If there is a lead singer in rock whose career arc is eerily similar to the pro football career of Brett Favre, it would have to be David Coverdale. English by birth he now holds dual US/English citizenship and resides in Reno, Nevada. Coverdale is remarkably well preserved for a 64 year old rock star. Like Favre’s long NFL career, he toiled in the rock and roll trenches much longer than your average lead singer. He has retired from the music business multiple times, also like the ultra durable QB. Unlike Favre, he is still at it.
Coverdale’s was no overnight success story. His interest in music started when he was 14 years old and he cut his teeth over the years with bands no one on this side of the pond ever heard of: Vintage 67 (1966–68), The Government (1968–72) and The Fabulosa Brothers (1972–73). His fortunes took an upswing in 1973 when he answered an ad in Melody Maker magazine about the open lead singer position in Deep Purple. Discord in Deep Purple had sent their bass player Roger Glover and lead singer Ian Gillan down the road. Purple took a chance with the unknown singer and Coverdale began a long relationship with at least parts of that band. His latest album (released in April of 2015 – The Purple Album) features the music of Deep Purple and was more or less intended as a tribute to their late, great keyboard player Jon Lord.
Upon joining Deep Purple, Coverdale found himself recording a new album with them (Burn) which was released in February of 1974. That album was certified as a Gold Record in March. In April of 1974, Coverdale embarked on his first trip to America to perform for a crowd of over 200,000 at California Jam in. When their second LP together was released in December of 1974 (Stormbringer), guitarist Ritchie Blackmore did not like the band’s slide toward funk and soul, prompting yet another founding member to quit the band. The rest of the band was ready to call it a day but Coverdale begged them to continue. He convinced them to bring in American guitarist Tommy Bolin (who previously played with Billy Cobham and The James Gang where he had replaced Joe Walsh). Lackluster sales of the one album they cut with Bolin (Come Taste The Band) lead Coverdale to tearfully tender his resignation at the end of their 1976 tour. Unknown to him, the two remaining original members of Deep Purple (drummer Ian Paice and Lord) had already made the decision to disband and informed him there was no band for him to quit!
The next seven years found Coverdale forging a solo career, beginning with White Snake (1977), an album written and recorded with guitarist Mick Moody. After adopting Whitesnake as the band’s name, he toured relentlessly behind seven more albums. Whitesnake’s live shows began to attract more and more attention to the band . Coverdale also ran through a pile of great guitar players. Besides Moody, the list would include Bernie Marsden, John Sykes, Adrian Vandenberg, Steve Vai, and bassist Rudy Sarzo, Coverdale was making a living but was certainly not a household name. Even having his old Deep Purple mate Jon Lord join the band didn’t elevate Whitesnake to the highest plateau of rock stardom. Coverdale had to put the band on hiatus to a while to deal with his daughter’s illness. He was also considered as Ronnie James Dio’s replacement in Black Sabbath, but in the end he chose to stand pat. Instead folding Whitesnake completely and moving on, Coverdale persevered by producing the eponymous Whitesnake album that finally propelled them to worldwide recognition.
Most of Whitesnake had been written with guitarist John Sykes before there was a less than amicable parting of the ways. Working with Vandenberg to finish Whitesnake, Coverdale released the album which, to this date, has sold 8 times Platinum Record status. Featuring the hits Here I Go Again, Still of the Night, and Is This Love, the album’s steamy videos featuring Coverdale’s second wife Tawny Kitaen in heavy rotation on MTV certainly didn’t hurt the sales of Whitesnake and its’ 1989 follow-up Slip of the Tongue. At the end of the Slip of the Tongue tour (March of 1990), Coverdale disbanded Whitesnake again. Coverdale admitted that he got caught up in the whole rock star thing and, “It got louder and louder, and so did I, to the point now where I have to get dressed up like a “girly man” and tease ones questionable bangs or hair and it’s all becoming a bit… boring”.
After twenty years in the business, no one would have blinked if Coverdale had simply retired. Instead, he and Jimmy Page began working on a collaboration in 1991 what was released as Coverdale-Page. The album was certified as a Gold Record in 1995. After a limited tour for the album, they went their separate ways – some say Coverdale was just Page’s Robert Plant clone and some say it renewed Page’s desire to work with Plant. Regardless, Coverdale reformed Whitesnake in 1994 to promote Whitesnake’s Greatest Hits before folding the band yet again.
Like Michael Myers from the Halloween movie series, Whitesnake rose again and played their farewell tour in 1997-98. After a brief break, Coverdale released his first solo album in 22 years (Into the Light – 2000) and although it wasn’t a big record, it did get him back in the music game after his latest retirement from the business.
Since 2002, Coverdale and Whitesnake have continued their roller coaster ride. The band recorded a live concert DVD, a double live album, and an album of new material while continuing to tour. Guitarists Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach have hung around longer than most Whitesnake axemen even though the drum, bass and keyboard players keep are in flux.
Brett Favre’s retirement-go-round ended on a frozen field in Minnesota when the durable QB suffered an injury that sent him to his final retirement. Coverdale faced a serious injury that by rights should have put also him on the permanently retired list. During a double bill with Judas Priest at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, CO, Coverdale suffered a serious voice injury (a severe vocal fold edema and a left vocal fold vascular lesion) which shelved him for the last half of 2009. Early in 2010, he announced his voice was healed and headed out on the road once again.
Since returning to action in 2010, Whitesnake has dropped another album of new material (Forevermore – 2011) and the previously mentioned The Purple Album. Maybe, just maybe, Coverdale could get a hold of Brett Favre and get some retirement pointers. Until then, I guess he will just keep rocking, retiring, and rocking again.
Top Piece Video – Classic Whitesnake with the afore mentioned Mrs. Coverdale doing her thing: