W. Axl Rose (born William Bruce Rose, Jr.; raised as William Bruce Bailey; February 6, 1962) is an American singer-songwriter and musician. He is the lead vocalist and only remaining original member of the hard rock band Guns N' Roses. Due to his powerful and wide vocal range and energetic live performances, Rose has been named one of the greatest singers of all time by various media outlets, including Rolling Stone and NME.
Born in Lafayette, Indiana, Rose moved to Los Angeles in the early 1980s, where he became active in the local hard rock scene and joined several bands, including Hollywood Rose and L.A. Guns. In 1985, he co-founded Guns N' Roses, with whom he enjoyed great success and recognition in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Their first album, Appetite for Destruction (1987), has sold in excess of 30 million copies worldwide, and is the best-selling debut album of all time in the U.S. with 18 million units sold. Its full-length follow-ups, the twin albums Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II (1991), were also widely successful; they respectively debuted at No. 2 and No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and have sold a combined 35 million copies worldwide.
After 1994, following the conclusion of their two-and-a-half-year Use Your Illusion Tour, Rose disappeared from public life for several years, while the band disintegrated due to personal and musical differences. As its sole remaining original member, he was able to continue working under the Guns N' Roses banner because he had legally obtained the band name. In 2001, he resurfaced with a new line-up of Guns N' Roses at Rock in Rio 3, and subsequently played periodic concert tours to promote the long-delayed Chinese Democracy (2008), which undersold the music industry's commercial expectations upon its release. In 2012, Rose was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Guns N' Roses, though he declined to attend the event and requested exclusion from the HoF.
Axl Rose was born William Bruce Rose, Jr. in Lafayette, Indiana, the oldest child of Sharon E. (née Lintner), then 16 years old and still in high school, and William Bruce Rose, then 20 years old. His father has been described as "a troubled and charismatic local delinquent," and the pregnancy was unplanned. His parents separated when Rose was approximately two years old, prompting his father to abduct and allegedly molest him before disappearing from Lafayette. His mother remarried to Stephen L. Bailey, and changed Axl's name to William Bruce Bailey. He has two younger siblings--a sister, Amy, and a half-brother, Stuart. Until the age of 17, Rose believed that Bailey was his natural father. He never met his biological father as an adult; William Rose, Sr. was murdered in Marion, Illinois in 1984 by a criminal acquaintance who was convicted even though the body was never recovered. Axl did not learn about the murder until years later.
The Bailey household was very religious; Rose and his family attended a Pentecostal church, where he was required to attend services three to eight times per week and even taught Sunday school. Rose later described his upbringing as oppressive, stating, "We'd have televisions one week, then my stepdad would throw them out because they were Satanic. I wasn't allowed to listen to music. Women were evil. Everything was evil." In 1992, after undergoing past life regression therapy, Rose claimed he had uncovered memories of being sexually abused by his biological father at the age of two. He also stated that his stepfather had physically abused him and his siblings, as well as sexually abused his sister. Rose found solace in music from an early age. He sang in the church choir from the age of five, and performed at services with his brother and sister under the name the Bailey Trio. At Jefferson High School, he participated in the school chorus and studied piano. A second baritone, Rose began developing "different voices" during chorus practice to confuse his teacher. He eventually formed a band with his friends, one of whom was Jeff Isbell, later known as Izzy Stradlin.
At the age of 17, while going through insurance papers in his parents' home, Rose learned of his biological father's existence, and he unofficially readopted his birth name. However, he referred to himself only as W. Rose, because he did not want to share a first name with his biological father. (Four years later, after moving to Los Angeles, he became so engrossed in his band AXL that his friends suggested he call himself Axl Rose; he legally changed his name to W. Axl Rose prior to signing his contract with Geffen Records in March 1986.) Following the discovery of his true family origins, Rose became the local juvenile delinquent in Lafayette; he was arrested more than 20 times on charges such as public intoxication and battery, and served jail terms up to three months. After Lafayette authorities threatened to charge him as a habitual criminal, Rose moved to Los Angeles, California in December 1982.
