In an interview with Newsweek, the 66-year-old KISS rocker said he thought it was "pathetic that [Prince] killed himself," referring to reports that the legendary musician had Percocet in his stomach when his body was discovered at his Paisley Park recording complex on April 21. It's still unclear what role, if any, the opioid played in Prince's death.
"I just got such sh*t from my family for my big mouth again," Simmons tweeted on Tuesday. "I apologize -- I have a long history of getting very angry at what drugs do to the families/friends of the addicts. I get angry at drug users because of my experience being around them coming up in the rock scene. In my experience they've made my life, and the lives of their loved ones, difficult. I was raised in a culture/crowd where drug addicts were written off as losers, and since that's the narrative I grew up with, it's been hard to change with the times."
Simmons acknowledged that he didn't express himself "properly."
"I don't shy away from controversy, and angry critics really don't bother me at all," he wrote. "If I think I'm right, I'll throw up a finger and dig my heels in and laugh. But this time, I was not. So, my apologies."
In the candid Newsweek interview, Simmons was asked about a slew of recent high-profile deaths among musicians, including David Bowie.
"Bowie was the most tragic of all because it was real sickness," Simmons said, referring to the "Space Oddity" singer's death in January after a battle with cancer. "All the other ones were a choice."
"His drugs killed him," Simmons said about Prince. "What do you think, he died from a cold?"
" ... But how pathetic that he killed himself," he added. "Don’t kid yourself, that’s what he did. Slowly, I’ll grant you... but that’s what drugs and alcohol is: a slow death."
Still, he did praise the "Purple Rain" singer's talent. Simmons recalled seeing Prince perform when he was just starting out in his career, and Simmons was accompanied by his then-girlfriend, Diana Ross. "I think Prince was heads, hands and feet above all the rest of them," he noted. "I thought he left [Michael] Jackson in the dust."
"The one question I have is: When we all start out and we have these big dreams and you finally get your wish -- you have more money than God and fame -- what is that insane gene in us, well, a lot of us, that makes us want to succumb to the cliché of clichés: drugs and alcohol?" he added.
"I mean, you think about all the years he was jumping off those risers," she recalled. "They were not low -- they were very, very high -- and to jump off that ... First of all, the Purple Rain tour and the way that they were stacked, he had those heels on. We did a year of touring [and] for him to jump off of that -- just an entire year would have messed up his knees."
"He was in pain all the time, but he was a performer," she noted.