The controversial former Pantera singer Phil Anselmo turns 55

We look back at the career of this Metal icon

The controversial former Pantera singer Phil Anselmo turns 55

Philip Hansen Anselmo was born on June 30, 1968 in New Orleans, Louisiana. One of Metal’s most controversial figures, the former lead singer of Pantera turns 53 today. Anselmo joined Pantera in 1987 at age 19, and his vocals together with his charisma, helped the band to reach worldwide success as one of Metal’s most important and influential acts. With seminal albums such as the 1990 “Cowboys from Hell”, that features one of their biggest hits “Cemetery Gates”, Pantera reached audiences worldwide. In 1992, the band reached the pinnacle of their success with “Vulgar Display of Power”, a best seller that included songs such as “Walk”, “This Love” and “Fucking Hostile” among others. The album is considered one of the most defining Metal records of all time. The album’s lead single, “Mouth for War”, Pantera’s first song to ever chart and “Vulgar Display Of Power” sold millions of copies worldwide. In 1994 they released another seminal Metal album, Far Beyond Driven, which debuted at No. 1 in the United States and featured the hit “I’m Broken”. It was during this period that growing tensions between Anselmo and the rest of the band started to take place. Controversies around Anselmo included accusations of being a white supremacist and charged with assault following an altercation with a security guard when fans were prevented from getting on stage. The racism accusations emerge for the first time after he gave a controversial speech at a Pantera concert in 1995 about “white pride”, however, Anselmo has always refuted all the accusations explaining that it wasn’t his intention to propagate hate and that he had never been a white supremacist or racist. In 1996, following the release of “The Great Southern Trendkill”, a less successful album for the band, Anselmo went into cardiac arrest due to a heroin overdose after a show at the Coca-Cola Starplex in Dallas, Texas. Paramedics revived him, and four days later, he issued a press release stating, “I, Philip H. Anselmo injected a lethal dose of heroin into my arm, and died for four to five minutes”. During that era, he focused his attention on his side band Down, and in 2003 after a hiatus, Pantera disbanded over communication problems and accusations that Anselmo had neglected the band. Anselmo formed and joined several other bands over the years following the break up of Pantera. Bad blood among members of the band prevented a reunion, and guitar player Dimebag Darrell was murdered on stage by a fan in 2004, followed by the death of his brother and drummer Vinnie Paul in 2018. Controversy seems to follow Anselmo to this day,, in 2016, Anselmo ended the “Dimebash” Dimebag Darrell tribute show by giving a Nazi salute and screaming the words “white power” to the crowd. The incident was captured by an audience member’s cell phone camera and the video was posted on YouTube. Anselmo later claimed he was joking about drinking “white wine”: “Ok folks, I’ll own this one, but dammit, I was joking, and the ‘inside joke of the night’ was because we were drinking fucking white wine. Some of y’all need to thicken up your skin. There’s plenty of fuckers to pick on with a more realistic agenda. I fucking love everyone, I fucking loathe everyone, and that’s that. No apologies from me”. He also said later in an interview that during the show “When people start screaming ‘racist’ over and over and over and over again at me, what I did was show them exactly what […] the ugliest possible thing I could think of at the time was.” Anselmo’s biggest vocal influence is Rob Halford from Judas Priest, and, aside of the expected Metal and Hard Rock influences, surprisingly, Anselmo is also a big fan of Morrissey, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and Stevie Wonder. After attending a Stevie Wonder concert where the singer sang all the songs of his 1976 album “Songs In The Key Of Life”, Anselmo described it as “like watching a living, breathing miracle right before your eyes.” More recently, Anselmo has hit the road with Pantera, featuring only the bass player Rex Brown and Anselmo as the original and surviving members of the band alongside drummer Charlie Benante and guitarrist Zakk Wylde. He is surely controversial, and it doesn’t seems it will ever stop being, but he has written his name on the history of Rock, and gifted music fans with some of the best Metal songs ever.

Look back at the 1992 music video for “Walk” by Pantera

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