William Patrick "Billy" Corgan Jr. is an American musician, producer, lyricist, writer, and poet, best known as the frontman and sole permanent member of The Smashing Pumpkins.
Corgan was born in Elk Grove Village, Illinois as the oldest son of William Corgan Sr., a blues/rock guitarist, and Martha Louise Maes Corgan Lutz. His parents had one more child, Ricky, before divorcing in 1970. His father was soon remarried to a flight attendant, and Corgan and his brother went to live with them in Glendale Heights, Illinois. During this time, Corgan alleges he was subject to much physical and emotional abuse by his stepmother. Corgan also developed a protective bond with his younger half-brother, who had special needs as a child. When Corgan's father and stepmother separated, all three children would live alone with the stepmother, with both of Corgan's birth parents living separately within an hour's drive.
Corgan, who grew much faster than his fellow students, was a strong athlete in elementary school. In addition to being a member of his Marquardt Middle School baseball team, he collected baseball cards (amassing over 10,000) and listened to every Chicago Cubs game. However, by the time he began attending Glenbard North High School in Carol Stream Illinois, he had become only an average athlete. He decided to start playing guitar when he went over to a friend's house and saw his friend's Flying V. Corgan gave his savings to his father, who bought him a used Les Paul knock-off. Corgan, Sr. steered his son stylistically, encouraging him to listen to Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix, but offered little other support, and the younger Corgan taught himself to play the instrument. His musical interests in his formative years included hard rock like Guts-era John Cale, heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath, and mainstream rock like Queen, Boston, ELO, Rush, and Cheap Trick. In high school, Corgan discovered alternative rock through Bauhaus and The Cure.
Corgan performed in a string of bands in high school and graduated as an honor student. Despite grant and scholarship offers from a number of schools, including the University of Michigan, and a tuition fund left by his grandmother, Corgan decided to pursue music full-time.
Formed by Corgan and guitarist James Iha in Chicago, Illinois, in 1987, the band quickly gained steam with the addition of bassist D'arcy Wretzky and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin. The band's direction has largely been driven by Corgan through his confessional lyrics, grandiose production values, and virtuosic musical interplay, notably with Chamberlin. In three years, The Smashing Pumpkins had transformed themselves into a major label success. Strong album sales and large-scale tours propelled the band's increasing fame in the 1990s, while Chamberlin's drug problems escalated until he had to be fired. The Pumpkins continued as a three-piece until Chamberlin rejoined the band in 1999, then broke up in 2000. Corgan started a new band with Chamberlin right away, called Zwan, and after their demise, he released a solo album (TheFutureEmbrace) and a collection of poetry (Blinking with Fists) before setting his sights on reforming the Smashing Pumpkins.
The new version of that band, consisting of Corgan, Chamberlin, and a revolving tour lineup, released an album in 2007 and followed it with extensive touring over the next year and a half. Chamberlin left the Smashing Pumpkins in March 2009, while Corgan has continued to record and tour with a new lineup.
In summer 2009, Corgan formed the band Spirits in the Sky to play a tribute concert to the late Sky Saxon of the Seeds. He then toured with the band, composed of ex-Catherine member and "Superchrist" producer Kerry Brown, the late Electric Prunes bassist Mark Tulin, Strawberry Alarm Clock keyboardist Mark Weitz, frequent Corgan collaborator Linda Strawberry, flautist Kevin Dippold, "Superchrist" violinist Ysanne Spevack, new Pumpkins drummer Mike Byrne, and Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro, playing covers and new Pumpkins material at several clubs in California. At the end of the tour, Corgan, Byrne, Tulin, and Brown headed back to Chicago to begin work on the new Smashing Pumpkins album, Teargarden by Kaleidyscope. The current lineup, which includes new bassist Nicole Fiorentino, toured through much of 2010, then spent 2011 recording the "album-within-an-album" Oceania and mounting tours of the US and Europe.
In 2011, Corgan formed an independent wrestling promotion called Resistance Pro. Two years later, in 2013, he starred in a commercial for Walter E. Smithe Furniture, using the platform to promote his wrestling company. In 2012, opened a tea house in his native Highland Park called Maddam Zuzu's.He is currently at work on his spiritual memoir, entitled "God is Everywhere from Here to There".
Albums with Smashing Pumpkins include Gish, 1991, Lull, 1992, Siamese Dream, 1993, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, 1995, Adore, 1998, Star Profiles, 1998, MACHINA/The Machines of God, 2000, Zeitgeist, 2007; other recordings include Rocket, 1994, Disarm, 1994, Pisces Iscariot, 1994, Bullet with Butterfly Wings, 1995 (Grammy award for Best Hard Rock Performance, 1996), Zero, 1996, Tonight, Tonight, 1996, The Aeroplane Flies High, 1996, The End is the Beginning is the End (Grammy award for Best Hard Rock Performane, 1997); solo albums include The Future Embrace, 2005; contributor to compilations, Light Into Dark, 1988, 20 Explosive Dynamic Super Smash Hit Explosions!, 1991, Singles Soundtrack, 1992, No Alternative, 1993, No Toys for O.J., 1995, Ramson Soundtrack, 1996, Sweet Relief II, 1996, OnXRT0Live from the Archives Volume, 1996; composer (films) Stigmata, 1999, Graceful Swans of Never, 2001, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, 2004, When a Man Falls in the Forest, 2007, actor & composer Spun, 2002.
While Corgan typically avoids discussing US politics, he said after the 2008 presidential election, "I'm very proud of my country right now for doing the right thing."