Monday, September 12, 2005

Henry Rollins

Last Friday I finally had one of my lifelong goals fulfilled.  I’m sure many of you will scoff at it, but I really don’t care.  Anyhow, for years I’ve come to really admire Henry Rollins, his work ethic, his music, his spoken word, and his commitment to what he believes in.  I’ve always wanted to see him speak live, but before Friday I’d never had the chance.  That all changed as my brother, Randy, scored us front row seats for his performance at Stephens Auditorium at the Iowa State University campus.

Henry Rollins is an interesting person in that I originally got into him for his music with Rollins Band, specifically over the song “Liar” which I must have played a billion times when it first came out.  Later on I listened to more of the Rollins Band discography before exploring Henry’s first band, Black Flag, another band I grew to appreciate.  Then I found out that Rollins was doing spoken word and, frankly, I thought it would be good for a laugh because the idea of a heavy metal band’s frontman doing spoken word is inherently funny.  Seriously, could you imagine Rob Flynn or Phil Anselmo or any of the hundreds of heavy metal singers doing a successful spoken word stint?  I sure can’t.

Oddly, when I downloaded a couple of mp3’s of Rollins’ spoken word, I was indeed chuckling, but I was laughing because he was honestly one funny guy and to top it off he was funny because what he was saying was so pointed, absurd, and crazy, yet it was true.  His diatribes against the government, politics in general, apathy, and the downfalls of western civilization are a wonder to behold.  He can make a poignant political point while simultaneously making you laugh.  There’s not too many people nowadays that can do that with any regularity outside of John Stewart.

Beyond his views on the world, the various stories of his life experience are amazing.  Sure, he spends a good portion of every performance pointing out how much his life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but after hearing about his experiences and his commitment to exploring all the areas of this world, while trying to learn as much as he possibly can, you can’t help but be a little jealous.

Just listening to his experiences with the USO, which was one of the main focuses of his talk at ISU, made me want to go out and do something to make our soldiers’ lives better.  For proclaiming to be nothing more than an old, jaded, burnout Mr. Rollins sure has a knack for being able to get people fired up for causes.  

After his two hours of conversational storytelling, I was both saddened and ecstatic at the same time.  I finally managed to see one of my personal idols… but I wanted more.  Who would have known that the lead singer of an underappreciated duo of metal bands would turn out to be such an amazing speaker.  Buy one of his cds and give it a listen.  I don’t think you’ll be too disappointed.  I sure wasn’t.

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