I have a confession to make. I'm a fan of William Bruce Rose Jr., otherwise known as W. Axl Rose. I don't think anyone uses the W. anymore.
Axl is in the news again, this time for snubbing the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. Except it really wasn't that much of a snub. For some of the crazy things he's done in his life, and some of the things he's been accused of doing, this is not what one would expect from Axl. It's obvious why he's not going. He doesn't want to hang out with Slash. He mentions everyone from the band in his open letter to the Rock Hall but for Slash.
Slash aside, reading Axl's open letter, I was reminded of why I love him. He has a way with words that is rare, witty, and sometimes dangerous but always truthful, or, if you will, real.
You can read it in his songs, in his press releases, and hear it in his voice. His language skills are amazing, and as a writer, I think this is something that has endeared me to him. I overlook his bad behavior, his abusive tendencies, praise his remarks to Kurt Cobain and to really anyone else who got in his way.
I like and enjoy Axl for many of the reasons most people can't stand him. But before I get too far off the beaten track and turn this blog post into a "I heart you Axl" love fest, I want to address one thing.
Axl went through a lot of shit in his life. He was sexually abused growing up. He wasn't told his step father was his step father until he was seventeen years old. His real father was murdered around 1982. He spent his early days in Hollywood in roach infested hotel rooms, writing lyrics on used pizza boxes.
He was the first member of Guns N Roses to clean himself up. He was a drug user and an alcoholic throughout the 1980s, like the rest of the band. Steven Adler was kicked out of the band because he had a stroke from his drug use and could no longer perform as drummer. He still slurs his words today.
Axl quit drugs. He was by far the most lucid one in the band, at least up until 1992 when things started falling apart, when Izzy left, when Duff and Slash were forced to clean up their acts because of medical problems, and Axl started to tip off the face of the Earth because of his haunted past.
Axl couldn't handle himself. He couldn't handle the things that had happened to him in his life. He was 25 years old when Appetite for Destruction debuted. He was my age. 25 years later, I'm not sure if he's on the right track or not. He's still doing what he loves, and doing a good job at it as far as I'm concerned, but back in 1987 he was someone who needed psychotherapy, not a best-selling album.
Axl Rose is a survivor. The truth about survivors is that they (we?) never make it beautiful. It's never graceful. Few are as famous as he is, but he's not alone standing high above the rest of us on the mountain of success. There are too many musicians, authors, and actors who grew up in less than desired conditions.
People hate him for the way he acts, but I can only relate to him. To his public persona, to what little is known of his private life, and most importantly to the lyrics in his songs. I can still remember being 13 years old and listening to Use Your Illusions and lighting up at the song Don't Damn Me. It was the first song in my life that I ever remember relating to, understanding the feelings behind the lyrics. As I grew older I found that I could relate to many other Axl Rose Specials.
Haters will hate, as they say. Me, I'm just gonna have a good laugh and sit back and listen to the music. That's what I care about. Not the Hall of Fame. Not peoples' opinions of a great vocalist and lyricist. There's a lot of hate in this world. Too much for me. I have no interest in adding more.
Axl Rose is one of the people in my life who have encouraged me to leave the bull shit behind. For as much as I'm a fan, when I look at him, I see the one person I do not want to become. I don't want to let my illusions turn me into a pyroclastic asshole.
Even then I respect and appreciate Axl. I admire him for his talent. I hope to be even half the wordsmith that he is. I hope to avoid the pitfalls of life that he has fallen into.
You can read Axl's open letter here: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/music_blog/2012/04/axl-rose-pens-open-letter-to-rock-hall-will-not-attend-asks-to-not-be-inducted.html
I had posted it, but decided in my best interest not to risk the Times noticing.