From his early days as a Hollywood street urchin to his status as one of the biggest rock stars of the ‘80s, Nikki Sixx has lived a life that most people could barely fathom.

Born Frank Feranna Jr. in 1958, the disaffected teen hitched a ride to Los Angeles at 17 to make it as a rocker, toiling in a number of local bands and eventually changing his name legally to Nikki Sixx. The pieces began to fall into place in 1981, when he teamed up with drummer Tommy Lee, guitarist Mick Mars and singer Vince Neil, forming Motley Crue.

Throughout the ‘80s, Motley Crue released a slew of multi-platinum albums and packed arenas full of fans around the world, spearheading the glam-metal craze and becoming one of the biggest bands on the block. But their delirious highs were accompanied by devastating lows. Sixx found himself in the throes of a crippling heroin addiction, and on Dec. 23, 1987, he overdosed on the drug and was pronounced clinically dead for two minutes before paramedics revived him with two shots of adrenaline. The ordeal inspired the song “Kickstart My Heart,” one of Motley Crue’s most iconic hits off their biggest album, the chart-topping Dr. Feelgood.

But Sixx’s problems were far from over. Motley Crue’s popularity waned in the ‘90s as they dealt with lineup changes and shifting musical trends. Still, the band weathered the storm and emerged reunited and reinvigorated at the end of the decade, and while their chart-topping heyday was behind them, they continued to enjoy a second act as a massive concert draw.

Sixx dabbled in several other projects in the 21st century, teaming up with Tracii Guns to launch the short-lived supergroup Brides of Destruction in the early 2000s. In 2006, he launched his own group, Sixx:A.M., alongside singer James Michael and guitarist Dj Ashba. Their debut album, The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack, served as a musical counterpart to Sixx’s memoir of the same name. Lead single “Life Is Beautiful” became a hit at rock radio, and Sixx:A.M. released several successful albums over the next decade. Sixx also penned two more books, the 2011 photo-memoir This Is Gonna Hurt and 2021’s The First 21: How I Became Nikki Sixx. Also in 2021, Sixx formed the supergroup L.A. Rats with Rob ZombieJohn 5 and drummer Tommy Clufetos.

Through it all, Motley Crue remained Sixx’s constant. After completing their so-called farewell tour in 2015, they announced their return in 2019, and in 2022 they embarked on the massive, twice-delayed Stadium Tour featuring Def Leppard, Poison and Joan Jett.

You can see photos from all of these career highlights and more in our gallery of Nikki Sixx Year-by-Year Photos 1981-2022.

Nikki Sixx Year-by-Year Photos 1981-2022

Over four decades' worth of photos from Motley Crue's bass player.