Michael Hutchence: How INXS Singer’s Life Ended In Silent Suffering
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Michael Hutchence was an icon in the world of rock ‘n’ roll. As the enigmatic and charismatic frontman of the Australian band INXS, he mesmerized audiences worldwide with his sultry voice, seductive stage presence, and poetic lyrics.
Under Hutchence’s spell, the band climbed the charts and etched their names in the annals of music history with hits like ‘Need You Tonight,’ ‘New Sensation,’ and ‘Never Tear Us Apart.’ As one of the biggest rock stars of his generation, Hutchence embodied the allure and excesses of fame, leaving a trail of unforgettable moments in his wake.
However, the bright lights of stardom started to fade as the ’90s rolled on. With changing musical tastes and the emergence of alternative rock and grunge, INXS found themselves struggling to maintain their position at the top. As the band’s popularity waned, Hutchence’s personal life began to unravel, marred by addiction, tumultuous relationships, and a well-guarded secret that would eventually lead to his tragic end.
Despite the ever-present glare of the media spotlight, Hutchence managed to keep a dark secret hidden from the world: a traumatic brain injury sustained during a violent altercation with a taxi driver in Copenhagen in 1992. This incident left the singer with two large areas of permanent brain damage, stripping him of his sense of taste and smell. Only his then-girlfriend, supermodel Helena Christensen, was privy to this devastating truth, sworn to secrecy by the tormented star.
In a 2019 interview with Sky News, filmmaker Richard Lowenstein, a close friend and collaborator of Hutchence, delved into the fateful incident and its harrowing consequences. According to Lowenstein, the brain injury marked a turning point in Hutchence’s life, as he began to exhibit sudden mood swings and violent outbursts that were entirely out of character. Tragically, those around him attributed this erratic behavior to the stereotypical excesses of a rock star, oblivious to the extent of his suffering.
It was only after Hutchence’s untimely death at the age of 37 that Lowenstein began to unravel the mystery behind his friend’s anguish. Through interviews with Christensen and a thorough examination of the unedited autopsy report, the filmmaker discovered the full scope of Hutchence’s injuries: two large contusions and permanent damage to his frontal lobes.
With this information in hand, Lowenstein sought the expertise of neurologists and suicide experts, who confirmed that the brain damage likely played a significant role in the singer’s decision to take his own life. Hutchence’s fear of losing the love and respect of his peers may have been the driving force behind his decision to conceal his injuries. He worried that if his bandmates or romantic partners learned the truth, they would see him as a lesser version of himself or, worse, abandon him entirely.
Here is what Lowenstein said about the unfortunate incident:
“He [Hutchence] displayed sudden mood swings and temper outbursts [after the accident]. One of the biggest tragedies is that because he was a rock star, people just associate those things with rock star-type behavior. He’d burst into tears and say, ‘It’s all about taste and smell that I’m so depressed… If I have a baby, I won’t be able to smell my own child.’
When we got to Helena and her story, and finally got to the full unedited autopsy report, suddenly everything became clear; that was light bulb moment. I took all that material from the interview and the report to an expert on suicide and neurologists, and they said: ‘Without doubt that’s what happened, he killed himself.'”
“He was incredibly insecure, and if it had gotten out – even just between the band members – that he had serious damage to the brain, they would have come in and started writing the songs themselves. And that was his worst nightmare.
I do think he was scared that even if Paula [Yates, his partner at the time of his death] had known or any of his partners had known, they would maybe not love him quite so much or treat him like an invalid. He didn’t want to be seen as less of a person than he was before the accident.”
In the years following the Copenhagen incident, Hutchence faced a series of personal and professional challenges. As INXS’s star continued to dim, he grappled with addiction and a highly publicized custody battle between his then-partner, Paula Yates, and her ex-husband, Sir Bob Geldof. These stressors, combined with the debilitating effects of his brain injury, culminated in his tragic suicide in a Sydney hotel room on the eve of a grueling world tour in 1997.
Michael Hutchence’s life was a thrilling, yet ultimately heartbreaking, journey through the heights of fame and the depths of despair. As fans and friends remember him for his extraordinary talent and magnetism, his story also serves as a cautionary tale about the unseen struggles that can plague even the brightest of stars. Hutchence’s decision to suffer in silence, while perhaps understandable given the pressures of his life and career, underscores the importance of open dialogue about mental health and the impact of traumatic injuries.
In the years since his passing, Hutchence’s legacy as a gifted musician and captivating performer has endured. His work with INXS remains a touchstone for generations of fans, and his life, though cut tragically short, continues to inspire countless artists. As we reflect on the complexities of his journey, let us also remember the importance of compassion, understanding, and support for those grappling with their own unseen battles.