Former Black Flag/Rollins Band vocalist and all-round boss Henry Rollins celebrates his 51st birthday today. He may boast a head of silvery-grey hair nowadays but make no mistake, ol’ Hank is just as much of a legend now as he was back in the day. It’s important to have the facts on your side when making such a claim, so here are four blow-by-blow points to illustrate my point. Get ready for a serious truth injection.
1) He Has Consistently Avoided Tacky Cash-Ins
A few years back, Henry had the good sense to quit playing music while he was ahead, thereby ensuring that he could bow out with dignity. With such a fearsome back catalogue, it would have been the easiest thing in the world for him to round up a bunch of dudes and tour the world playing Black Flag songs to the adoring masses, but such a move would be at odds with the no-frills, no-fuss integrity he has demonstrated throughout his career, as well as sullying the memory of all the extraordinary music he made while he was a young man. Commendably, he has also had the good grace to resist taking cheap potshots at former band-mates for reassembling Black Flag in one form or another (two different incarnations of the band are playing later this year). The only time he DID get the band back together was to put out a benefit album and tour in aid of The West Memphis Three back in 2002. Classy.
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2) He Is Still Travelling The Globe And Visiting Freaky Places
Henry is like a shark: if he stays still, he will die, so with that in mind he is regularly cutting a muscly-necked swathe across the planet, visiting different countries, meeting different people and continuing to educate himself and learn from others. Being Henry Rollins means walking a path that mortal men fear to tread, which includes eating rat livers in the African desert (true story) and visiting North Korea and Afghanistan – never Yank-friendly at the best of times – because Rollins fears NOTHING.
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3) His Spoken Word Shows Are Always Brilliant
He may not be screaming himself hoarse over a barrage of hardcore riffs anymore but Henry is still a dynamic, captivating performer on stage via his spoken word gigs, which he performs all year round. I’ve seen him do these a bunch of times in a bunch of locations – from a scuzzy rock club all the way up to festivals and concert halls – and each time he’s fantastic, mixing comedic anecdotes with uplifting, inspirational monologues. He’s also a lot funnier than some stand-up comics I’ve seen. If you ever get the chance to see him than snap up a ticket immediately, you won’t be disappointed.
4) He Still Isn’t Taking Shit From Anyone
Don’t let the grey hair fool you; Henry Rollins remains a man with whom you do not want to fvck. He works out every day and maintains the kind mental and physical discipline one would normally associate with The Royal Marines. He is a man of peace, but he could still open you up like a bag of Twiglets if he felt like it. Witness the video below, where he deals with some knob-jockey while interviewing Dinosaur Jr. Note that he doesn’t raise his voice or lose his temper, but uses his words and presence in such a way that the entire crowd cowers in fear and awe. You don’t get to fvck with Rollins. Rollins gets to fvck with YOU;
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It’s his world, we just live in it. Happy Birthday, Hank!