By Marguerita Choy
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rick Springfield, who became a pop icon with the 1981 song "Jessie's Girl" and appeared naked in the TV drama "Californication", is baring even more of himself in a new autobiography -- including a revelation that he killed a man during the Vietnam war.
In 1968, at age 17, the Australian musician was entertaining U.S. troops in Vietnam, when the Americans came under attack. Springfield helped load mortars to repel the onslaught, and one of them killed a Viet Cong soldier.
"That was a war situation but it is still something that to this day sends a shiver down my spine," Springfield said, calling it one of his deepest, darkest secrets.
In the memoir "Late, Late at Night", Springfield, 61, writes of his lifelong battle with depression in spite of sold-out concerts, more than 17 million album sales and his stint as Dr. Noah Drake on the soap opera "General Hospital".
At 16, he tried to hang himself in his backyard shed, but the rope's knot unraveled.
"Having suicide ride on my shoulders was not a lot of fun through a lot of my life and surviving that was a real high point for me," Springfield told Reuters.
"Once puberty hit, I was pretty much skimming along the bottom, and I am (now) living long enough to understand how to deal with it," said Springfield.
After surviving the suicide bid, Springfield saw a window opening: music, which led him to Vietnam, and then in 1972 to the United States, where he became a teen heartthrob and lived the Hollywood high life with girlfriend Linda Blair, at that time the teen star of hit movie, "The Exorcist."
The career dry spell that followed was resurrected by the Grammy-winning song "Jessie's Girl" -- voted in 2007 as the No.1 karaoke song of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. The song found a new generation of fans when it was used in hit musical TV comedy "Glee" earlier this year.
"I am amazed actually. I didn't think it would have the legs it has. I didn't think it was a hit. There are better songs on the record," he said.
The song has overshadowed his 16 other Top 40 hits, like "Don't Talk to Strangers" and "Love Somebody".
"The great thing is it is an iconic song. The bad thing is a lot of people think it is the only song I ever wrote. But I understand that, and I certainly don't get upset about it."
Springfield said a lot of his best songs have come from the depression that still haunts him despite years of therapy. "I think good art does come from a dark place. It's our struggle to come to terms with things in our own life that, as writers, you write about."
SEX, LIES AND FACELIFTS
The Darkness, or "Mr. D," as Springfield calls depression, hit again in 1989, and Springfield took a 10-year break from recording music to deal with it.
He rebounded in 1999 and has since made six albums, plays more than 100 concerts a year and an annual four-day festival in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In November, the third annual Rick Springfield cruise sails from Miami to the Bahamas.
"Thank God women like to get together and have a drink. It's pretty awesome," said Springfield of the cruises, which attract thousands of predominantly female fans.
Springfield said he has acquired new, male, fans after his role as a sex and drug-addicted guy in the TV series "Californication".
"I guess I finally proved to them I am now not gay. And they like the music...I write from a guy's point of view."
Springfield said that having grown up in a band, he believed it didn't mean anything to cheat on girlfriends, or on his wife of 26 years, Barbara.
"It doesn't excuse me from having done it, and I wear that guilt. But I am human and we want to be together and we want it to work," he said of his marriage.
Springfield is currently making a new album, has a documentary coming out next year, plans more acting and completely rules out appearing in "Dancing with the Stars."
"That would be a reason my wife would divorce me."
After a traumatic experience going under the knife to remove the bags under his 23 year-old eyes, Springfield says he is adamantly against facelifts.
"You can tell when someone has had a facelift and I haven't had a facelift, and I look like I haven't had a facelift...I wouldn't do that. I am saying it now, but I am hoping I stick to it," he laughed.
(Editing by Jill Serjeant and Bob Tourtellotte)