Alice Cooper (born Vincent Damon Furnier; February 4, 1948) is an American singer, songwriter, musician, and occasional actor whose career spans five decades.
With a stage show that features guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood, boa constrictors, baby dolls, and dueling swords, Cooper is considered by fans and peers alike to be “The Godfather of Shock Rock”; he has drawn equally from horror movies, vaudeville, and garage rock to pioneer a theatrical and macabre brand of rock designed to shock people.
Furnier adopted the band’s name as his own name in the 1970s and began a solo career with the 1975 concept album Welcome to My Nightmare. In 2011 he released Welcome 2 My Nightmare, his 19th album as a solo artist, and his 26th album in total. Expanding from his Detroit rock roots, in his career Cooper has experimented with a number of musical styles, including art rock, hard rock, heavy metal, new wave, pop rock, experimental rock and industrial rock.
In 1968, the band learned that Todd Rundgren also had a band called Nazz, and found themselves in need of another stage name. Furnier also believed that the group needed a gimmick to succeed, and that other bands were not exploiting the showmanship potential of the stage.
The legend is that the name “Alice Cooper” came from a session with a Ouija board, largely chosen because it sounded innocuous and wholesome, in humorous contrast to the band’s image and music.
However in an interview with Mark Radcliffe on the Radcliffe and Maconie show on BBC Radio 2 on 30 November 2009 Alice described the incident with the ouija board as an Urban legend. He said “We literally got that whole story about the witch thing the way you guys got it.
It was like just pure urban legend. I heard about the witch thing probably the same day you did, but it was a great story. “Alice Cooper” was a character on Mayberry R.F.D. (played by Alice Ghostley) at the time, probably coincidentally. Eventually Furnier adopted this stage name as his own. Furnier, now known as Alice Cooper, later stated that the name change was one of his most important and successful career moves.
The group’s 1971 tour featured a stage show involving mock fights and gothic torture modes being imposed on Cooper climaxing with a staged execution by electric chair, with the band sporting tight, sequined, and color-contrasting glam rock-style costumes made by prominent rock fashion designer Cindy Dunaway (sister of band member Neal Smith, and wife of band member Dennis Dunaway). Cooper’s androgynous stage role had developed to present a villainous side, portraying a potential threat to modern society.
The success of the band’s single and album, and their tour of 1971, which included their first tour of Europe (audience members reportedly included Elton John and a pre-Ziggy David Bowie), provided enough encouragement for Warner Bros. to offer the band a new multi-album contract.
These days not only does Alice Cooper play family-friendly places such as state fairs but he also opened a restaurant, Alice Cooper’s town, in Phoenix. Cooper increasingly seems to take delight in subverting his long-running (and somewhat overstated) horror-rock reputation: He’s an avid golfer, as well as an occasional supporter of George H.W. Bush.