Blackie Lawless

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Blackie Lawless
Wasp, Norwich. img 0319 (315209095).jpg
Lawless performing with W.A.S.P., 2006
Background information
Birth nameSteven Edward Duren
Also known asBlackie Lawless
Born (1956-09-04) September 4, 1956 (age 62)
Staten Island, New York City, New York, U.S.
GenresHeavy metal, Christian metal, shock rock, glam metal,[1] hard rock
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, bass guitar
Years active1975–present
Associated actsW.A.S.P., London, Circus Circus, Sister, New York Dolls

Blackie Lawless (born Steven Edward Duren; September 4, 1956) is an American songwriter and musician best known as the lead singer and rhythm guitarist (formerly bassist) for the heavy metal band W.A.S.P.

Early life[edit]

Duren was raised in Staten Island, New York City,[2] where he hung out with Ace Frehley of Kiss fame. He had a fundamentalist Baptist upbringing, but has also claimed Jewish ancestry.[3] He has said that he was "very active" in church as a youth and was born again at age eleven but in his late teens strayed from the church and became interested in the occult, but has returned to his Christian faith in recent years. He has Irish, French and Native American ancestry (his mother is reportedly one-quarter Blackfoot).[4] He is the nephew of the late Major League Baseball pitcher, Ryne Duren.[5] He credits his older brother with introducing him to the guitar.[4] At the age of thirteen, Lawless got into a fight and was stabbed. As a disciplinary measure he was sent to military school at age fourteen, but was expelled after eighteen months of a two-year sentence for assaulting a sergeant major.


He began his career in music playing with bands such as Black Rabbit and Orfax Rainbow. In 1975, after Johnny Thunders left glam rock band New York Dolls in the middle of a tour of Florida, the band started auditioning for guitarists. Lawless was hired but only stayed for the remainder of the tour.[citation needed]

After the tour, he went to California with bassist Arthur Kane and helped found Killer Kane. At that time, Lawless' stage name was "Blackie Goozeman" as stated on the back of Killer Kane's only EP. About a year later Kane returned to New York City but Lawless decided to stay in West Los Angeles. In 1976, he formed Sister, which also featured future W.A.S.P. guitarist Randy Piper. Lawless' stage antics at the time included lighting his boots on fire (a gimmick he later gave to Nikki Sixx) and eating live worms.[citation needed] Around 1978, a new lineup was assembled which included Sixx as bassist and Lizzie Grey on guitar. Later, Chris Holmes joined.

Lawless later formed a band called Circus Circus in 1979, with Piper again appearing in the lineup. In 1981, following Circus Circus' failure, Lawless joined Lizzie Grey and Nikki Sixx's band London, with whom he played a few gigs and recorded two songs as demos, though by this time Sixx had already departed to form Mötley Crüe. In 1982 Lawless switched to bass guitar and along with Randy Piper formed W.A.S.P. The lineup was soon completed with Chris Holmes on lead guitar and Tony Richards on drums.


Before arriving at their current lineup, W.A.S.P. has undergone numerous lineup changes since its inception, with Lawless being the last remaining original member and chief songwriter. Many of his songs tend to deal with religious or apocalyptic themes, due to his Christian upbringing. Lawless has stated in recent interviews that he has returned to the Christian faith and considers himself a born-again Christian.

Lawless cites influences which include AC/DC, Black Sabbath, the Beatles, Kiss, and Alice Cooper.[citation needed] His stage theatrics were influenced by Alice Cooper and Kiss.

W.A.S.P. was no stranger to controversy, and Lawless found himself defending heavy metal music against a cadre of politicians (and their wives) in the mid-80s. But beyond headlines and drama, W.A.S.P. enjoyed their biggest run of success during this period, releasing several singles over three albums from 1985 to 1988. The best known of these being "L.O.V.E. Machine", "I Wanna Be Somebody", and "Wild Child".

W.A.S.P. was also heavily under scrutiny specifically for their single, "Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)", courtesy of the infamous P.M.R.C. lyric watchdogs.


  1. ^ Jonze, Tim (April 15, 2009). "A handy guide to heavy metal". The Guardian. London. Retrieved April 26, 2010.
  2. ^ "Interview with Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P." House of Hair with Dee Snider. 2010-04-13. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
  3. ^ "W.A.S.P.: Blackie Lawless". USA Today. Gannett Company. 2005-01-21. Retrieved 2014-06-10.
  4. ^ a b "Finding A New Angle On Bad Boy Blackie Lawless". 2000. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
  5. ^ Reesman, Bryan (21 September 2010). "Blackie Lawless Renounces His Past Sins". Attention Deficit Delirium. Retrieved 27 March 2013.

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