Marilyn Manson

One of the most controversial pop musicians of the past few years has been Marilyn Manson, the shock rocker who leads the glam-rock/heavy metal band of the same name.

Marilyn Manson was born Brian Warner on Jan. 5, 1969, in Canton, Ohio. An only child, Manson went to Canton's Heritage Christian School, where at age 6 he made his performance debut in a play as Jesus.

Following high school, Manson moved with his parents to Florida, where he fostered his interests in poetry, heavy metal and Goth music, and satanic imagery. He began contributing poems to magazines and reciting poetry at local clubs. Manson also spent a brief period as a music journalist.

Manson decided to form a band with the intention of shocking and offending his listeners, visually and lyrically. For his stage moniker and the group's name, he combined parts of the names of Marilyn Monroe and serial killer Charles Manson (though the band at first went by the longer name Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids).

When he recruited members, Manson chose to name them after murderers as well: bassist Brian Tutunick (a.k.a. Olivia Newton-Bundy), guitarist Scott Putesky (Daisy Berkowitz) and keyboardist Perry Pandrea (Zsa Zsa Speck). Stephen Bier (Madonna Wayne Gacy) and Brad Stewart (Gidget Gein) soon replaced Speck and Bundy, respectively, and Freddy Streithorst (Sara Lee Lucas) joined on drums (later replaced by Ginger Fish).

The band, led by the heavily made-up Manson, developed a theatrical stage act while gigging around Florida in the early '90s that often included pornographic and satanic themes. Manson became friends with Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor when the two bands played together during this period.

The Manson band cut a number of cassettes that it made available at shows to its growing fanbase. In 1993 Marilyn Manson signed with Reznor's newly formed record label, nothing. Their explicit debut LP, Portrait of an American Family (1994), featured the single "Get Your Gunn." For the supporting tour opening for NIN, Gein was replaced by Jeordie White (Twiggy Ramirez), who performed in drag.

Manson's notoriety increased because of antics such as ripping a copy of the Book of Mormon while onstage. The Church of Satan's founder, Anton LaVey, gave Manson the title of "Reverend." The band's sales increased dramatically with the Smells Like Children EP (1995), which included a cover of the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)."

Berkowitz quit and was replaced by former Life Sex and Death guitarist Zim Zum. Marilyn Manson then hit it big with the Reznor-produced Antichrist Superstar (1996), which debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The metal-influenced LP featured "The Beautiful People" and the title cut.

With the band's popularity reaching dizzying heights, right-wing and religious groups began to attack Manson, and civic groups picketed the group's concerts.

In 1998 Zim Zum quit to go solo and was replaced by John Lowery for the tour behind Manson's glam-rock-inspired Mechanical Animals, featuring such tracks as "I Don't Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)" (RealAudio excerpt) and "The Dope Show." The cover shot of an alienlike, naked, androgynous Manson and the LP's explicit lyrics got it banned by K-Mart, Wal-Mart and Target.

In early 1999 Spin magazine editor Craig Marks sued Manson, saying the singer threatened his life while bodyguards choked him because Manson was unhappy sharing the cover of the January issue of the publication. Manson countersued Marks for libel and slander. The alleged attack came just two days after Manson and members of his entourage were accused of going on an arson and property-damage spree before and after a show in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

In the spring, after officials learned that the Columbine High School slaying suspects reportedly listened to the band, Michigan State Sen. Dale Shugars, R-Kalamazoo, began speaking out against Manson, saying the shock rocker's influence on the slayings needed examining. Shugars sponsored a state measure that would require parental warnings on concert tickets and advertising for certain performers.

Also last year, Manson signed a production agreement with New Line Cinema for "Marilyn Manson's Holy Wood," a film that the artist co-wrote and will star in. He also had a cameo in girlfriend Rose McGowan's film "Jawbreaker."

Late in 1999 came the live Last Tour on Earth.

Manson said last year: "I would like to be remembered as someone who wasn't afraid to say what they thought and wasn't afraid to die for what they believed."

At year's end, Manson shaved his head and announced on the title of his band's next LP, In the Shadow of the Valley of Death.

Other birthdays Wednesday: Sam Phillips , 77; Thom Mooney (Nazz), 52; George "Funky" Brown (Kool and the Gang), 51; Chris Stein (Blondie), 50; Bryan Hitt (REO Speedwagon), 46; Grant Young (ex-Soul Asylum), 36; Kate Schellenbach (Luscious Jackson), 34; and Johnny Adams, 1932–1998.