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'80s Music Icon Adam Ant: Back from the Brink

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Thirty years ago Adam Ant was a pioneer of new-wave music, one of the first video stars of MTV and an early champion of pirate fashion. (Sorry, Johnny Depp!) And on a recent afternoon at his London home, the “Goody Two Shoes” singer was busy entertaining a new generation: his daughter Lily, who turned 15 that day. Though the rocker still wears brocade, braids, eye shadow and guyliner, their celebration wouldn’t be too over-the-top. “We’re going to have a lovely meal and just spend time together as a family,” he says. “And that’s the best thing I can get in life, really.”

Father-daughter bonding time for Ant, 58, is sweeter than ever given the struggles he has overcome. Born Stuart Leslie Goddard in England, the singer has struggled with mental illness since his 20s; he has since been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He also battled anorexia before he became famous. And then his global success in the ’80s and early ’90s overwhelmed him. “It was just another tour, an album, four more music videos,” says Ant, who’s riding high with a comeback album, Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter, his first in 18 years. “It didn’t occur to me there would be a price to pay.”

As his fame waned, he made the wrong kind of headlines in 2002 when he was arrested for threatening patrons at a London pub. The following year, after a physical conflict with a neighbor, he was committed to a psychiatric ward. It was not the first – or the last – time he was in that position. “I went to see him three different times in three different hospitals,” says Ant’s longtime collaborator and friend Boz Boorer. During one stint, “every 15 minutes someone would have to check if he was okay,” says Boorer. “He went through a lot of heavy stuff. He would say to me, ‘I want to be better, but I don’t know the process to go around doing that.'”

Looking back now, Ant says his actions were “the biggest regret of my life,” but he has made peace with his past and gotten his condition under control through a combination of medication, therapy and exercise. When he’s not working, his daily routine is focused on three things: daily walks, his dog Billy and catching up on TV with Lily, his daughter with ex-wife Lorraine Gibson. “I knocked off, like, five seasons of Mad Men in a week!” he says.

His greatest joy, however, still comes from making music. “My work makes me feel good,” says Ant. “You get that natural rush.” He’s brought that renewed drive (plus classic songs from the Adam and the Ants days) to his current tour, hitting the U.S. July 17. On the road he’s thrilled to have one special fan with him. “Lily stands at the side of the stage,” says Ant. “Afterward she’ll say to me, ‘All right, Dad. You did well.'”