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Top 10 Rock and Roll Rebels

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Jean-Francois Michaud. Rock and roll has always been linked with rebellion. For this list, we’re categorizing musicians as rebellious if they’ve had brushes with the law, are known for their drug and/or alcohol abuse, make anti-establishment music and/or possess a disdain for the media. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for top 10 rock and roll rebels. Special thanks to our users Jack Morris and Jacob Martin for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by Jean-Francois Michaud.

Top 10 Rock and Roll Rebels

Rock and roll has always been linked with rebellion. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for top 10 rock and roll rebels.

For this list, we’re categorizing musicians as rebellious if they’ve had brushes with the law, are known for their drug and/or alcohol abuse, make anti-establishment music and/or possess a disdain for the media.

#10: Bob Dylan

The definitive example of a man marching to the beat of his own drum, Bob Dylan has always loved doing things his way. In the mid-‘60s, Dylan became the author of some of the greatest protest songs ever and a reluctant figurehead in a time of social unrest, only to move away from this material at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. In 1965 specifically, the folk singer decided to plug in his instruments and play loud rock to the great displeasure of his fans. He also made country and gospel albums. Today, Dylan is still widely respected by critics and music lovers alike.

#9: Kurt Cobain

The Nirvana frontman’s life was a constant struggle with his own success. With hits like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” from their album Nevermind, the band quickly became the faces of Generation X. However, Kurt Cobain was very uncomfortable with this newfound fame, often blaming the public for misinterpreting his message and artistry. His personal issues and relationship with drugs were often the subject of media attention. And unfortunately, in his ultimate act of rebelliousness, Kurt Cobain took his own life on April 5, 1994.

#8: Sid Vicious

The bassist and vocalist of the Sex Pistols truly lived up to his name and image. Fond of intravenous drugs, he was diagnosed with hepatitis in the ‘70s and had to spend some time in the hospital during the recording of the punk band’s Never Mind the Bollocks, and for that reason Vicious’ bass playing is barely on the album. He was also in a chaotic relationship with Nancy Spungen, which ended with her death, leaving Sid to face murder charges. He passed away just a few months later, after overdosing from heroin supplied by his own mother soon after being released from jail.

#7: Keith Richards

A poster child for the mantra, “Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ roll,” Keith Richards’ life was, at one point, punctuated by charges of drug possession. He’s only been to prison once though and has managed to get by ever since. He even ended up performing a concert for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind as a punishment for his heroin possession charges. And did you hear the one about his allegedly snorting his father’s ashes?! Nowadays, Richards is an avid reader and yearns to be a librarian, which is a form of rebellion against his previous lifestyle – we guess.

#6: Pete Doherty

His brushes with the law and relationship with drugs worked against The Libertines’ co-frontman for a large part of his career. After critical and commercial success with Up the Bracket, Pete Doherty grew estranged from his band, and was actually jailed after robbing co-frontman’s Carl Barât’s apartment. This wasn’t the last time he would be locked up, as he also spent time in the slammer for drug possession and crimes like car theft. Meanwhile, a tumultuous relationship with Kate Moss led him to be a prime target in British tabloids.

#5: Iggy Pop

The so-called grandfather of punk earned his reputation by being a complete animal in concert. It wasn’t uncommon for Iggy Pop to break elements of the stage and dive headfirst into crowds. Hurting himself was not a problem, as he occasionally dislocated his shoulder, and even cut his chest open with broken glass. Vomiting on stage and exposing himself to the crowd were also common occurrences for the leader of the Stooges. At one point, Pop’s partying and drug use even landed him in a mental asylum.

#4: Johnny Cash

The Man in Black truly was a country music outlaw: he broke the rules, sang about killing people in 1955, and stayed awake on amphetamines. His music even appealed to non-country listeners and rock fans! When his truck overheated and ignited a forest fire that drove off endangered condors, he became the only person ever sued for starting a forest fire (or so he claimed). Johnny Cash also stirred the pot on his own TV show when he sang a song that referred to marijuana. During his later years, he went against country music conventions and famously covered songs like “Hurt” and “Rusty Cage.”

#3: Zack de la Rocha

The name Rage Against the Machine says it all. Frontman of the extremely politically charged band, Zack de la Rocha is not afraid to speak out and champion left-wing political causes where he goes. He testified on the floor of the UN against the United States and its treatment of Abu-Jamal. He is also known for speaking out during the band’s concerts, denouncing governments past and present. De la Rocha stands up for his beliefs so much that they even led to him to leave Rage in 2000 due to creative differences.

#2: Jim Morrison

The charismatic leader of The Doors was known for his controversial performances. He angered the whole production of “The Ed Sullivan Show” when he refused to modify some of the lyrics of “Light My Fire.” Since he taunted the audience during live shows, it wasn’t uncommon for people to climb on stage and threaten Morrison right back. He was arrested in 1969 when he allegedly exposed himself in front of a crowd. His antics were detrimental to the band, but The Lizard King just didn’t seem to care – since we’re still talking about him today, it looks like that didn’t matter.

Before we reveal our number ONE pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Joan Jett
- Lou Reed
- Jello Biafra
- Tommy Lee
- John Lennon

#1: GG Allin

This punk rock singer-songwriter became notorious for his live performances. His degenerate act included hurting himself and being violent towards the crowd. Fans reciprocated by throwing feces and burning him with cigarette butts. An anti-authoritarian, his lyrics promoted anarchy and violence against cops, hatred towards women, disrespect to religion and discrimination against different races. Following a concert in which the electricity cut out, GG Allin went into a blind rage and left the venue bloodied and nude. He died of an overdose at a party a few hours later.

Do you agree with our list? Who is your favorite rock and roll rebel? For more rebellious top 10 videos published every day, and be sure to subscribe to

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