When 23-year-old Rick Springfield’s début 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 6 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 was honored by the Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services in April with the 2018 Beatrice Stern Media Award (see www.didihirsch.org).
“It’s not something I sought,” said Springfield, about the honor, from Los Angeles. “In the music business, accolades provide milestones and markers along the way to gauge one’s career. But this type of award draws attention to serious issues like depression. 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.”
After moving to the U.S., he scored one of the biggest pop 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.
“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.
Springfield’s latest CD, “The Snake King” released earlier this year, infuses rock ‘n roll with a twist of blues – both musically and personally. “It’s got a lot of attention because it’s so different I think.”
“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. I must have sung it thousands of times over the years.”
Talking of his depression, Rick 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.”