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 suffered from depression since his teen years – including a suicide attempt six years earlier.
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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 in April by the Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services with the 2018 Beatrice Stern Media Award (see www.didihirsch.org
“It’s not something I sought,” Springfield said. “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," he said. "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.”
He said 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 United States, he scored one of the biggest pop hits of 1981 with “Jessie’s Girl,” which won a Grammy.
He then became a daytime TV heartthrob on “General Hospital.” Despite his accomplishments, he never eluded the shadow of depression.
“I thought success would make me better, but it didn’t change anything inside me,” he said.
“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.”
Springfield didn’t 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 released as a single, but the radio DJs loved it and started playing it from the album "Working Class Dog.”
“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.”
Rick still performs the song during concerts but says he tries to keep them fresh.
“I’m always writing new stuff so the shows aren’t just a collection of oldies.”
Springfield says he's still thankful for family, close friends and fans who support him, while he hopes his words and music will provide comfort to others who are struggling.
“I don’t want to be the depression poster boy, but 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."