David Coverdale: "I’ve Retired More Times Than Sinatra"

Whitesnake live in Texas, 2009
(Image credit: Getty Images)

This article originally appeared in Classic Rock #200.

For a musician to make a comeback after a hiatus, is it just a case of picking up where they left off, or do they need to reinvent themselves to some degree?

Personally I’ve been very fortunate that it’s always been my choice to step away when I feel there’s no ‘heat’, or interest, and return when I’m ready, or if I’m invited. Regarding ‘reinvention’, that’s okay for some, but I truly enjoy what I do, how I do it, and I’ve tailored it over the years to include elements that continue to appeal to many of my musical tastes. So really there doesn’t seem to be a ‘need’ to reinvent. Basically, it’s the same house with a fresh coat of paint here and there.

There have been several occasions when you’ve taken a break and then revived the Whitesnake name. How important were these ‘breather’ periods to you?

I’ve retired more times than Sinatra, I think. My ‘breaks’ are very necessary for me. To keep my life in balance it’s very necessary to stop the train and hang with my wife and son at home. I think the most significant break I took was after my son, Jasper, was born, so he would feel and know he had a dad in residence.

Did you ever worry that people might have forgotten you?

After twelve years of not touring the US, I wasn’t sure how that was going to be. But the good news was that radio continued playing the shit out of us, so concern was relatively unfounded. But I honestly don’t take it for granted.

When you make a comeback, how much of it is a business decision and how much of it is a musical decision?

A bit of both. More musical for me. It’s incredible therapy for me, and I feel fulfilled by writing and singing. I’m a lucky bastard, for sure.

Which bands should not have made a comeback?

I don’t have the right to publicly negate anyone. That’s why I can comfortably pass on going on those TV talent shows. The only instance I can relate to you is that it did break my heart when I saw Muhammad Ali beaten by Larry Holmes. ’Twas a very sad night for me. We all believed Ali was immortal. Still is for me.

How much money would it take for the surviving members of Deep Purple Mk III to make a comeback?

More than we’ve been offered so far. Ha ha!

Whitesnake Quiz

Geoff Barton

Geoff Barton is a British journalist who founded the heavy metal magazine Kerrang! and was an editor of Sounds music magazine. He specialised in covering rock music and helped popularise the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) after using the term for the first time (after editor Alan Lewis coined it) in the May 1979 issue of Sounds.