When 23-year-old Rick Springfield's debut solo single "Speak to the Sky" was climbing the Australian pop charts in 1972, few realized the young singer/songwriter had been suffering since his teen years from debilitating depression - including a suicide attempt six years earlier.
Four decades later, he publicly discussed his battle in the best-selling 2011 memoir "Late, Late at Night." For raising awareness about suicide and mental health issues, 68-year-old Springfield will be honored by Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services (see www.didihirsch.org), who have been helping people deal with mental health and substance abuse issues since 1942. He will receive its 2018 Beatrice Stern Media Award on April 26 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, in Beverly Hills (see www.erasingthestigma.org).
"It's not something I sought, but this type of award draws attention to serious issues like depression," said Springfield from Los Angeles. "When I'm down, it inspires me to read about other people who have dealt with it and survived. So if I can provide that for someone else, I'm glad to talk about it."
Springfield says his depression first arose after puberty.
"I began to feel uncomfortable in my own skin and would stay away from school. It got worse, so bad I tried to hang myself. Obviously, I didn't succeed but have battled this dark side all my life."
After moving to the U.S., he enjoyed one of the biggest hits of 1981 with "Jessie's Girl," won a Grammy and became a daytime TV heartthrob on "General Hospital." Yet despite his accomplishments, he never eluded the shadow of depression that has stubbornly hung over him. And he says he "gets it" that some may wonder how anyone with money, fame, talent and a legion of adoring fans could be depressed.
"I thought success would make me better, but it didn't change anything inside me," he explained. "There are times when I have no idea why I'm down and wake up dark - it's just something in me. I certainly get the greatest pleasure when I'm on stage playing live to thousands of screaming and dancing fans. It's a great high, but then you come off stage, and it's just you alone in a hotel room looking at yourself in the mirror."
Springfield's latest CD, "The Snake King" released earlier this year, infuses rock 'n roll with a twist of blues - both musically and personally (see www.rickspringfield.com).
"It's got a lot of attention because it's so different I think," he said. "I was in a particularly bad place last year, so it's a darker album."
With over three dozen studio, live and compilation albums to his credit, hit singles, as well as numerous film and TV roles, it's perhaps surprising Springfield didn't originally plan a singing or acting career.
"I love writing and really started singing because no one else would sing my songs," he said. "Then I only began acting to make some money between record deals. But I soon began to love the idea of branching out into other entertainment genres like Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra who did it so well."
Even his biggest hit wasn't planned. "'Jessie's Girl' wasn't originally released as a single, but the radio DJs loved it and started playing it from the album ('Working Class Dog')."
Its success, he says, was a surprise. "I thought there were better songs on the album, but people just identified with it and still do."
Today, Rick is still thankful for family, close friends and fans who likewise continue to support him, while he hopes his own words and music will provide comfort to others similarly struggling.
"If people can see I'm managing my life and have had success despite living with this in my system, it offers them hope," he says. "I meditate and got therapy, so you can learn to work with it. My advice is to talk to people who understand it. I look forward to doing a lot more and pushing my own envelope."
Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery, Alabama, and has written features, columns and interviews for more than 700 newspapers and magazines.
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