Punk rock icon Henry Rollins was born on this day in 1961
Henry Rollins turns 59 today
Henry Rollins was born on February 13, 1961, in Washington, D.C. his parents divorced when he was very young and was mainly raised by his mother. Musically, Rollins grew up listening to a diverse mix of music. He was, through his mother, exposed to classical compositions and the work of jazz legends Miles Davis and John Coltrane, as well as such classic rock greats as the Doors. He was working at an ice cream store when he caught his first big break. At a Black Flag show in New York, he jumped on stage and sang a song with the band. This impromptu performance led to an offer for Rollins to become the group’s lead singer. He soon quit scooping ice cream and hit the road with Black Flag. From 1981 to ’86, Rollins established himself as a leading hard-core punk figure. He became known for his high-energy, aggressive singing style. Being in Black Flag could also be combative. During the making of his first record with the group, “Damaged,” Rollins explained to The New York Times, “We were broke and at each other’s throats, but every song we wrote was first-rate.” He also helped write songs for such later Black Flag albums as “My War” (1984), “Slip It In” (1984) and “In My Head” (1985). The 1986 live album “Who’s Got the 10 1/2?” proved to be the group’s last record. Rollins later chronicled his experiences of touring with Black Flag in his 1994 book “Get In The Van.” He would win a Grammy Award for best spoken word album in 1995 for his recording of “Get in the Van: On the Road with Black Flag.” While with Black Flag, Rollins began his career as a spoken word artist. Some of his performances were featured on the 1984 Black Flag album “Family Man”. He eventually established his own publishing and record entity, 2.13.61, to produce books and an album of his own work, as well as materials created by others. After the break-up of Black Flag, Rollins continued to make dramatically charged music. He enjoyed a greater level of commercial success with the Rollins Band in the 1990s. “Liar,” perhaps one of Rollins’s best-known songs, was featured on the 1994 album “Weight.” The video for that song got heavy airplay on MTV. In addition to recording and performing with his group, Rollins began to branch out into acting, appearing in “Johnny Mnemonic” (1995) with Keanu Reeves and “Heat” (1995) with Al Pacino. He also continued to do spoken word performances, which were recorded and released over the years. Rollins has become an outspoken human rights activist, most vocally for gay rights. In high school, a classmate of Rollins’ was bullied by classmates to the point of attempting suicide. Rollins has cited this as the main catalyst of his anti-homophobia. Rollins frequently speaks out on social justice on his spoken word tours and promotes equality, regardless of sexuality.
Watch Henry Rollins in the 1994 video for “Liar”
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