West End supremo Andrew Lloyd Webber has opened up about a past battle with depression which led him to consider suicide.
The celebrated composer contemplated killing himself as recently as three years ago, a new book reveals, a thought which had plagued him since adolescence.
In his memoirs, Unmasked, he also identifies a troubling episode of sexual assault as the genesis in his journey to theatre greatness.
The 69-year-old wrote: “A saddo tried to fondle me under cover of the tight standing crush on the Tube train.
“I was too shocked to make a fuss. But I was furious. So furious that it gave me an idea that maybe was big enough to call an epiphany.”
That same afternoon he performed at an end-of-term concert at Westminster Under School, ditching a planned recital for his own cheeky composition which mocked the masters and earned a rapturous reception.
His book lays bare the depths of despair which countenanced staggering heights of success reached with musicals such as The Phantom Of The Opera and Cats.
In 1963, aged 15, he recalls first considering taking his own life after becoming “deeply depressed” by how his mother – a piano teacher – became infatuated with the musical talents of another young pianist.
But a visit to Lavenham, Suffolk, and in particular the local church, convinced him “things weren’t so bad after all”.
Another attempt to end his life followed in the 1960s when he was barred from attending a potentially fortune-changing appointment to have a song recorded after failing an army test in the school corps.
The impresario told the Mail on Sunday: “I woke to find a doctor’s face pressed close to mine, demanding what the hell I was doing frightening my parents like this.”
More recently, he almost succumbed to the turmoil brought on by a diagnosis of prostate cancer and bouts of severe back pain, the paper reports.
He said: “I did think of suicide. It was so painful and I couldn’t sleep and you go on thinking about it.
“You have all those ridiculous painkillers and none of them working and you just think, ‘I shall take the whole lot of them’.”
His wife of 27 years, Madeleine Gurdon, provided a ray of light through dark times, however.
“When I met Madeleine, it was almost like getting my life back; a door has been unlocked back into a world that I’d perhaps missed in the previous years – people outside the theatre.
“There is a world outside the Tony Awards and I think that’s what Madeleine brings to me.”
Unmasked, published by HarperCollins, will be released on March 8.