during this period that Tyler was involved with model and super groupie Bebe Buell, with whom he a daughter, future actress and model Liv Tyler. He remained unaware of his paternity status until Liv was nine, since Buell had kept him out of her daughter's life due to his drug issues. The news became public in 1991, after which both Liv and her father formed a strong relationship.
In 1980, Joe Perry left Aerosmith amidst a hailstorm of infighting with Tyler and the rest of the band. He formed The Joe Perry Project, while Tyler recruited guitarists Richard Supa and Joey Crespo to handle guitar duties. Neither could fill Perry's shoes, and Aerosmith began its decade-long tailspin. Tyler was seriously injured in a 1980 motorcycle accident, which kept the band off the road for several months, while Whitford compounded the band's problems when he finally called it quits in 1981, leaving just three original members on stage. The separation was relatively brief; the band's new manger, Tim Collins, pledged to restore Aerosmith to its former glory, and began the task of bringing Perry and Whitfield back into the fold in 1984. The band soon signed to a new record label, Geffen, and launched a comeback tour, only to find themselves facing the same problems as before.
It was soon evident that the Aerosmith train was still off the rails. Tyler's drug problems raged unabated during this period; he had always been a challenging taskmaster to his bandmates, but his personal demons had grown so unwieldy at the time that the group was barely able to play with him. To make matters worse, the rest of the band had developed their own substance abuse problems, which threatened to derail their comeback tour. Meanwhile, their union with Geffen failed to produce the desired results, as their first album with the label, Done with Mirrors (1985), was unable to generate a hit single. But Collins remained determined to rehabilitate the band and its members, pledging to the group that he would make them the biggest band in the world by 1990 if Tyler would commit to a drug treatment program. The singer agreed, and with the rest of the band following suit, Aerosmith's fortunes soon took an upward turn.
Collins brokered a union between Tyler and Perry and rappers Run-DMC to cover "Walk this Way" on their 1986 album Raising Hell. The result was a surprise smash hit, reaching No.4 on the Billboard charts, which renewed interest in Aerosmith's back catalog. The band themselves soon hit the road while planning their next album, a crucial release if they were to capitalize on the newfound wave of publicity. Thankfully, Permanent Vacation exceeded everyone's expectations. The 1987 album, which featured a more polished, pop-friendly version of Aerosmith's trademark sound, yielded three hit singles - "Dude (Looks Like a Lady"), "Rag Doll" and "Angel" - and was followed by a massive tour with freshman metal outfit Guns N Roses, whose off-stage antics were highly reminiscent of Aerosmith in its heyday.
A full-fledged Aerosmith revival was soon underway, with the band's follow-up album, Pump (1989), earning them their first Grammy Award, while Get a Grip (1993), won the band two more. At the time, Aerosmith was seemingly everywhere, appearing on a "Wayne's World" sketch on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) and on "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ), performing at Woodstock '94 and penning their first No.1 single, the Oscar-nominated ballad "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" for the movie "Armageddon" (1998), which starred Tyler's daughter Liv. Capping off the comeback was their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. But not everything the band touched was gold during this period. The album, Nine Lives (1997), their first for a renewed contract with Columbia, struggled to match its predecessors in sales, though it did yield a fourth Grammy for the single "Pink." The following year, Tyler suffered a ligament injury while performing on stage, while Joey Kramer suffered second degree burns from a fire caused while filling up his car at a gas station.
More devastating was a painful breakup with manager Tim Collins, who had been the guiding force behind their comeback for nearly a decade. The band began to distance themselves from his control prior to the recording of Nine Lives; Tyler and the rest of the members wanted to take a lengthy respite before tackling another round of recording, but Collins continued to push more appearances and performances. He soon began to spread rumors that the group was breaking up as a means of gaining more control over them. The allegations soon spread to reports that Tyler was using drugs again and being unfaithful to his wife. In the face of such underhanded tactics, Aerosmith fired Collins in 1996. Having sorted out their personnel issues, Aerosmith returned to their routine of sold-out tours and successful albums, beginning in 2001 with Just Push Play. For Tyler, the period was also marked by several appearances away from the Aerosmith camp, including cameos in "The Polar Express" (2004) and "Be Cool" (2005), as well s guest vocal contributions on albums for Santana and country artist Keith Anderson.
