Resilience, thy name is Bret Michaels.
The flaxen-haired Poison singer, solo rocker, businessman (from candles to bandannas) and exceptionally cheerful human being has celebrated innumerable triumphs in music but also endured some tough health concerns.
As he prepares to turn 60 on Wednesday, Michaels credits his “unbroken, fighting, positive spirit”’ for continuing to push him.
He’s lived with Type 1 diabetes since childhood; suffered a brain hemorrhage in 2010; had a hole in his heart repaired in 2011; and underwent kidney surgery in 2014.
He’s also a road warrior who plays upward of a hundred shows a year, either with Poison or the Bret Michaels Band. The indefatigable Michaels just returned from an ’80s-themed cruise where he loved playing bartender (Coke and whiskey or vodka and cranberry juice are his simple specialties) as much as playing music.
Last summer, Michaels and his Poison bandmates, along with Motley Crue, Def Leppard and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts stormed the country on The Stadium Tour, which grossed a staggering $173 million.
This summer, he’s packed up some pals for a series of Partis Gras amphitheater shows and later this year, Michaels is the subject of an installment of A&E’s “Biography.”
The self-deprecating multihyphenate caught up with USA TODAY recently to chat about health, touring and gratitude:
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Question: So how does sexy at 60 look on you?
Answer: I feel more passionate and just as excited as ever. I went back and pulled out a photo of me and my sister Nicole on a motorcycle (as kids) and I haven’t changed. It’s like me riding my wheelie during The Stadium Tour. I feel more energetic and grateful. With all of the crazy diabetes and the brain hemorrhage, I’ve been through a lot of adversity and I’m still here.
Even as good of shape as you’re in, there must be some modifications to your lifestyle, right?
It’s called adapting. So obviously, I’m not going to be trying out for the Pittsburgh Steelers this year, but I can go play flag football with my friends. I adapt and change with what my body can do. There is no magic pill. I am like a true muscle car – still fast, still fun to ride, but I just need a little more maintenance.
Is there anything that bums you out about turning 60?
I am grateful to be on this crazy roller coaster ride and to be here with some of my good decisions and some of my less-than-reputable decisions. But I’ve got to be honest. When people ask I say, No. 1, what is my alternative? The alternative is not good. And two, I get no choice in the matter. My choice will be how I deal with it. No one says, “Man, I want to be old.” I feel blessed that I got to get old because I know so many of my friends never got the chance. I live also for them.
How do you continue to monitor your health?
I know this is the opposite of what you’d think from a rocker, but I love the morning. If I’m off the road, I’ll get up first thing in the morning on the ranch (in Arizona), check my blood sugar, take my insulin, hang out with my family. I love to go out and jump on my mountain bike. I need to kick out the rust and the dust. I like having a good time, but I don’t fool myself.
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Between Poison and your solo band, you’re on the road for a good chunk of the year. And this summer, you’re doing 12 Partis Gras shows with some friends in Night Ranger, Jefferson Starship, Mark McGrath and others. Was it an easy sell to get them to go out with you?
I called the bands individually. Mark has been a friend of mine forever. He is the most upbeat, energetic guy I’ve been around and he brings it on stage. But my first call was to Jack (Blades) of Night Ranger. I said, we’ve done a zillion shows together over the years, and here’s the (motto) of the tour – all killer, no filler. Come up there and we’ll be jamming on big hits.
Last summer’s Stadium Tour with Motley Crue, Def Leppard and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts was an unquestionable success. What was the best part for you?
For Poison, just getting back together. We were last together (playing) in 2018, So seeing my friends. I’m always grateful for Poison and my solo band; they’re all my friends. But the (stadium) shows felt incredible. We had three generations of fans out there having the time of their life. When I hit that stage, it’s with pure gratitude. I believe that the more you succeed, the more it comes at you. When I was a kid, my parents gave me ‘Winners Never Quit, Quitters Never Win’ to help me deal with my diabetes. They wanted me to be victorious, not a victim.