1983-1986: Early years:
Shortly after his arrival in Los Angeles, Rose joined the band Rapidfire, with whom he recorded a four-song demo in May 1983. After the group's disbandment, he joined the first line-up of L.A. Guns, before forming the band Hollywood Rose with his childhood friend Izzy Stradlin, who had moved to Los Angeles in 1980. In January 1984, the band recorded a five-song demo featuring the tracks "Anything Goes", "Rocker", "Shadow of Your Love", and "Reckless Life", which were released in 2004 as The Roots of Guns N' Roses. While struggling to make an impact on the Hollywood music scene, Rose held down a variety of jobs, including the position of night manager at the Tower Records location on Sunset Boulevard. Rose and Stradlin also smoked cigarettes for a scientific study at UCLA for the reported wages of $8 per hour.
In March 1985, Rose and his former band mate Tracii Guns formed Guns N' Roses by merging their respective bands Hollywood Rose and L.A. Guns. By June, after several line-up changes, the band consisted of Rose, lead guitarist Slash, rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer Steven Adler. The line-up debuted at The Troubadour in Hollywood and proceeded to play the L.A. club circuit, eventually building a devoted fan following. The band attracted the attention of several major record labels, before signing with Geffen Records in March 1986. The following December, they released the four-song EP Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide on the Geffen imprint UZI Suicide.
1987-1989: Breakthrough with Appetite for Destruction:
In July 1987, Guns N' Roses released its debut album Appetite for Destruction. Although the record received critical acclaim, it experienced a slow commercial start, selling only 500,000 copies in its first year of release. However, fueled by the band's relentless touring and the mainstream success of the single "Sweet Child o' Mine"--Rose's tribute to his then-girlfriend Erin Everly--the album rose to the No. 1 position on the U.S. chart in August 1988, and again in February 1989. To date, Appetite for Destruction has sold over 30 million copies worldwide, 18 million of which sold in the United States, making it the best-selling debut album of all time in the U.S.
During the band's performance at the Monsters of Rock festival in Castle Donington, England in August 1988, two fans were crushed to death when many in the crowd of 107,000 began slam-dancing to "It's So Easy". Rose had halted the show several times to calm the audience. From then on, he became known for personally addressing disruptive fans and giving instructions to security personnel from the stage, at times stopping concerts to deal with issues in the crowd. In 1992, Rose stated, "Most performers would go to a security person in their organization, and it would just be done very quietly. I'll confront the person, stop the song: 'Guess what: You wasted your money, you get to leave.'" As a result of the deaths at Monsters of Rock, the festival was canceled the following year.
In November 1988, Guns N' Roses released the stopgap album G N' R Lies, which sold over five million copies in the U.S. alone. The band - and Rose in particular - were accused of promoting racist and homophobic attitudes with the song "One in a Million", in which Rose warns "niggers" to "get out of my way" and complains about "faggots" who "spread some fucking disease." During the controversy, Rose defended his use of the racial slur by claiming that "it's a word to describe somebody that is basically a pain in your life, a problem. The word nigger doesn't necessarily mean black." In 1992, however, he conceded that he had used the word as an insult towards black people, stating, "I was pissed off about some black people that were trying to rob me. I wanted to insult those particular black people. I didn't want to support racism." In response to the allegations of homophobia, Rose stated that he considered himself "pro-heterosexual" and blamed this attitude on "bad experiences" with gay men, citing an attempted rape in his late teens and the alleged molestation by his biological father. The controversy led to Guns N' Roses being dropped from the roster of an AIDS benefit show in New York organized by the Gay Men's Health Crisis.
With the success of Appetite for Destruction and G N' R Lies, Rose found himself lauded as one of rock's most prominent frontmen. By the time he appeared solo on the cover of Rolling Stone in August 1989, his celebrity was such that the influential music magazine agreed to his absolute requirement that the interview and accompanying photographs would be provided by two of his friends, writer Del James and photographer Robert John.MTV anchorman Kurt Loder described Rose as "maybe the finest hard rock singer currently on the scene, and certainly the most charismatic."
