"Life is short, go far!" Henry Rollins said an hour into his sold-out performance Friday night at Joe's Pub in Astor Place. Rollins is going to be 50 this weekend, and he is on the road celebrating in his favorite cities. After doing a week's worth of shows in LA, and before he gets to his native DC, he arrived in New York City to do his stand-up/spoken-word routine for nearly a week's worth of shows. Rollins, at the half-century mark, has probably done more with his life than most people older than him. Rollins never had a dead-end job, never had kids, and never pursued anything that didn't require him to be 100% committed with passion. The former State of Alert, Black Flag and Rollins Band front man has become a Renaissance man through the years, from an acclaimed author, actor, radio show disc jockey, TV show host, voice-over persona, photographer and, most of all, activist. Rollins at 50 has more stories and experiences than can span three lifetimes.
As we celebrated Henry's life and work last night, and he discussed a timeline of events in such a hilarious and genuine manner, I could not help but remember the first time Henry entered my life. I was 9 years old and was watching the Grammy Awards with my parents; it was 1994, grunge was king and Cobain was still alive. As we were watching the show, someone accidentally hit the remote control, and it jumped to MTV. This was a time when MTV was actually still playing videos at any given time of day and a video with an angry man painted in red in some scenes and running around in a Superman costume with thick glasses appeared. This dude singing was pissed off about something. As my mother jumped and said "What is this garbage!" I began to smile; at nearly a decade old I realized, this is what they call punk rock. As everyone fiddled and fought over the remote and my Mother was trying to shield us from this lunatic on TV, I was glued to the TV and couldn't keep my eyes off it. Hit with a twist of fate, before they could change the channel back to the Grammy Awards, the lower third appeared in the bottom left corner of the screen and it gave the credits as:
I remembered the name forever, and this was an era before the Internet, so clearly there was no YouTube; however, I had a few friends with older brothers and had to ask if they ever heard of this band before. Luckily, someone had and dubbed a few Rollins Band albums to tape for me. Right then and there, I knew Henry would be an interesting and important figure in my life.
As the years went on, Henry was always around; though not making music through the years, he popped up in all sorts of random places in films, TV shows, his books and articles. While I was at university in Connecticut he would constantly come to Toad's Place in New Haven and would do his spoken word. Yet, it would not be until 2009 that I approached Henry to do an interview for Officially A Yuppie. He was promoting his role on Son's of Anarchy and I wanted to speak with a hero of mine. He was gracious and kind enough to make some time for me before he flew to various parts of the world for some exploring and soul searching. As nervous and excited as I was, the man could not have been more sincere and cool. Henry and I have corresponded through the years and as he celebrates his 50 years discussing his encounters around the globe and friends such as William Shatner and Ian MacKaye, and his experiences on the road with his bands, his political satire and never-ending comedy, it makes you realize that a man this intense and this globally versed will never be able to sit still. He admits that too, that he needs to be working; he needs to constantly be moving around. In a life such as his and in 50 years, his words "life is short, go far," seem to be more motivational and more inspiring than anything he could have ever said before.
This article also appears on Officially A Yuppie