Al Kooper Recalls Joe Walsh’s Addiction Era

Al Kooper Recalls Joe Walsh’s Addiction Era | I Love Classic Rock Videos

Joe Walsh - The Colorful Radio

Retired songwriter and record producer Al Kooper recently sat down with Classic Rock to reminisce about his friend and fellow guitarist, Joe Walsh.

Their camaraderie stretches back to Walsh’s days with the James Gang, and even took them on tour together in 1991.  While Kooper cherishes the experience, a shadow loomed over it – Walsh’s battle with addiction.

Having faced his own struggles, Kooper couldn’t help but feel a pang of sadness witnessing Walsh’s dependence. However, the story doesn’t end there.

Thankfully, Joe found the strength to turn things around, and Kooper is happy to report he’s doing great these days.

Stage Fright and Self-Medication

Joe Walsh’s battle with addiction stemmed from a common source for performers – stage fright.  He initially turned to alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism, fearing the thought of taking the stage sober.

In a 2023 interview with People magazine, Walsh reflected on this period, particularly following the Eagles’ break-up.

He described his approach as a way to numb the emotional pain: “I couldn’t process that [breakup], so I pretended they didn’t, and I just kept partying.” Walsh further acknowledged the rampant drug use of the 1970s but admitted cocaine held a particular appeal for him.

He saw it as a tool for self-medication, allowing him to stay focused, complete songs, and project a confident, rebellious persona on stage.

Finding Sobriety

By 1993, Walsh knew he had reached a breaking point. His addiction had spiraled, and he felt powerless to stop. The guitarist described this period as hitting rock bottom: “Right then is when I was hitting bottom, and I didn’t know how to stop. I was a mess.”

Thankfully, a turning point arrived. Walsh found a powerful motivator for sobriety – the fear of a tragic end. He stated, “I said, ‘Well, I can get sober for that.’ That’s a darn good reason.”

This realization became a lifeline, offering him a chance to escape the self-destructive path he was on. The initial stages of sobriety proved challenging. Walsh had become reliant on alcohol, even for basic tasks.

He later admitted the difficulty of relearning how to function without it. He once mentioned that getting sober was difficult because he thought he needed to get drunk just to become capable of working. However, with newfound determination, Walsh embarked on a journey of recovery.