The Tragedy Of Nickelback Explained

Nickelback has been one of the most visible, successful, and extremely polarizing bands of the last two decades, but often shadowed in some kind of darkness or tragedy. The band's music, often either hard and sludgy, or dark and melancholy, just might reflect the lived experience of the members of Nickelback, formed in a small town in Alberta in the 1990s. Directed by brothers Chad and Mike Kroeger, Nickelback is a phenomenally successful rock band, one of the bestselling of the 21st century, and if you were born in 2002, the Canadian group's No. 1 hit "How You Remind Me" is the most popular song the year you were born.

For while Nickelback has sold tens of millions of albums and scored a long string of big radio hits, it hasn't always been "Sunny Side Up" or brought them fame for "All the Right Reasons." Both professionally and personally, the band and its orbit have been consistently beset by bad news, health problems, lawsuits, emotional pain, and some of the nastiest criticism in recent memory. Here's a look at the frequently tragic and difficult lives of the rock stars in Nickelback.

Chad Kroeger had a rough childhood

Chad Kroeger formed the first version of Nickelback in the mid-1990s with his brother and cousin, after a rocky childhood in the small town of Hanna, Alberta. He was raised by his mother and eventually a stepfather, following the departure of his father when the future rock star was two years old. In the hit "Photograph," Kroeger sings of the "half a dozen times" he broke into a school where he regularly failed to attend classes. In reality, young Kroeger was convicted as a minor on a charge of breaking into his junior high, for which he spent two months in a juvenile detention facility. 

Had he not discovered music and taught himself how to play the guitar, Kroeger reckons that he may have gotten into the drug trade, and gotten arrested for it, too. "I'd probably be in jail," he said, according to Maclean's magazine (via The Canadian Encyclopedia). "I'm the type of guy who always wants to cheat the system somehow."

Nickelback had a personal connection to a horrific murder

Of all the performers who died in front of their audiences, "Dimebag" Darrell's murder during a 2004 show by his metal band Damageplan is especially shocking and tragic. Just over a minute into the band's set, Nathan Gale, a 25-year-old Marine recently discharged after a paranoid schizophrenia diagnosis, headed toward the stage and discharged his firearm into the crowd and at the stage. Abbott, 38, died, as did three others; Gale was killed by a police officer.

It so happens that Damageplan was created by the ex-members of another band, Pantera, by brothers Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul Abbott. And while Pantera has its own tragic real-life story, they also ran in the same circles as fellow hard rock band Nickelback, and the two groups struck up some friendships. "It was so fun to know those guys. They were one-of-a-kind, larger than life personalities, just how you'd imagine," Nickelback bassist Mike Kroeger told Silver Tiger Media (via Blabbermouth) in 2019, a few months after the heart problem-related death of Paul at age 54. "The story of Dime and Vinnie, it's a pretty tragic story," Kroeger said.

Nickelback paid tribute to Abbott with a song on its 2005 album "All the Right Reasons." "Side of the Bullet" rhetorically asks of the band's friend's murder, "God, why'd you let him do it," and also includes a guitar solo from Abbott, made out of outtakes contributed by Paul.

Nickelback was assaulted in Portugal

Nickelback sat atop the mainstream rock world in 2002. Its singles "Too Bad," "Never Again," and "How You Remind Me" all topped the Billboard rock chart and also ranked high on the pop list, while the album "Silver Side Up" was on its way to eventually selling more than six million copies. Nickelback was popular, in other words, or possibly too pop and middle-of-the-road to find acceptance from a crowd made up of heavy metal fans.

Nickelback played the Ilha do Ermal festival in Portugal in August 2002. "Have we got any Nickelback fans in Portugal?" singer Chad Kroeger asked the crowd early in the band's set. The response was vocally tepid but otherwise violent, because the audience hurled bottles and rocks at the band during its first song. "Do you wanna hear some rock n' roll, or do you wanna go home?" Kroeger asked again before yelling, "See ya," brandishing a middle finger, and leading Nickelback in its departure from the stage after only partially playing its second song, reducing the risk of injuring themselves from violently thrown projectiles.

Guitarist Ryan Peake thinks that just a relatively small portion of the crowd was actively hostile, and that they didn't like Nickelback because of its hit power ballad. "That was when 'How You Remind Me' came out and it was a metal festival," he told the "Rig Biz" podcast. "I'm not so sure we had any business being on there."

