Vegetarianism and veganism has always been associated with the hippie movement of the 60s, advocating a peaceful and alternative lifestyle. Lots of rock stars were part of the movement and have decided to maintain the diet and lifestyle for various reason over the years. Most rock stars sympathize with animal rights and fight against animal cruelty and thus give up all animal products for ethical reasons. Others are going vegan for health reasons. In the world of rock n’ roll, health isn’t really the number one priority, but times are changing. Many head banging musicians are now living an alternative lifestyle that involves more vegetables and less booze. They may be a minority, but they are proud and they inspirational, encouraging others to do the same.
1. B.B. King
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B.B. King maybe well known as the King of the Blues, the influence of many great guitarists of our time. Not many people may know that he’s a licensed pilot, doesn’t drink or smoke, and he’s a vegetarian (despite having ironically done commercials for Wendy’s and McDonald’s). The King of Blues was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes and lived with the disease for over twenty years until his death in 2015 at 89 years old. After being diagnosed, he’s become a spokesperson in the fight against the disease, and as if to counter his commercials with Wendy’s and Mcdonald’s, he appeared in various ads for diabetes-management products. King has taken to vegetarianism to take charge of his diabetes, saying,
“I’m also a vegetarian, so I don’t have any real bad [health] problems. I guess I don’t do everything I should—it wouldn’t be any fun to live!”
Bryan Adams has sung a couple of the best love songs of our time and has become a world-renown crooner in his own right. Aside from being an international rock star, Bryan Adams is an avid practicing began and a supporter of PETA. He says he’s been a vegetarian since he was 28 years old but went completely animal product free in 1989. He says his motto has always been “If you love animals, don’t eat them.” The “Heaven” singer persists on not eating or wearing any kind of product that comes from animals as he is totally against any cruel animal practices and advocates animal rights. That means he is also against putting animals in a cage, circuses, and zoos. Adams has stated that supermarkets can be an area of animal exploitation that is particularly disturbing to him.
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Phil Collen is famously known as the lead guitarist and former rhythm guitarist for the rock band Def Leppard, joining the band in 1982 replacing Pete Willis who left the band. What he’s more famous for, is his rock hard abs when he goes on stage as he rips his guitar (and his shirt off). It’s not uncommon for musicians living the rock n’ roll life to get fit bodies, but what is uncommon, however, is a sober and completely vegan lifestyle. Phil Collen decided to live such a lifestyle way back in the 1980s after he suffered black outs due to his alcohol addiction, and quit alcohol altogether. He was vegetarian for about 27 years before going completely vegan. He certainly is an advocate of the fit and healthy lifestyle, even earning a black belt in Kempo Karate.
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The Smiths lead singer is very publicly vocal about his animal rights advocacy and endorsement of veganism which has gotten its fair bit of controversy. A little known fact is that Morrissey has actually been a vegetarian since he was 11 years old. He says that his philosophy on veganism is that “if you love animals, obviously it doesn’t make sense to hurt them”. In 2013, it was reported that during Morrissey’s concert at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, the singer insisted that every vendor in the area sell 100% vegetarian products which in turn had all the McDonald’s vendors shut down. Morrissey started out as vegetarian, but in a 2015 interview, he has claimed to be vegan and spoke about the difficulty of maintaining the lifestyle, saying
“Well, it’s just a gradual thing. Everybody begins as vegetarian. Because to dive straight forward into being completely purist is very hard for most people. Financially they can’t do it. And also you have to find food.”
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Legendary musician Joan Jett sure doesn’t have a bad reputation with the vegan community. The rock n’ roll icon has been professing her love for animals and advocating her vegan lifestyle for over twenty years now. Her decision to give up animal products came about when she learned of the realities of food production in America. Even though she admittedly grew up “a mjor carnivore”, Joan says it was her love for animals that pushed her to live an alternate lifestyle saying, “Twenty years ago I thought: What’s the difference between eating a bloody steak and killing my dog, slitting him open and roasting him?”. She’s then committed to be an activist for animal rights and has been a close partner of PETA and has been seen handing out Vegetarian Starter Kits on the streets.
