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15 Years Ago: Ratt Guitarist Robbin Crosby Dies

Atlantic
Atlantic

The prevalence of sex, drugs and rock and roll in the mid-to-late ‘80s was tempered slightly by the AIDS hysteria and the dangers of unprotected sex and sharing of needles. For the most part, the hard-partying glam musicians who ruled the decade escaped relatively unscathed, an exception being Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby, who contracted HIV and died from a heroin overdose on June 6, 2002.

Along with Warren DeMartini, Crosby was one half of Ratt’s twin-guitar attack. The pair was an integral part of the sound on hits like “Round and Round,” “Lay It Down” and “Way Cool Jr.” But with all of success the lifestyle that came with it started to catch up with Crosby. By the beginning of the ‘90s, he was heavily addicted to drugs, and left Ratt following a Japanese tour in the early part of 1991. Crosby had hoped to get into producing, but in 1994 was given the devastating diagnosis that he had the virus. It wasn’t until 2001 when he publicly announced in an interview he had full-blown AIDS.

“I got really drugged out and my health started getting weird and I was in the hospital and the doctor asked me if I’d been checked out for HIV and I said, ‘Yes,” Crosby recalled. “And she said, ‘Do you mind if I check it again?’ Then I started getting all these messages from her and I thought, ‘Oh, boy. I know what this means,’ ‘cause if I was negative she wouldn’t be trying to trace me down. This was in about ’94 that I found out that I was positive and I hedged on that with the press for years ’cause I didn’t know what to think or make of it.”

Crosby went into a downward spiral of depression which led him to increase his drug intake and even attempt suicide at one point. In 1999 he did an interview with VH-1 for a Behind the Music episode — which didn’t run until 2006 — where he bemoaned his drug addiction, saying, “It’s cost me my career, my fortune, basically, my sex life when I found out I was HIV positive.” Two years later, he had seemingly come to terms with his fate.

“Basically, it’s killing me,” he said. “I’ve got a terminal disease. Recently, I went in for surgery ‘cause my back hurt so bad, and they got all this infectious fluid out and then they found that my bones were not getting oxygen under the infectious fluid which is called osteomyelitis. I’ve been in the hospital for eight straight months and in and out for over seven years.”

The next spring, the man once known as “King” was dead. He was 42.

“Everybody had their different substance intake and his just happen to be everything, “Ratt singer Stephen Pearcy told Classic Rock Revisited. “The one that got him was AIDS and people should be aware that dirty needles, if you choose to go that way, don’t work and sex, throw a rubber on it and be careful and then party and everything else is cool. The guy was king in our eyes, he was Robbin, he was our leader, and he was my right hand man. It was terrible; it was just bad all the way around. He is a soldier we lost in the rock and roll war. He was not the first and I am sure he will not be the last.”

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