Henry Rollins has hit the point in every artist’s/icon’s career where his name becomes an adjective. His contributions to music, politics and entertainment are many and could fill up a multi-volume book. Considering this vast and intimidating mountain of work, I present below a (very) brief summary of his life for those who are just now getting acquainted and want to know what all the fuss is about.
Henry Rollins was born Henry Lawrence Garfield in Washington, DC on Feb. 13, 1961. He started his music career as a teenage roadie for various Punk bands in the DC area before singing in best friend Ian MacKaye’s band Teen Idles, State of Alert and later becoming the frontman and singer for Black Flag.
Black Flag was formed in Hermosa Beach, CA in 1977. Rollins was asked to join the band in 1981 following a concert in New York where he was invited onto the stage to sing the band’s song “Clocked In.” The band recorded six LP’s in six years with Rollins through their own label, SST Records.
The band was credited alongside Bad Brains and Minor Threat with creating Hardcore Punk and the DIY culture that buoyed it. Black Flag concerts were notorious for the band’s raw, uninhibited energy and violent fans which led to a crackdown by the LAPD.
Rollins chronicled his life with Black Flag in his book Get In The Van published in 2004.
The end of Black Flag signaled the beginning of what would become a highly successful solo career for Rollins. He published two spoken word albums in 1987 through his own publishing company, 2.13.61, named after his birth date. He also created The Rollins Band the same year. The band recorded eight LP’s before dissolving in 2003. The band’s biggest hit was “Liar” from their 1994 album “Weight.” The video was directed by Anton Corbjin who also directed videos for Depeche Mode, Nirvana and At The Drive-In.
In between recordings, Rollins also released a number of books, audiobooks and spoken word recordings on disc and video. The topics in his recordings vary wildly from hilarious stories of life on the road to serious ruminations on politics in the USA and around the world (stream his first spoken word video, Talking From The Box, in its entirety here).
He is politically active and an ardent supporter of many causes including support for gay marriage, defense of the West Memphis Three and a billion other causes and groups dedicated to social justice, peace and equality.
Rollins fills in his free time with gigs as an actor and TV personality. His IMDB resume is no joke! He also hosted his own program on IFC which featured a number of documentaries based on his expeditions in various countries.
And because that’s not enough, Rollins is also a popular radio DJ. His first gig was on the famous radio station Indie 103.1, which was also home to Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols. His show, Harmony In My Head, was broadcast every Monday from 2004 – 2009 and came to a halt after the station lost its FM spot (it continues to broadcast through the internet only). Rollins has been hosting his own show at KCRW since March 2009.
Happy 50th birthday, Henry Rollins. May you always speak your mind.