Many would agree that one of rock’s all-time charismatic and entertaining frontman would have to be Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. Born Steven Victor Tallarico on March 26, 1948 (just outside New York City in Yonkers), he began playing drums at an early age, but eventually switched to vocals after discovering the Beatles, as well as the tougher blues rock of the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds. After moving to Boston in the late ’60s, Tallarico hooked up with two members of an up-and-coming outfit called the Jam Band, comprising guitarist Joe Perry and bassist Tom Hamilton, and after finding drummer Joey Kramer and second guitarist Ray Tabano (who was eventually replaced with Brad Whitford), they renamed themselves Aerosmith. The band became a regional sensation, combining the blues sleaze of the Stones/Yardbirds and the power of such hard rock acts as Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, as Steven (who had changed his name to “Steven Tyler”) proved to have a flair for the outrageous — his stage outfits resembled a rock & roll gypsy look, while long scarves dangled from his microphone stand.
By 1973, Aerosmith was signed to Columbia Records and as soon as the quintet issued their self-titled debut that year, they were besieged with non-stop comparisons to their idols, the Rolling Stones (or more concisely, Tyler and Perry’s resemblance both musically and visually to Jagger and Richards). Although the debut didn’t set the world on fire, word of mouth and constant touring built the band a hardcore following, and due to such all-time hard rock classics as 1974’s “Get Your Wings,” 1975’s “Toys in the Attic,” and 1976’s “Rocks,” Aerosmith became a sensation, selling out arenas and scoring big-time hit albums and singles (the proto-power ballad “Dream On” and the funky rocker “Walk This Way”). But with fame came hardcore drug abuse for the band, which also created constant bickering between Tyler and Perry. With the rock & roll lifestyle taking its toll (their albums grew increasingly more and more unfocused), Perry quit to pursue a solo career in 1979, with Whitford following a year later.
Refusing to admit that Aerosmith’s best days were behind them, Tyler soldiered on with replacement members, as his whole life centered around where and when he would score his next fix (all the sordid details are recounted first hand by Tyler in Aerosmith’s excellent 1999 autobiography Walk This Way). With the band in disarray, fast approaching bankruptcy, and reduced to headlining theaters as opposed to the enormous football stadiums of their heyday, Tyler and Perry patched up their differences in 1983, leading to a reunion of all the original members a year later. It took a while for the bandmembers to clean up their act, but by 1987 all were clean and sober and promptly reclaimed their title as one of the United States’ finest rock & roll bands on the strength of sold-out arena tours and such mega-hit albums as Permanent Vacation and Pump. In the process, Tyler became one of the most influential frontmen in rock & roll history, as a plethora of singers in ’80s hard rock bands (Guns N’ Roses’ Axl Rose, Cinderella’s Tom Keifer, Mötley Crüe’s Vince Neil, the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson, etc.) all resembled Tyler circa 1976 with their look and vocal delivery. By the ’90s, Tyler and co. had reinvented themselves as an MTV band, focusing on more pop-oriented material (such as the number one hit ballad “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” from the movie Armageddon), while Tyler’s daughter, Liv, became a model and actress.
Tyler’s star continued to blaze throughout the early aughts, with Aerosmith’s 2001 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a high profile performance at the Super Bowl XXXV half-time show, and a pair of chart-topping albums (Just Push Play, 2001 and Honkin’ on Bobo, 2004). The latter part of the decade saw Tyler collaborating with the likes of Santana, Keith Anderson, and Chris Botti, as well as continuing to tour with Aerosmith, despite suffering a number of health setbacks, including an injury sustained from a rough fall from the stage at a 2009 show in North Dakota. In 2011 Tyler joined the 10th season of American Idol as a judge (replacing Simon Cowell), and released an autobiography, Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?, which peaked at number two on the New York Times bestseller list. He left American Idol after two seasons in order to focus on Aerosmith, and in 2012 the band issued their 15th studio album, Music from Another Dimension!. In April 2015, Tyler made a surprise appearance at the Grand Ole Opry to announce the release of his upcoming debut solo country album. The first single from the record, “Love Is Your Name,” dropped later that May.