Halford performing in 2015
|Birth name||Robert John Arthur Halford|
|Also known as||Metal God|
|Born||25 August 1951|
Sutton Coldfield, England
Robert John Arthur Halford (born 25 August 1951) is an English singer, songwriter and musician. He is best known as the lead vocalist of the heavy metal band Judas Priest, which was formed in 1969 and has received accolades such as the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. He has been noted for his powerful, wide-ranging voice and trademark leather-and-studs image, both of which have become iconic in heavy metal. He has also been involved with several side projects, including Fight, Two, and Halford.
AllMusic said of Halford, "There have been few vocalists in the history of heavy metal whose singing style has been as influential and instantly recognizable... able to effortlessly alternate between a throaty growl and an ear-splitting falsetto." He was ranked at No. 33 on the list of greatest voices in rock by Planet Rock listeners in 2009. He has also been nicknamed "Metal God" by fans.
Robert John Arthur Halford was born on 25 August 1951 in Sutton Coldfield. He grew up in nearby Walsall, where he was raised on the Beechdale housing estate. His early influences included Little Richard, Janis Joplin, and Robert Plant.
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Halford was introduced to Judas Priest bassist and co-founder Ian Hill by his sister Sue, who was dating Hill at the time. Halford, a manager of a porn cinema, joined the band as singer, bringing with him drummer John Hinch from his previous band Hiroshima.
In 1974, he made his debut on the band's first album Rocka Rolla. He continued to front Judas Priest throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In 1990, Halford emerged with all-new tattoos, including a bent Judas Priest cross on his right arm and ring around his other, as well as a few on his shoulders. He also began shaving his head.
On the last date of the tour for Painkiller in August 1991 at a show in Toronto, Halford rode onstage on a large Harley-Davidson motorcycle, dressed in motorcycle leathers, as part of the show. The motorcycle malfunctioned and he collided with a half-raised drum riser and fell off of it, breaking his nose in the process. He was left unconscious for a short time while the band was performing the first song. After regaining consciousness, Halford returned and finished the show. He then announced his departure from Judas Priest, and also sued their label, Sony, for restrictive practices. Halford left the band in May 1992.
Shortly after Halford's departure, he formed the band Fight with Judas Priest drummer Scott Travis, bassist Jack "Jay Jay" Brown and guitarists Brian Tilse and Russ Parrish. The first album War of Words was released in 1993, followed by the Mutations EP in 1994. A tour took place in support of the album in 1994. The second album A Small Deadly Space was released in 1995, with a tour taking place in support of that album as well. While War of Words was a straightforward, tough and solid metal record, A Small Deadly Space had a grungier sound, making it less appealing to fans who had developed a taste for War of Words. As the band were preparing to being work on the third album, they split-up, thus ending their business with their label Epic Records. A brief reunion with half of the original members took place on 20 December 1997 for a one-off performance before disbanding once again. In a 2015 interview, Halford contemplated Fight's reformation.
In 1997, Halford collaborated with guitarist John Lowery to form an industrial-influenced project called 2wo. They released their only album Voyeurs in 1998, which was released on Trent Reznor's Nothing Records label.
In 1999, Halford returned to his metal roots and formed a solo band. The album Resurrection was released in 2000 to critical acclaim. The band embarked on a tour with Iron Maiden and Queensrÿche to support the album. A live album titled Live Insurrrection was released in 2001. It was followed up by the second album Crucible in 2002. In 2010, Halford released a live DVD titled Live in Anaheim and the third studio album Halford IV: Made of Metal.
Reunion with Judas Priest
Halford's reunion with Judas Priest came about from years of speculation about when he was no longer in the line-up, at least since the release of the Resurrection album, which some critics[who?] claimed sounded more like Judas Priest than the band's previous album Jugulator (1997). Halford initially ruled it out, but then reconsidered, stating in 2002 that "Gut instinct tells me that at some point it will happen".
In July 2003, Halford returned to Judas Priest and embarked on a tour in 2004 in celebration of his return. The band released Angel of Retribution in 2005. A world tour accompanied the release and marked the band's 30th anniversary. In 2008, Nostradamus was released.
In 2011, Judas Priest embarked upon what was billed as their final world tour as a group, titled the "Epitaph" tour. Subsequent to the tour's announcement, Halford stated that he would continue to move forward with his solo band.