1990-1993: International success with Use Your Illusion:
In early 1990, Guns N' Roses returned to the studio to begin recording the full-length follow-up to Appetite for Destruction. Recording sessions initially proved unproductive due to Steven Adler's struggle with drug addiction, which made him unable to perform and caused sessions to abort for several days at a time. Adler was fired the following July and replaced by Matt Sorum of The Cult. Keyboardist Dizzy Reed also joined the band that year at Rose's insistence. Sorum and Reed played their first show with Guns N' Roses at Rock in Rio 2 in January 1991. The group fired its long-time manager, Alan Niven, in May of that year; Rose reportedly forced the dismissal of Niven against the wishes of his band mates by refusing to complete the new album until Niven was gone. He was replaced by roadie Doug Goldstein, whom Izzy Stradlin described as "the guy who gets to go over to Axl's at six in the morning after he's smashed his $60,000 grand piano out of the picture window."
In May 1991, still without an album to promote, the band embarked on the two-and-a-half-year Use Your Illusion Tour, which became known for its financial success and myriad controversial incidents that occurred during shows, including late starts, on-stage rantings and even riots. Rose received much criticism for his late appearances at concerts, sometimes taking the stage hours after the band was scheduled to perform. In July 1991, 90 minutes into a concert at the Riverport Amphitheater near St. Louis, after on-stage requests from Rose for security personnel to confiscate a fan's video camera, Rose himself dived into the crowd to seize the contraband item. After being pulled back on stage, he announced, "Thanks to the lame-ass security, I'm going home!" and departed, following which some 2500 fans staged a riot, resulting in an estimated $200,000 in damages.
In September 1991, with enough material completed for two albums, Guns N' Roses released Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, which debuted at No. 2 and No. 1 respectively on the U.S. chart, a feat not achieved by any other group. By the albums' release, however, Rose's relationships with his bandmates had become increasingly strained. His childhood friend Izzy Stradlin abruptly left the group in November 1991; he was replaced by Gilby Clarke of Kill For Thrills. Of his reasons for leaving, Stradlin said, "I didn't like the complications that became such a part of daily life in Guns N' Roses," citing the riot and Rose's chronic lateness as examples. At some point during the remainder of the tour, Rose demanded, and received, sole ownership of the Guns N' Roses name from Slash and Duff McKagan; Rose reportedly issued an ultimatum--they had to sign the name over to him or he wouldn't perform. (In 2008, Rose stated that these reports were false and that the alleged coercion would have rendered the contract legally untenable.)
Another riot occurred in August 1992 at Montreal's Olympic Stadium, during a co-headlining tour with Metallica. Prior to Guns N' Roses' appearance, Metallica's set was cut short after singer-guitarist James Hetfield suffered second-degree burns in a pyrotechnics accident. However, Guns N' Roses was unable to go on stage early, because Rose once again was late arriving at the venue. Nearly an hour into their show, Rose complained of voice problems; he then told the audience, "Thank you, your money will be refunded" and walked off stage, following which a riot erupted in downtown Montreal, resulting in an estimated $400,000 in damages. In November of that year, Rose was convicted of property damage and assault in relation to the Riverport riot; he was fined $50,000 and received two years' probation.
Guns N' Roses played its final show of the Use Your Illusion Tour on July 17, 1993 at River Plate Stadium in Buenos Aires; it proved to be Rose's last live performance with the band for seven and a half years. The following August, Rose testified in court against Steven Adler, who had filed a lawsuit contending that he had been illegitimately fired. When the judge ruled against Rose, he agreed to an out-of-court settlement of $2,500,000 and 15% of the royalties for everything Adler recorded prior to his departure. In November of that year, Guns N' Roses released "The Spaghetti Incident?" a cover album of mostly punk songs, which proved less successful than its predecessors. Unbeknownst to his band mates, Rose had included the hidden track "Look at Your Game, Girl", a song written by convicted murderer Charles Manson, which he intended as a personal message to his ex-girlfriend Stephanie Seymour. Controversy ensued, and the band subsequently pledged to donate any royalties to the son of one of Manson's victims.
1994-2007: Hiatus and touring:
Without explanation or consultation from his band mates, Rose fired Gilby Clarke in June 1994. Tension between Rose and Slash reached a breaking point after the latter discovered that Rose had single-handedly hired his childhood friend Paul "Huge" Tobias as Clarke's replacement. Slash finally left Guns N' Roses in October 1996, followed by Matt Sorum's firing in June 1997. Duff McKagan departed the band in August of that year, leaving Rose and Dizzy Reed as the only remaining band members of the Use Your Illusion era.
