Blackie Lawless (born Steven Edward Duren on September 4, 1956) is an American songwriter and musician best known as the lead singer and rhythm guitarist (formerly bassist) for the heavy metal band W.A.S.P.
Duren was raised in Staten Island, New York City, New York. He had a fundamentalist Baptist upbringing, but has also claimed Jewish ancestry. He has said that he was "very active" in church as a youth and was born again at age eleven but in his late teens strayed from the church and became interested in the occult, but has returned to his Christian faith in recent years. He has Irish, French and Native American ancestry. He is the nephew of the late Major League Baseball pitcher, Ryne Duren.
He began his career in music playing with bands such as Black Rabbit and Orfax Rainbow. In 1975, after Johnny Thunders left glam rock band New York Dolls in the middle of a tour of Florida, the band started auditioning for guitarists. Lawless was hired but only stayed for the remainder of the tour.
After the tour, he went to California with bassist Arthur Kane and helped found Killer Kane. At that time, Lawless' stage name was "Naughty Blackie Nogood". About a year later Kane returned to New York City but Lawless decided to stay in West Los Angeles. In 1976, he formed Sister, which also featured future W.A.S.P. guitarist Randy Piper. Lawless' stage antics at the time included lighting his boots on fire (a gimmick he later gave to Nikki Sixx) and eating live worms. Around 1978, a new lineup was assembled which included Sixx as bassist and Lizzie Grey on guitar. Later, Chris Holmes joined.
Lawless later formed a band called Circus Circus in 1979, with Piper again appearing in the lineup. In 1981, following Circus Circus' failure, Lawless joined Lizzie Grey and Nikki Sixx's band London, with whom he played a few gigs and recorded two songs as demos, though by this time Sixx had already departed to form Mötley Crüe. In 1982 Lawless switched to bass guitar and along with Randy Piper formed W.A.S.P. The lineup was soon completed with Chris Holmes on lead guitar and Tony Richards on drums.
Before arriving at their current lineup, W.A.S.P. has undergone numerous lineup changes since its inception, with Lawless is the last remaining original member and chief songwriter. Many of his songs tend to deal with religious or apocalyptic themes, due to his Christian upbringing. Lawless has stated in recent interviews that he has returned to the Christian faith and considers himself a born-again Christian.
Lawless cites influences which include AC/DC, Black Sabbath, The Beatles, Kiss, and Alice Cooper. His stage theatrics were influenced by Alice Cooper and Kiss.
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