Henry Rollins

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Henry Rollins

Henry Rollins (born February 13, 1961) is an American rock music singer and songwriter; he's also been active as a storyteller, author, actor and poet. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

Born Henry Lawrence Garfield in Washington D.C., his parents divorced when he was young, and Rollins was raised primarily by his mother, Iris. He was prescribed ritalin as a child, and due to what he characterises as bad behavior and poor choices, he was sent to Bullis Academy, a Washington D.C. military school. He has expressed mixed feelings for his years at Bullis Academy: He disliked the authoritarian atmosphere and the boys-only campus, which impeded his early attempts at dating and made him uncomfortable around women for several years. More positively, he says Bullis helped instill a sense of discipline and a strong work ethic.

Garfield became involved in the punk scene through his close friend Ian MacKaye (who would later head Minor Threat and Fugazi). Bad Brains were one of Rollins' favorite groups; singer H.R. would sometimes coax Rollins onstage to sing a song with them. Rollins then joined State of Alert, which would release one EP before disbanding. Garfield worked at a number of jobs (including at the National Institutes of Health), before becoming the manager of a Haagen Dazs ice cream store.

In 1981, his friend Mitch Parker gave him a copy of Black Flag's Nervous Breakdown EP. Garfield soon became a huge fan, and began exchanging letters with the group. When Black Flag toured the East coast, playing Washington D.C. and New York City, Garfield attended as many performances as he could. At an impromptu show in a bar, he asked to sing "Clocked In." As vocalist Dez Cadena was going to switch to guitar, the band invited Garfield to a rehearsal. Impressed by his stage demeanor, they asked him to become their permanent vocalist, and despite some doubts, he accepted, due in part to MacKaye's encouragement. He adopted the surname Rollins after jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins. His large, muscular figure and intense personality made him a perfect fit as their frontman.

Rollins toured and recorded with Black Flag from 1981 until their breakup in 1986. During Rollins' tenure, Black Flag's music underwent some dramatic changes. Though guitarist Greg Ginn was the primary songwriter, Rollins wrote a number of songs with Black Flag.

Throughout most of his time with Black Flag, Rollins kept a regular diary of his thoughts and experiences. In 1994 he published these diaries as Get In The Van; the book also featured many photographs, as well as Rollins' reminiscences of his time with the group before he kept a diary. Rollins read portions of Get In The Van for an audio book; this recording won a Grammy. Rollins later characterized the entire affair as "corny" and gave his Grammy statuette to an acquaintance.

Rollins began publishing his own books during his time with Black Flag. His early efforts were self-made volumes (photocopied and stapled), though he quickly began printing chapbooks before moving on to establish 2.13.61, an independent publisher.

Also while in Black Flag, Rollins met Joe Cole, an acquaintance of Ginn's. Cole and Rollins quickly became close friends and roommates. Rollins and Cole were both robbed in 1991. During the incident Cole was shot in the head and died (the crime remains unsolved), and Rollins narrowly escaped without injury. Most of Rollins' efforts since have been dedicated to his late friend's memory.

After Black Flag broke up in early 1986, Rollins quickly formed a new group and released a solo album and an EP with guitarist Chris Haskett. Soon, he added former Gone members Andrew Weiss and Sim Cain, calling the new group the Rollins Band. They gained popularity through the strength of albums like The End of Silence (1992) and Weight (1994). He also gained roles in movies and television shows (particularly as a VJ on MTV) and recorded a cover of AC/DC's "Let There Be Rock" in 1991 with the Hard-Ons.

Beginning in his later years in Black Flag until present, he has toured as a spoken-word artist, focusing mostly on social topics, as well as recounting his life experiences. His blend of self-deprecating humor and serious discussion of important social issues has gained him great popularity. He has released nine spoken word albums through his 2.13.61 publishing company (and several through other record companies); 2.13.61 has also released books by Rollins, Joe Cole, Nick Zedd, Nick Cave, and Michael Gira, as well as albums by Rollins Band, Exene Cervenka, Hubert Selby Jr., The Birthday Party, and Gun Club.

Rollins is an avowed free jazz fan, having released albums by Matthew Shipp and Roscoe Mitchell on his 2.13.61 label. In 1990, Rollins guest hosted a Los Angeles, California college radio program and devoted much of this appearance to saxophone player Albert Ayler's music. [1]

Rollins is also a co-host of the television program Full Metal Challenge on The Learning Channel as well as the host of a monthly series called Henry's Film Corner on the Independent Film Channel. In 2004 he became an outspoken human rights activist, most vocally a crusader for gay rights. He has pinpointed the rights for gays to marry as a "vital issue impeding on the rights of Americans today." He was the host of a benefit concert called "WedRocks" to raise money for a pro-gay-marriage organization.


Musical releases

Spoken word releases

Black Flag releases

Rollins Band releases


  • Let There Be Rock (1991) (single recorded with the Hard-Ons)


partial list

  • One from None - Collected work 1987 Publishers 2.13.61 Publications 1991 ISBN 1880985047
  • Broken Summers Publishers Group West, (November 2003) ISBN 1880985756
  • Unwelcomed Songs Two Thirteen Sixty-One Pubns, (September 2002) ISBN 1880985713
  • See a Grown Man Cry, Now Watch Him Die Two Thirteen Sixty-One Pubns, (August 1997) ISBN 1880985373
  • Solipsist Publishers' Group West, (August 1998) ISBN 1880985594
  • The Portable Henry Rollins Villard, (February 10, 1998) ISBN 0375750002
  • Get in the Van: On the Road With Black Flag Two Thirteen Sixty-One Pubns, 2nd edition (January 1996) ISBN 1880985241
  • Henry Rollins: The First Five Two Thirteen Sixty-One Pubns, (October 1997) ISBN 1880985519
  • Black Coffee Blues
  • Do I Come Here Often? (Black Coffee Blues, Pt. 2), Shannon Wheeler (Illustrator) Two Thirteen Sixty-One Pubns, (December 1998) ISBN 1880985616
  • Smile, You're Traveling (Black Coffee Blues Part 3) Two Thirteen Sixty-One Pubns, (October 1, 2000) ISBN 1880985691
  • Eye Scream Two Thirteen Sixty-One Pubns, (October 1996) ISBN 1880985322
  • Turned On Flag Henry Rollins by James Parker, Orion Books,
  • Fanatic! Song lists and notes from the Harmony In My Head Radio Show,2.13.61 publications, 2005

Film and video


External links


de:Henry Rollins