As the stability of Guns N' Roses collapsed, Rose withdrew from public view. The band never officially broke up, although it did not tour or perform for several years and no new material was released. Rose continued to recruit new musicians to replace band members who either left or were fired. By the late 1990s, he was considered to be a recluse, rarely making public appearances and spending most of his time in his mansion in Malibu. In various media reports, he was referred to as the "Howard Hughes of rock" and "rock's greatest recluse." Rose was said to spend his nights rehearsing and writing with the various new lineups of Guns N' Roses, working on the band's next album, Chinese Democracy.
In January 2001, Rose resurfaced at Rock in Rio 3 with a new line-up of Guns N' Roses, featuring lead guitarists Buckethead and Robin Finck, rhythm guitarist Paul Tobias, bassist Tommy Stinson, drummer Bryan "Brain" Mantia, and keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Chris Pitman. The following year, the band--with Tobias replaced by Richard Fortus--embarked on a tour of Europe, Asia, and North America, and made a critically panned surprise appearance at the MTV Awards. In November, a riot erupted at Vancouver's General Motors Place after Rose failed to show up for a scheduled concert. When venue staff announced the cancellation, a riot broke out, resulting in an estimated $100,000 in damages.
Rose then withdrew from the public view for a second time. In 2004, he joined his former band mates Slash and Duff McKagan in a lawsuit against Geffen Records in an unsuccessful attempt to block the release of the Greatest Hits compilation album. That same year, Rose lent his voice to the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, in which he adopted the persona of Tommy "The Nightmare" Smith, the radio DJ of classic rock station K-DST The Dust.
In a rare interview in January 2006, Rose stated that "people will hear music this year." With Buckethead and Bryan Mantia replaced by Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal and Frank Ferrer, Guns N' Roses toured Europe and North America throughout 2006. Former band member Izzy Stradlin made several guest appearances during the tour. In December of that year, Rose issued an open letter to his fans, in which he discussed, among other things, the reasons why Chinese Democracy had still not been released, and named March 6, 2007 as a tentative release date. However, the album again failed to materialize. In 2007, Guns N' Roses played a summer tour of Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. Rose collaborated with his longtime friend Sebastian Bach on his album Angel Down; he duetted with Bach on a cover of Aerosmith's "Back in the Saddle" and performed backing vocals on "(Love is) a Bitchslap" and "Stuck Inside", for which he was credited as a co-writer.
2008-present: Chinese Democracy and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction:
On November 23, 2008, 15 years after its last album, Guns N' Roses released Chinese Democracy exclusively via the electronics retailer Best Buy. Rose did not contribute to the album's promotion; by December, he had reportedly been missing for at least two months and had not returned phone calls or other requests from his record label. On December 11, Rose finally broke his silence by answering questions on two online Guns N' Roses discussion boards. In a subsequent interview, Rose stated that he felt he did not receive the necessary support from Interscope Records with regards to the album's release.
In December 2009, Guns N' Roses--with Robin Finck replaced by DJ Ashba--played a tour of Asia. The band then toured the Americas, Europe, and Australia throughout 2010. Former band member Duff McKagan made a surprise appearance during the group's show at London's The O2 Arena in October 2010. In October 2011, Guns N' Roses headlined Rock in Rio 4, before beginning a tour of the Americas, including their first U.S. tour in five years.
In December 2011, it was announced that the classic lineup of Guns N' Roses would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, their first year of eligibility. Rose thanked the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and his fans via his Twitter, saying, "This is your victory." However, he did not attend the ceremony on April 14, as he had announced in an open letter three days prior. Rose, who has been on bad terms with several of his former band mates, wrote that the ceremony "doesn't appear to be somewhere I'm actually wanted or respected." He was, however, honored publicly for being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when he was presented the Key to the City of Utah's second largest city, West Valley City, by Mayor Mike Winder during a concert at the city's Maverik Center in December 2011.
In mid-1982, Rose began dating fellow Lafayette, Indiana native Gina Siler, with whom he moved to Los Angeles, California in December of that year. According to Siler, the couple were engaged "about nine times" before separating in late 1985. In 1991, Siler described their former relationship as volatile, comparing the years they lived together to "putting a nuclear warhead in your living room and hitting it with a hammer and just waiting."
