How Henry Rollins Escaped the Bleak Existence He Calls "The America"

Henry Rollins talks about how fear of winding up starting in The America drove his to his remarkable career.

Henry Rollins was a serious Black Flag fan before he got an offer to audition as their lead singer. When he got the call, he was leading a “tiny life” as the head manager at a Haagen Dazs shop in Washington, D.C. Rollins had never considered singing for a living—though he had recently jumped on stage for fun with Black Flag—but the ice cream scoop in his hand and his spattered apron looked a lot like the future, so he gave it a shot. Obviously a wise choice.

Rollins is now an accomplished singer, writer, publisher, actor, poet, and voiceover guy, but all he knew in his early 20s was that he had to escape what he called “The America.” Rollins had only one year of college and didn’t think he had any talents—“I don’t have talent. I have tenacity”—so saying yes to every job offer seemed like the only strategy open to him. He’d seen what was starting to happen to the middle class and decided, “You better get Plan B, C, D, E, F, and G, otherwise you’re going to starve to death in The America.”


Headline image by Jason Kempin

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