Chad Kroeger was convicted of driving under the influence

As many touring rock bands are notoriously fond of doing, Nickelback likes to drink alcohol. They allude to that fact in songs like "Bottoms Up," and during concerts, lead singer Chad Kroeger has been known to imbibe booze on stage. "We're going to do shots between every single song till the end of the show," he said during a gig in Vancouver in 2010 (via The Globe and Mail). But on occasion, Kroeger's drinking gets excessive, as far as the law is concerned.

In June 2006, Kroeger was stopped by police in Surrey, British Columbia. Clocked for exceeding the speed limit in a Lamborghini, Kroeger failed a field sobriety test and was found to have twice the provincial legal limit in his system. Accepting his punishment for the crime in 2008, Kroeger was ordered to pay a fine of $600 (in Canadian dollars, roughly equivalent to the same in U.S. dollars at the time) and forfeit his driver's license for a year. Kroeger expressed remorse over his behavior. "I don't condone drinking and driving," he told CBC News after exiting the courtroom. "I don't think you should do it and everybody makes mistakes."

Nickelback was unfairly sued

Nickelback's 10 million-selling 2005 album "All the Right Reasons" yielded the No. 6 hit "Rockstar," a tongue-in-cheek sendup (and simultaneous celebration) of the rock star lifestyle. It's something with which the members of Nickelback had grown familiar; the lyrics mention buying fancy cars and houses, hanging out with Playboy Bunnies, and signing autographs while their bodyguards beat up people.

Those are a bunch of well-worn tropes, but even so, the song got Nickelback (and its record label and music publisher) sued. Texas musician Kirk Johnston filed a copyright infringement case in 2020, alleging that when he first heard "Rockstar" in 2018, he thought it sounded strikingly and egregiously similar to "Rock Star," a song he wrote in 2001 for his band Snowblind Revival. Johnston's "Rock Star" appeared on a recording sent out to multiple labels, including the parent company of Nickelback's Roadrunner Records. He accused the label and band of conspiring to steal "Rock Star" to turn it into "Rockstar."

"The two songs sound nothing alike," Nickelback asserted in a court filing (via Blabbermouth). "Johnston failed to identify any specific lyrical similarities between the works at issue." In 2023, a federal judge threw the case out of court, ruling that Johnston's claim "borders on the absurd" (via Billboard). A judiciary panel upheld the appeal in 2024. "These broad categories are mere clichés of being a rockstar that are not unique to the rock genre," the trio wrote in its ruling (via Billboard).

Chad Kroeger got divorced

A Canadian pop-rock power couple for the ages was officially forged on July 1, 2013 — Canada Day — when Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger married the punk-adjacent and very real Avril Lavigne, putting to rest the conspiracy theory that Lavigne died and was replaced by a lookalike. The pair met in earnest in March 2012, became a couple that July, and married in France on the one-year anniversary of their first date. "We think it's very cool that our anniversary will always be on Canada Day. We can't wait to start our life together. We're very happy," Kroeger told People.

The romance, and the marriage, fizzled out very quickly, however. Slightly more than two years after the wedding, Lavigne announced on her Instagram page in September 2015 (in a post she later deleted) that she and her husband had split up. "It is with heavy heart that Chad and I announce our separation today. Through not only the marriage, but the music as well, we've created many unforgettable moments," she wrote. "We are still, and forever will be, the best of friends, and will always care deeply for each other."

A medical issue almost led to Chad Kroeger losing his voice

Nickelback's Chad Kroeger possesses one of the most gravelly and also distinctive voices in all of hard rock. For that singing voice to greatly change or to go away entirely would constitute a tragic blow to Kroeger's livelihood and ability to artistically express himself — which became a very real possibility when he was diagnosed with a vocal cord cyst in 2015. 

He very quickly agreed to surgery to remove the cyst, but it put Nickelback out of commission for most of a year. The band canceled many North American tour stops and the whole European section of its "No Fixed Address" tour to allow for Kroeger's recuperation. At the time of the surgery, doctors instructed the singer to observe vocal rest for as long as nine months, and immediately following the procedure, Kroeger couldn't talk for two weeks. His inability to sing, an integral part of his creative process, also meant that he couldn't write any songs during his convalescence.

"I think when you go and get surgery, there's a fear," Kroeger told FaceCulture. "I was a little worried, but I was in really good hands. You never know how you're going to sound or what's going to happen or if you're never going to be able to sing again." With the help of an aggressive vocal rehabilitation program and a vocal coach, Kroeger's singing voice returned. "When I woke up, I sounded just like the loser from Nickelback."