In early 1986, Rose began a relationship with model Erin Everly, the daughter of singer Don Everly of the Everly Brothers. He wrote the song "Sweet Child o' Mine" for her, and Everly appeared in the accompanying music video. Rose and Everly were married on April 28, 1990 in Las Vegas. Everly later claimed that Rose showed up at her house the previous day with a gun in his car and told her that he would kill himself if she did not marry him. Less than a month later, Rose first filed for divorce. The couple later reconciled, during which Everly became pregnant. She suffered a miscarriage in October 1990, which deeply affected Rose, who had wanted to start a family. Everly left Rose the following November; they annulled their marriage in January 1991. After their break-up, Rose allegedly tried to contact Everly for more than a year, sending her flowers, letters, and even caged birds.
In mid-1991, Rose became involved in a high-profile relationship with supermodel Stephanie Seymour. During their relationship, Seymour appeared in the music videos for "Don't Cry" and "November Rain". Rose became deeply attached to Seymour's young son, Dylan, and tried to be a good father figure for the child, as there had been none in his own life. Seymour and Rose became engaged in February 1993, but separated three weeks later.
Rose was rumored to be dating pop singer Lana Del Rey in April 2012. Prior to their meeting, Del Rey recorded an unreleased song titled "Axl Rose Husband," in which she sings "You're my one king daddy, I'm your little queen."
Domestic abuse cases:
In August 1993, Rose filed a lawsuit against Seymour, claiming that she had "kicked and grabbed" him during a 1992 Christmas party at their Malibu home, and that she refused to return more than $100,000 worth of jewelry he had given her as gifts. Seymour counter-sued in October, contending that Rose--angry because she had held the party after he wanted to cancel it--had slapped and punched her and kicked her down a flight of stairs. She admitted to grabbing his scrotum as a defensive measure.
After being subpoenaed to testify during Seymour's case, Everly filed her own lawsuit in March 1994, accusing Rose of physical and emotional assault and sexual battery. Everly testified that throughout their four-and-a-half-year relationship she suffered regular beatings that at times left her hospitalized. In her sworn deposition, she stated that Rose--who was an adherent of past life regression therapy--believed that she and Seymour had been sisters in a past life and were now trying to kill him. Rose had allegedly also told her that he and Everly had been Native Americans in another past life and that Everly had killed their children, and that was why he treated her poorly in this life.
During the cases, Siler also came forward in the media with claims of abuse, describing Rose as alternately "kind and loving" and "violent and irrational." Rose instructed his lawyers to settle Everly's case out of court, reportedly agreeing to a settlement of more than $1,000,000. Seymour's case continued considerably longer. At one point, Rose applied for a restraining order against Seymour, after alleging that she had used cocaine in his house in the presence of her two-year-old son. Eventually the case was settled out of court, with Rose agreeing to pay Seymour a reported $400,000.
During Rose's late teens, a psychiatrist concluded that his delinquent behavior was evidence of psychosis. In addition, he made note of Rose's high IQ. By the age of 26, Rose had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Although Rose was prescribed lithium to combat the disorder, he stated it was ineffective and claimed to be in control of his moods. In a subsequent interview, Rose questioned the diagnosis altogether, stating, "I went to a clinic, thinking it would help my moods. The only thing I did was take one 500-question test--ya know, filling in the little black dots. All of sudden I'm diagnosed manic-depressive. 'Let's put Axl on medication.' Well, the medication doesn't help me deal with stress. The only thing it does is help keep people off my back because they figure I'm on medication."
In contrast to the debauched image Guns N' Roses projected in its heyday, Rose had stopped using drugs of any kind after the band became successful. However, he did not disavow the use of illicit substances entirely, stating, "I have a different physical constitution and different mindset about drugs than anybody I've known in Hollywood, because I don't abstain from doing drugs, but I won't allow myself to have a fuckin' habit. I won't allow it." In the early 1990s, Rose became a staunch believer in homeopathic medicine and began regularly undergoing past life regression therapy. He shared his uncovered memories of being sexually abused by his biological father, which he said had stopped his emotional growth at two years old: "When they talk about Axl Rose being a screaming two-year-old, they're right."