However, the rigors of Aerosmith's touring schedule and these side projects began to take their toll on Tyler, who was entering his 50s. He battled Hepatitis C for 11 months in 2003, and a 2006 tour with Cheap Trick was canceled when Tyler required throat surgery to remove a burst blood vessel. In 2008, Tyler checked into a rehabilitation facility in Pasadena, CA to recover from multiple surgeries to repair his leg. And in 2009, he suffered serious back and shoulder injuries when he fell from the stage at a concert in South Dakota, which required extensive surgery and the cancelation of another tour. Tyler sent the press into frenzies at the end of the year when it was announced that he had not been in communication with his bandmates for months, and subsequently announced that he would be focusing on solo projects. A public war of words between Tyler and Perry broke out, with the latter claiming that the band was searching for a new lead singer.
In late 2009, it was revealed that Tyler had checked into a rehab facility to deal with an addiction to painkillers that surfaced as a result of his string of injuries. Though Tyler and Perry appeared to reconcile in December of 2009 with a surprise appearance at a performance of the Joe Perry Project, the guitarist seemed determined to replace his longtime partner for the upcoming tour. But a cease and desist letter sent by Tyler's attorneys brought the search to an end in early 2010. Soon thereafter, Aerosmith - with Tyler back in the fold and Perry publicly praising his old friend - announced their Cocked, Locked, Ready to Rock Tour in February, as well their desire to work on a new album. The tour commenced in South America in May 2010 and spread to Europe and later North America during the summer. While the band was on the road, Tyler's name was mentioned as a replacement for outgoing "American Idol" (Fox, 2002-16) judges Ellen DeGeneres and Simon Cowell. The revelation sparked renewed trouble between the singer and Perry, with the latter claiming to have found out on the Internet like everyone else, rather than having been informed by Tyler himself. Sure enough, the rumors were true: Tyler finalized his negotiations to become a judge on the 10th season of "American Idol" in in 2011. For the next two seasons, he heaped effusive praise upon contestants while occasionally sparking snickers for his off-the-cuff remarks. His time on the show worked wonders for his image and revitalized his interest in performing with his band, as evidenced from his departure from "Idol" in July 2012. Tyler called the show his "mistress" and declared that he wanted to return to his true love, Aerosmith.
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After parting ways with their respective bands, Tyler, Perry, Hamilton, and drummer Joey Kramer formed Aerosmith; rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford joined the group a year later
Aerosmith released debut album for Columbia Records
Band released breakthrough album, <i>Toys in the Attic<i>; yielded first Top 40 hit with "Sweet Emotion"
Aerosmith was cast as an "evil band" in The Beatles' tribute film "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"
After Perry and Whitford quit between 1980-81, Aerosmith found a new manager, Tim Collins, who helped them get signed to Geffen
Band released debut album with Geffen, <i>Done with Mirrors<i/>
Collins reunited Tyler and Perry; Aerosmith collaborated with rappers Run-DMC for a cover of "Walk This Way" for their album <i>Raising Hell<i/>; "Walk This Way" reached No. 4 on the Billboard charts
Released the hit album <i>Permanent Vacation</i>, featuring the singles "Dude (Looks Like a Lady"), "Rag Doll" and "Angel"
Released the album <i>Pump</i>; band received first Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal (for "Love in an Elevator")
Released <i>Get a Grip</i>
Band performed at Woodstock '94, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the legendary music festival
Band fired manager Collins
Released the album <i>Nine Lives</i>
Performed the No. 1 single, "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" for the "Armageddon" soundtrack; film starred Tyler's daughter Liv
Tyler made his feature acting debut, playing David Foster in "Clubland"
Aerosmith inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; released <i>Just Push Play</i>
Voiced the character of Elf Lieutenant/Elf Singer in Robert Zemeckis' "The Polar Express"
Made a cameo as himself in the crime comedy "Be Cool," starring John Travolta and Uma Thurman
Headlined the Aerosmith/ZZ Top Tour, also referred to as the A to Z Tour or Guitar Hero: Aerosmith Tour
Band headlined <i>Cocked, Locked, Ready to Rock Tour</i>
Signed on to become a judge on Fox's "American Idol" after the departure of former judges Simon Cowell and Ellen DeGeneres
Announced exit from "American Idol" as a judge after two seasons to focus on Aerosmith's new album