Rick Springfield is an 80s icon, best known as Noah Drake, the handsome playboy doctor of General Hospital, circa 1981, when the show garnered 12 million viewers a day and the teased hair behind the hit Jessie’s Girl. His clean scrubbed visage decorated the cover of teen magazines and helped sell over 17 million albums. He performed at Live Aid, won a Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance and headlined a Broadway show, but despite all his achievements he will always be best known as the heartthrob who wrote the song Rolling Stone says is globally the No. 1 karaoke pick.
“I’m very, very proud of it,” says the 61 year-old Springfield, “but I have done other things. It’s more than a hit song. Not every writer produces a song that has done what Jessie’s Girl has done. It has taken on a life of its own. It’s nothing I did. It was up to the music gods and the people. I had nothing to do with putting it in Boogie Nights. I had nothing to do with it being in Glee. Nothing to do with it being the center of 13 Going on 30. Nothing to do with it being put in Friends when Friends was the hottest show on TV. For some reason it is one of those 80s iconic songs and I am incredibly grateful for that because every writer wants one. I never go, ‘Oh God can we stop talking about Jesse’s Girl’ but it does overshadow other stuff. I think I have written better songs but that one they’ll probably play at my funeral.”
Probably. But a frank new autobiography, Late, Late at Night (Simon & Shuster), scrapes some of the sheen off his clean cut image to reveal a complex man who has struggled with depression, thoughts of suicide and sex addiction. Far from the run-of-the-mill celebrity memoir—“I had never read one before so I didn’t know what was expected,” he says.—the book is by times funny, by times shocking, by times revealing, often all at the same time.
“I just wrote about my life,” he says simply. “I didn’t see the point in leaving holes in it because everything I’ve done I’ve learned from, I hope.”
The book is brutally frank. He writes about being a 17 year-old musician in 1968 on a USO tour of Vietnam and helping to load mortar shells during an attack. One of those bombs killed a Viet Cong soldier.
“That was difficult to write about,” he says, “because I’m the guy who lifts bees out of the swimming pool if I think they’re drowning. I was caught up in the spirit of war because we were bunking with the G.I.’s. We travelled with the G.I’s. and the only other people we saw were the local hookers and the local kid who sold us dope. We very much lived in their world and adopted their mentality. It was the mentality of war. Even though we weren’t going out everyday to the jungles like them, we were getting shot at and rocketed and mortared. We were in fear for our lives especially because we didn’t have any defensive weapons. I was scared 24/7.”
Other stories involve his lifelong battle with depression, a specter he has personified in the form of The Darkness, a malevolent presence who has plagued him his entire life.
“Mr. D just appeared through the narrative,” he says. “One time I called him My Darkness and I started viewing him as this guy sitting over there and I think it helped the story that he was in the third person. It made it less maudlin, less woe-is-me, less poor me. It was this dick of a guy sitting over there f**king with me all the time and that is what it really feels like.”
Despite the scandalous revelations and the introspective look at depression Late, Late at Night isn’t a gloomy book. Springfield writes with humor and finesse—no ghostwriter required—and may now finally be known for writing something other than the line “Where can I find a woman like that?”
“Once I started to do it I looked forward to writing everyday,” he says. “It was cathartic at times and helped me see a through line into certain parts of my life. Once it was done I was kind of nervous about it coming out but the writing of it was fun.”