Michael Stanley admits he shouldn’t be here.
On Dec. 1, the local rocker underwent quadruple-bypass surgery at Lake Health West Medical Center in Willoughby, hours after arriving in the emergency room complaining of a lightheadedness he’d experienced for the past two days.
“In retrospect, I probably had two little heart attacks before, in those two days,” he says. “This felt absolutely nothing like the heart attack I’d had 30 years ago.” That one damaged a third of Stanley’s heart muscle.
But the Rocky River native, who turned 70 on March 25, was back in the afternoon drive-time chair at 98.5 WNCX on Jan. 25. He planned to return to the stage with his Resonators in March for two shows at the Hard Rock Rocksino, dates he rescheduled after the surgery.
While the latest scare has motivated him to swap cigarettes for Tootsie Pops, it doesn’t hold him back. “If you get up every day and just wait around for it to happen that day, you’re going to miss the rest of your life,” he says.
That attitude has helped Stanley achieve a longevity relatively rare in the music industry, one that began when he signed his first recording contract with the band Silk 50 years ago. He garnered national attention during the late ’70s and early ’80s fronting the Michael Stanley Band, charting with songs such as “He Can’t Love You” and “My Town.” After the group’s 1987 breakup, he paid the bills by co-hosting a now-defunct local TV newsmagazine, then by signing on as a DJ at WNCX.
At the same time, the prolific Stanley keeps performing, writing and recording. He’s released new music every year or so on his Line Level Music label, even as he dealt with the loss of his parents in 2010, the death of his third wife Denise Skinner in 2011 and a bout with prostate cancer in 2016.
Songwriting is a form of therapy for him, and mortality has become a subject he explores regularly in his songs, most notably on the 2012 album The Hang.
“My hobbies are music,” he adds. “It just happens that I can get paid for it occasionally or there’s an audience for it. But I would be doing the same thing if there wasn’t.”