Daniel Adair had a near-career-ending injury

Nickelback drummer Daniel Adair nearly ended up on the tragic list of musicians who permanently damaged their bodies performing live. The act of constantly drumming for decades in a hard rock band took its toll on Adair, as it exacerbated a pinched nerve in his right arm. After finding it more difficult to keep his right hand steady while playing over the course of many years, Adair sought multiple medical professionals and learned that he had radial tunnel syndrome, triggered by a compressed nerve in his forearm. That in turn resulted in a worn-out muscle which caused his wrist to rotate in a consistently painful and incorrect way.

Adair underwent surgery just before COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, allowing him to recover without missing any work recording or touring with Nickelback. The major element of the recovery process was establishing how to use his hand before he could even start to think about getting his drum skills back up to par. In the 2024 documentary "Hate to Love: Nickelback" (via the Recording Academy), Adair revealed that the pinched nerve was part of a larger neurological problem and that he suffered damage all the way up his arm, and feared that if he didn't find a way to correct it quickly, he'd be tossed out of Nickelback.

Mike Kroeger had a near-fatal stroke

Of the four main members of Nickelback, three have suffered a tremendous medical emergency since the 2010s. Around 2013, Nickelback bassist Mike Kroeger had a serious stroke, news that wasn't revealed to the public until the run-up to the release of the 2024 documentary "Hate to Love: Nickelback." In a stroke, the brain's blood supply is suddenly, severely cut down or cut off, which can lead to permanent neurological damage or death. Kroeger's stroke hit when he was in his early forties, and while he was exercising. He was quickly hospitalized, and during what would ultimately be a two-week stay, doctors weren't initially sure if the musician would survive. To provide Kroeger with some privacy during that fraught time, the band cited Chad Kroeger's vocal issues as the reason for canceling dates on its 2015 concert tour.

Chad Kroeger helped his brother's medical team develop a rehabilitation program. That took many months, during which Mike Kroeger had to re-learn to walk. "I feel like all of these fragile human moments that we had — my brain blowing up, my brother's vocal cords going bad, and Daniel's very complex condition — and also with COVID, we got shown in a very short period of time how fragile this situation is, and how lucky we are to be able to do this," Mike Kroeger told

Nickelback is the most hated band in rock

Nickelback is often considered among the worst bands of all time, despite also being one of the bestselling acts ever, with 50 million albums sold. A lot of people love Nickelback, but plenty more hate the band's blend of hard rock and pop, and they're very vocal and pretty mean about it. 

A 2011 poll by named the band the "No. 1 musical turn-off" (via Billboard), just before an online petition aiming to remove Nickelback from a halftime performance at a Thanksgiving Day NFL game gathered 40,000 signatures. In 2016, a police constable on Prince Edward Island publicly threatened to punish suspected drunk drivers by forcing them to listen to Nickelback; a year later, Arnold Schwarzenegger said Congress was as well-liked as sexually transmitted diseases, dental procedures, and Nickelback.

"We get that all the time. We've never really been a critics' darling or anything like that," Nickelback singer Chad Kroeger said. "The people speak. We sell a lot of records and fill a lot of arenas." But these musicians are real people, and these things affect them. "Initially it kind of hurt our feelings," Kroeger told Bandwagon (via Planet Rock). "I think it's safe to say anyone in the world would feel that way if people were saying negative things about you." Bassist Mike Kroeger revealed that the abuse and contempt sometimes went too far, reporting on how non-fans were "verbally attacking our families and sending us death threats."

Lots of other bands really hate Nickelback

Not just the target of snark from the general population and fans of supposedly trendier music, Nickelback became the most hated band in the music industry, earning the scorn and derision of several other major figures in rock. In 2002, Stone Sour leader Corey Taylor criticized Nickelback, a fellow Roadrunner Records roster member, in an interview with Rock Sound. "I'm glad they could use our money to make f***ing Nickelback happy," Taylor said (via KNAC). "Those f*****g pretty boys, and the lead singer looks like Shaggy from 'Scooby-Doo.'" That singer, Chad Kroeger, branded Stone Sour "Nickelback Lite" in a 2017 interview with Metal Covenant (via Loudwire).

"Rock and roll is dying because people became OK with Nickelback being the biggest band in the world," Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney told Rolling Stone (via Pitchfork). "So they became OK with the idea that the biggest rock band in the world is always going to be s***." Kroeger wryly responded on X, formerly known as Twitter (via Rolling Stone), writing, "Thanks to the drummer in the Black Keys calling us the Biggest Band in the World in 'Rolling Stone.' Hehe."