Inspiring Individuals: Henry Rollins
My goal with this "series" is to inspire others by telling you about creative folks that have had an impact on me. 2016 has been a year with many losses, but people that we look up to don't have to die in order for us to express our gratitude.
In a previous post, I shined a light on Nick Cave's inspiring qualities. This time, I would like to highlight Henry Rollins. Few people in the world of music has meant so much for my personal development as him.
Henry Rollins is often referred to as a modern Renaissance man. It's an accurate description, considering that he's a singer, spoken word artist, actor, radio host, writer, photographer and all-out inspiring individual.
I first discovered his work when I came across the seminal L.A. hardcore band Black Flag. He joined the band in the early 80's. Back then he was hustling at a Haagen Dazs store. It was a job that he could've settled for. But then Henry got an offer to join Black Flag. He took that chance, worked his ass off and went down in punk history.
He sang on the band's influential first LP Damaged from 1981. After that, they took a stylistic U-turn with the colossally heavy My War from 1984, where the band alienated pretty much every one of their fans. Rollins howled like a maimed animal to the band's jazzy yet sonically punishing beats. Henry became the subject of physical attacks from disgruntled fans during the band's sweltering and no-holds-barred shows.
For more on Henry's days in the band, I can really recommend his tour diary Get in the Van, filled with twisted and truthful journal entires. Black Flag was the hardest working band in punk at the time and their DIY ethics inspire bands to this day.
But enough about Black Flag. Henry has done so much more. And in whatever he has done lies a commitment and dedication that I have yet to see from any other person in show business.
What is so fascinating about Henry Rollins is his eloquence. He can articulate feelings regarding loneliness, relationships and other human aspects in ways that resonates with so many. He might be shouting at you in a Rollins Band song or tell an anecdote onstage. Either way, he always express himself in ways that hit close to home.
When it comes to delivering inspiring stuff, motivational self help-speakers got nothing on Henry. He has stories for a lifetime. Stories that aren't always uplifting. He has escaped death by mere seconds – his friend Joe Cole was tragically gunned down beside him in a robbery – and struggled without neither money nor food with Black Flag.
Yet he has kept moving forward and squeezed the shit out of the many lemons that life has given him.
Henry could have gone the easy way. He could've made some seriously big bucks had he just joined up with one of the many Black Flag reunions. But he refused to be a greatest hits-musician and decided to work on Rollins Band and numerous other side projects.
And the man can write. God damn, can he write. Just have a look at his sharp dissections and lovable ramblings in L.A Weekly. He speaks the truth.
Henry's refusal to sit still and his eagerness to try new things is one of many qualities that makes him interesting. But it's important to note that he's always true to himself. Henry is integrity itself. Sure, he has appeared in clothing ads and some mediocre movies, but he always does it to the best of his abilities. He doesn't have Freddie Mercury's voice or the acting talent of Meryl Streep, and he knows it. But he gives it all, and that shines through.
Let me end this post with a clip from one of Henry's most inspiring monologues.