This year has been absolutely brutal for the rock and metal community. Some of the biggest musical icons have departed, leaving fans and musicians left with their respective musical legacies and memories. Rockers around the world have reacted in wake of these deaths and the always outspoken KISS' Gene Simmons has offered his thoughts on the loss of the iconic Prince.

“I think Prince was heads, hands and feet above all the rest of them. I thought he left [Michael] Jackson in the dust. Prince was way beyond that," Simmons began telling Newsweek. "But how pathetic that he killed himself. 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.”

Brash and never one to mince words, the KISS bassist continued, “[David] Bowie was the most tragic of all because it was real sickness. All the other ones were a choice. [Prince's] drugs killed him. What? Do you think he died from a cold?”

No cause of death has been determined as of yet, though a toxicology report is expected in the coming weeks. Rumors insist Prince died of a prescription painkiller overdose, but the details have yet to be confirmed.

When asked if he ever met the legend, Simmons recalled a time when he took Diana Ross, his then girlfriend, to see him perform. He spoke of Prince's humility, stating, "He just couldn’t take a compliment: ‘Thank you, thank you.’ He spoke in a whisper. It was shocking actually. He couldn’t look Diana Ross in the face—he kept his eyes to the ground."

Pondering the substance abuse issue that pervades rock icons, Simmons wondered out loud, "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?"

In closing, Simmons was asked if he believes the tragic events have clouded Prince's legacy and he responded, "No. Your legacy becomes even bigger, you become more iconic if you die before your time—Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and all that. They capture the youth."

KISS will be venturing out on an expansive 2016 North American tour running from July through September. A full list of tour stops can be found at our 2016 Guide to Rock + Metal Tours.

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