You Say It's Your Birthday: Henry Rollins

Today is the 37th birthday of hardcore-punk pioneer, writer, actor,

publisher and spoken-word artist Henry Rollins. Rollins is perhaps

best-known to mainstream audiences for his work as the leader of the Rollins

Band and their songs "Liar" and "Disconnect," but his most influential work

came as the frontman for legendary punk group Black Flag during their most

prolific period in the mid-'80s. The influence of his direct,

emotional lyrics backed by angry guitars can be heard in the music of

artists such as Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Tool. Rollins was

born Henry Garfield in Washington, D.C. He joined Black Flag in 1981 after

jumping onstage with the band at a show in New York. Black Flag had been

going through a series of vocalists since Keith Morris left the band in

1978 to form the Circle Jerks, but Rollins was the one who stuck with Black Flag

the longest. The band toured constantly with Rollins at the mic, steadily

building a devoted cult audience that religiously picked up their

recordings and attended their energetic live shows. At the end of 1981, the

group released its first full-length album, Damaged, on legendary

punk label SST after MCA refused to release it. The album was a smash hit

with critics and their core audience, but any success the band found was

tempered by a lawsuit filed by MCA. Dogged by the lawsuit and a

continually revolving lineup, Black Flag refused to bow down and continued

to tour and put out such hardcore classics as Family Man, My

War and Slip It In, all of which were released in 1984, and

1985's Loose Nut.

Black Flag broke up in 1986, by which time Rollins was already performing

some spoken-word shows. By October of that year, Rollins was in the studio

working on his first solo album, Hot Animal Machine.

He formed the Rollins Band in 1988 with guitarist Chris Haskett, drummer Sim Cain and bassist Andrew Weiss. The group toured constantly and put out two albums that year, Life Time and Do It. Each album the Rollins Band released was a new direction in sound yet was similarly based on themes of self-destructiveness and isolation. In 1991, Rollins and

company broke through to the mainstream of the emerging alt-rock scene by

landing an opening slot on the Lollapalooza tour. Later that year, Rollins

witnessed the shooting of his best friend, Joe Cole, and used his angry

energy to form a publishing house/record label called 2.13.61 (Rollins' birthday) and to record

the highly abrasive and energetic The End of Silence, which spawned

such songs as "Tearing," "Low Self Opinion" and "Obscene." In 1992,

Rollins released two collections of his spoken-word work, Deep

Throat and Rollins: The Boxed Life. 1994's Weight

spawned Rollins Band's biggest hits, "Liar" and "Disconnect," both of which got

a lot of exposure on MTV and alternative radio. 1996's Everything

featured Rollins' spoken-word performances mixed with free-jazz

experiments. Rollins continues a rigorous work schedule, balancing

recording, writing and running his publishing house. In the coming months,

he is scheduled to start another spoken-word tour.

Other birthdays: Peter Tork (the Monkees), 54; King Floyd, 53; Ed

Gagliardi (Foreigner), 46; Peter Hook (Joy Division, New Order), 42; Les Warner (the Cult), 37; cEVIN Key (Skinny Puppy),

37; Rob Ellis (PJ Harvey), 36; and Freedom Williams (C+C Music Factory), 32.