Henry Rollins (aka Henry Garfield, born February 13, 1961, Washington, D.C.) is easily the most versatile musician to have emerged from the 1980s postpunk movement. He remains active as the leader of a hardcore band, a songwriter, a spoken-word artist, author, publisher, and an actor in films and commercials.
Rollins’ multimedia career owes much to his association with the pioneering hardcore band, Black Flag, originally founded by guitarist Greg Ginn in 1977. When lead singer Keith Morris departed to form the Circle Jerks, Black Flag tried several vocalist prior to recruiting Rollins in 1981. Ginn broke up the band in 1987 in order to concentrate on running his record label, SST. Rollins made an immediate impact as a frontman in his own right, releasing a string of solo and group albums—the uncompromisingly intense debut, Hot Animal Machine (Texas Hotel 001; 1987), Drive By Shooting (Texas Hotel 03; 1987; mini-album released under pseudonym Henrietta Collins and the Wide-Beating Child Haters), the incendiary Life Time (Texas Hotel 065; 1988), Do It! (Texas Hotel 013; 1989; a mixture of live and studio tracks), and Hard Volume (Texas Hotel 010; 1989)—all of which featured his overtly political lyrics and aggressive vocal posturing.
He began achieving mainstream popularity after several years of constant touring capped by a headlining role in the 1991 Lollapalooza Tour (which led to a major label deal with Imago/RCA). The Rollins Band LP, Weight (Imago/RCA 21034; 1994; #22 UK, #33 US), was nominated for a Grammy and he became increasingly involved in the production of spoken-word recordings and videos. In mid-1996, Rollins was the center of an eight-figure lawsuit instigated by Imago for allegedly signing with DreamWorks; he argued that BMG’s major distributors refused to handle his works. His next album, Come In and Burn (50011; 1997; #89), as well as subsequent releases, would in fact be released by DreamWorks.
In the early 1990s, he established his own press, 2.13.61, devoted to issuing his own books (most notably, the critically acclaimed collection of short stories, Black Coffee Blues) and those of underground writers such as Iggy Pop. He has also garnered acclaim as a versatile actor, narrating commericals for GMC trucks, the Gap, and Nike, and appearing in entertainment features ranging from gritty dramas like Johnny Mnemonic and Heat, to the family film, Jack Frost.
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