To the Heavy Metal Community...
By BRAD BORTONE
As most of you likely know by now, Jani Lane, former lead singer of hair metal stalwarts Warrant, was found dead in a California hotel room last night. No cause of death was given, but it would take the most blindly optimistic fan to think this was anything other than drug- and/or alcohol-related.
I'm a heavy metal fan. I don't particularly like these pop-metal dinosaurs anymore. But I respect them for what they did...which makes me a distinct minority in the fan base.
You see, as with any form of music that features numerous sub-sects and levels of "extremity," there is more metal "in-fighting" than on an average Tuesday at the UN. More often than not, the brain dead portion of the community visits sites like Blabbermouth.net or KNAC.com to read the latest non-news, then engage others in deft battles of wit, such as "Metallica sucks, you suck, your mom sucks, SLAYYYYERRRRR!!!!"
Before long, these arguments lose any semblance of order and become soapboxes for racist, homophobic, sexist and all around useless diatribes.
So, when Blabbermouth -- a site that rarely focuses on the "hairspray and spandex" sounds of the 1980s -- posted news of Lane's demise, I paid close attention to see just how many times I'd read the words "suck," "gay," "queer" and "faggot" in the discussion section.
Instead I saw two traits that rarely populate the metal forums -- honesty and sincerity.
And a few more...
No, it's not exactly a poetic eulogy. And sure, there's always going to be a few rotten eggs that start to stink whenever given a platform on which to speak. But all in all, this was a surprising -- and refreshing -- response to the death of a man who's years of pop culture relevance had long since passed.
Jani Lane is another victim of rock excess. But most of the world felt it appropriate to label him based on his addictions, rather than his contributions. Once a rock star, more often a punchline. And a cautionary tale for us all.
Yet, when a walking tragedy suddenly stopped walking, a much-maligned metal fan base -- maligned by most pop culture mainstays, I might add -- chose the high road, opting to frankly discuss the man's talents and mourn another "too-soon" loss in the music community.
When reading the same story on Entertainment Weekly's popular website, I was shocked to see some of the comments that arose:
...and it continued...
Keep in mind that ew.com caters to the poppiest of popular culture. Miley Cyrus, not Metallica. Brad Pitt, not Black Sabbath. So, when readers were given the opportunity to express sadness toward the death of someone who once helped define a genre of pop music, I expected outpourings of grief and loss. Instead, I see ignorance and -- even more dangerous -- indifference.
Kinda makes you wonder...who are the "evil ones" after all?
I realize that the jackasses who spouted poorly timed jokes above don't represent all of pop music's fan base. There were certainly some nice comments interspersed with the hateful humor. And labeling them would be no better than the labels metal fans have endured for years.
I have no disillusions about the heavy metal community, either. While most are people like me, people who like the music, and treat it as what it is -- escapism and release -- there are others who become far too literal about evil, hate, anger and every kind of "-ism" known to man.
But today, when push came to shove, and a very easy target became newsworthy, the heavy metal community spoke out with honesty and genuine concern -- for Lane's fans, family and friends.
Again, I'm not a fan of Jani Lane, Warrant or that genre of music any longer. But I respect the role they all played in helping define my current musical tastes. And, I am proud to see that there are more like-minded folks out there...people who respect life and honor accomplishment...regardless of how many down-tuned odes to the devil they have on their iPods.
Horns up with respect.
Copyright 2011, Brian Heaton. All Rights Reserved.