You Say It's Your Birthday: Axl Rose of Guns n' Roses

Axl Rose is celebrating his 36th birthday today. Rose earned his place in the spotlight as the singer of the ever controversial and hard rockin' Guns n' Roses, a group that seemed

as though it would save heavy metal from the ash bin of history by combining the

hit-making potential of the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin with the energetic spirit of punk. At this point, however,

Guns n' Roses have seemingly turned out to be heavy metal's explosive last

gasp. Born William Bruce Rose in Lafayette, Ind., the singer's name was changed to

William Bailey when his mother married a man that Rose grew up assuming was

his biological father. The singer named himself Axl after the group he was in

with future Guns n' Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin. At the age of 17, the singer

discovered the truth about his father, changed his name back to Rose,

dropped out of high school and followed Stradlin's lead by taking a

Greyhound bus to Los Angeles. The two kicked around the L.A. scene in the

mid-'80s, with Rose singing for L.A. Guns and Stradlin handling guitar

duties for a band called Hollywood Roses. The two bands fused together in

name and personnel in 1985 and added Slash on lead guitar. An EP

entitled Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide was released in 1986, and the band

was signed to Geffen later that year. Appetite for Destruction was

released in 1987, and the group slowly began to break away from the pack of

identical metal-by-numbers acts with big hair. Opening slots on tours with

Aerosmith and Iron Maiden gave the group wider exposure. In 1988,

"Welcome To The Jungle" hit #7, "Sweet Child o' Mine" hit #1 and

Appetite for Destruction topped the Billboard album charts

for five weeks.

In addition to topping the charts, Guns n' Roses also began a long tenure

at the top of the headlines due to controversies surrounding their album-cover art, their sexist lyrics and Rose's temperament in interviews and in

concert. In 1988, the group released GN'R Lies, a stop-gap EP that

further fanned the flames of controversy with songs such as "I Used To Love

Her" (which then continued " ... but I had to kill her") and "One in a

Million," which railed against "immigrants," "faggots" and "niggers." The

controversy peaked when Rose exchanged words with all-black metal act Living

Colour when the two groups opened for the Rolling Stones in Los Angeles in

1989. In 1990, drummer Steve Adler was kicked out of the group due to his heroin

addiction and was replaced by Cult drummer Matt Sorum. In 1991,

Guns n' Roses released Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion

II, a double-album sold as two separate CDs that spawned the hits "You Could Be

Mine," "November Rain," "Civil War," Don't Cry" and "Estranged," as well as contained covers of

Bob Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" and Paul McCartney & Wings' "Live

and Let Die." A 28-month world tour followed, along with the dropping-out

of founding guitarist Stradlin, who was replaced by Gilby Clarke.

1993 brought The Spaghetti Incident?, which was packed with covers of

old punk songs and contained a tune written by Charles Manson. The band has scattered into a number of solo projects since then, but no official word has been released

that Guns n' Roses have broken up. At one point, techno-rocker Moby was

said to be making an album with the group, but nothing has happened yet.

Rose hasn't said anything to the media for years.

Other birthdays: Fabian, 55; Natalie Cole, 48; Punky Meadows (Angel), 48;

and Rick Astley, 32.