Alexandria Sightings – Nature or nurture? Henry Rollins provokes


Scientists have been pondering this question for decades in order to determine if the innate genetic qualities provided to us at birth define who we become as individuals or if the environment that we grew up in is the overriding factor in our personal development.

Exhibit A for the nurture defense could be punk rock legend and D.C. area native Henry Rollins, who comes back to the area for a two-day spoken word engagement at the Birchmere on Monday, Oct. 1 and Tuesday, Oct. 2. Henry took his organic destiny to be a small-bodied, mild-mannered office worker and flipped into the exact opposite, thanks in large part to the constant confrontations he encountered on the streets of Glover Park in the districts northwest corner.

Id have to say the racism that I saw and felt on a daily basis really helped to define who I am today, recalls Rollins (real name Henry Lawrence Garfield) during a recent telephone interview from his Los Angeles office.

 Guys would come up to me, tellin me that I killed Martin Luther King. Id be like, What?  What are you talking about? So I asked my mom [Iris Garfield, a former federal employee in the health and education sectors], why am I a cracker? She just tried to be supportive, telling me this was something that we would get through. But it was kind of hard to take, having somebody punch me in the mouth and take my money, when all I could wonder is what did I do to you?

Such hatred when inflicted on a lesser man might make for a racist on the opposing side of this black-white equation. But for Henry, these early punishments simply intensified his hate for the ignorance that causes such riffs between our separate yet equal cultures.

Homophobia, racism, classism to this day, any kind of dumb rhetoric really gets me to the point of overreacting, though I really dont think you can overreact to those things.

The search for and spotlighting of truth has led to a productive career of Henry Rollins speaking his mind. Whether fronting such iconic musical groups as Black Flag or the Rollins Band, hosting his own Friday night talk show on the Independent Film Channel, or hitting the stage over 100 times a year for the last 20-plus years performing his free flowing oratories with his latest string of dates entitled Provoked, this 46-year-old is never at a loss for words on topics ranging from Iraq (for the troops but against the war) to our debt imbalance with China.

So, as a former god in the D.C. punk scene, does Rollins still consider himself to be hardcore? I dont even know what that term even means anymore. Who is more hardcore me or the guy with three kids and a ton of credit debt trying to make it all work? Labels are just a way for others to define you, to tell you who you are, and who you can be like hardcore music to me are the people who go out and play, either on stage or just practicing, every day for a year. I dont care if you play flute, electric guitar, or ballet thats hardcore.