Black Sabbath’s Ozzy Osbourne maybe known to bite the head off animals but bassist Geezer Butler does not approve of any form of animal cruelty even it it’s just for show. Geezer Butler has been raised vegetarian in a working class British family mainly because he says his big family didn’t really have much to go by with meat around. He’s become a full on vegan and animal rights activist, even working closely with Peta 2, the largest youth animal rights organization. Butler says his soft spot for animals comes from him growing up with seven siblings and a lot of pets including chickens, frogs, tortoises, and of course the typical dogs and cats. Though he was vegetarian by economic circumstance growing up, it was when his childhood pet dog was abused and was thrown acid at that he decided to stand up for the mistreatment of all animals. We wonder if he gave Ozzy a stern talking-to regarding biting the head off bats and doves.
Metallica’s lead guitarist Kirk Hammett maybe one of the greatest guitarists of all time, playing on stage for more than 30 years. He’s also been a vegetarian for more than 30 years. He turned vegetarian in early 1985 and not all fans were accepting of it. In fact, Hammett recalls one concert in 1985, he was assaulted for being vegetarian by a fan as the crazed audience member threw a pig’s head onto him on stage. The guitarist was infuriated at having to play while his guitar smelled of Devilled Ham. Unlike many of the rock stars who turned vegetarian, Hammett does not eat meat because of his sympathy to animals and animal cruelty. He is a lacto-ovo vegetarian meaning he eats eggs and dairy products. He’s not even fazed by the fact that his band mate Janes Hetfield is a hunter, explaining
“I am a vegetarian but not because I love animals. I am one because I think eating animals is not good for your health. James’ hunting doesn’t affect me at all, as I have a lot of taxidermy in my house.”
Prince was known to have many eccentricities with everything: his music, his fashion, and apparently, also with his food. The “Purple Rain” singer says he gave up meat when he was in his early 20s and eventually became a strict vegan. He even won an award for being vegan, winnign the PETA’s 2006 Annual World’s Sexiest Vegetarian. His personal chefs revealed that even though Prince claimed to be vegan, he was mostly eating vegetarian and hated mushrooms and onions. Prince’s album liner notes also included writings on animal cruelty (“the ills behind wool production”) and even has quotes from Gandhi, of course with his own twist, “2 my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being.” You might recognize that the numeral 2 is Prince’s doing. He was also known to serve gourmet vegan meals to reporters coming over.
Jefferson Airplane singer Grace Slick has been lived through an excessive lifestyle that is rock n’ roll in her youth. She’s one of the icons of the 60’s psychedelic music scene and widely advocated the 70’s flower power era. She’s a long time PETA member and is a professed vegan though she admits that there are quite a few debates on the terms “vegan” and vegetarian”. She says,
“I’m in good health and people want to know what I do to be this way. Vegetarian is a slippery word. I don’t eat cheese, I don’t eat duck — the point is I’m vegan.”
During Woodstock’s 30th anniversary, Slick promoted vegetarianism by appearing in a PETA advertisement. She’s also donated a percentage of her royalties from her song “White Rabbit” to PETA’s anti animal cruelty campaigns against Procter & Gamble. She admits she sometimes gives in to her cravings though, saying
“I am not strict vegan, because I’m a hedonist pig. If I see a big chocolate cake that is made with eggs, I’ll have it.”
Elvis Costello is a pioneer in the first wave of the British punk movement in the 70s. He’s also been a vegetarian for as long as his career. After seeing the 1982 documentary The Animals Film, he was so moved that he decided to give up meat. His inspiration from the documentary film also pushed him to write his song “Pills and Soap” released in 1983. Although he started out as vegan, Costello has moved on to being a pesca-vegetarian, adding fish and various sea food in 1991 to his diet. He still considers himself a vegetarian though he doesn’t eat eggs or dairy products. In 2013, Costello helped fellow vegan Paul McCartney create an ad campaign promoting vegetarian foods produced by the Linda McCartney Foods brand.