Despite the "final tour" announcement in 2011, Halford and Judas Priest (minus K. K. Downing, who left the group prior to the Epitaph tour) recorded another album, Redeemer of Souls, which was released in 2014, the album supported by a concert tour.
Halford performed as the vocalist for Black Sabbath for three shows. He replaced Ronnie James Dio for two nights in November 1992, when Dio elected not to open a show for Ozzy Osbourne. Halford also filled in for Osbourne in Black Sabbath on 26 August 2004 (one day after Halford's 53rd birthday) at an Ozzfest show in Camden, New Jersey, since Osbourne could not perform due to bronchitis.
Halford joined Metallica on stage three times where they performed the song "Rapid Fire"; in 1994 on the last date of the Shit Hits the Sheds Tour, in 2011 at The Fillmore for the band's 30th anniversary celebration and in 2013 at the fifth annual Revolver Golden Gods awards in Los Angeles.
In 2006, Halford split with Sanctuary Records and founded Metal God Entertainment to produce and license any future material. All Fight and Halford material were released in remastered format, which also includes DVDs from both bands.
Halford provided voice-over for the characters General Lionwhyte and the leader of the Fire Barons on the 2009 video game Brütal Legend. The Baron's appearance and personality is based on Halford.
Halford developed the clothing line Metal God Apparel with plans to develop retail sales through 2010.
Halford had a brief cameo in a 2010 commercial for Virgin Mobile, where he appeared as a priest. His line in the commercial is "Let us pray", which is a reference to the song "Let Us Prey/Call for the Priest" from Judas Priest's 1977 album Sin After Sin.
In March 2019, Halford told New Zealand news outlet Stuff that he was working on an autobiography, the idea having been "rattling around in my head forever." He said that his principal motivation in writing a book would be "to tell your side of the story from the horse's mouth, as opposed to something that has been knocked up by somebody else from a bunch of interviews and so forth." Halford joked that "between my early childhood, adolescent years and the place where I'm at now," the result would be a trilogy like The Lord of the Rings. The autobiography, titled Confess, was originally announced to be published in October 2020, but received its official date for 29 September 2020 via Hachette Books.
Halford is able to play several instruments such as guitar, bass, harmonica, keyboards, and drums, though he rarely does so on stage.
In an interview with Motor Trend, Halford revealed that he has owned a variety of classic cars, including a 1970s Aston Martin DBS, a Chevrolet Corvette, and a Mercury Cougar. He did not gain his driver's licence until the age of 38. In 2010, he stated that his main car was a 2006 Cadillac DTS.
In 1998, Halford publicly revealed his homosexuality on MTV. He broke down in tears saying, "It's a wonderful moment when you walk out of the closet. Now I've done that and I've freed myself. It's a great feeling for me to finally let go and make this statement—especially to The Advocate, because this magazine has brought me so much comfort over the years. Obviously this is just a wonderful day for me."
Halford describes himself as "the stately homo of heavy metal", and says that his announcement was "the greatest thing I could have done for myself." He also explains that he did not announce it sooner due to the fear that he was going to cause harm to himself.
Halford speaks negatively about the discrimination that the LGBT community still faces in some parts of the world. He then recalled that his announcement came as a surprise, and questioned if he would've told the members of Judas Priest while he was in the band. Halford said that after he completed his interview, he began to fear negative reactions, but was quickly inundated with messages of support from his colleagues and fans.
Halford says that society has not changed as much as he hoped since his announcement, "You'd think there would have been some kind of change and people would have moved on after such a long time. Now that I'm moving through my OAP heavy metal years (laughs), I thought a lot of it would be gone by now. And it's a shame. We don't really get to spend a lot of time on this planet together, so there's no point in wasting it being divided."
Halford has known of his sexuality since his youth, and he said that the current American administration "doesn't look particularly healthy right now. On the other side of it, (much has changed) so we can reach this level of equality. There is still a hell of a lot more to be done and it's taking forever. Sometimes it's like one step forward, two steps back. But these types of challenges only make us stronger, you know?" He then goes to say that walking out on stage as a gay man in a heavy metal band "is a victory. There's something to be said about standing there and not saying a word. On the flip side of that, I make a hell of a lot of noise on that stage."
At the time that Halford revealed his sexuality, he was concerned that he would lose his fanbase as a result. He explained that he cannot return to certain places of the world in fear of lapidation. He described the 1970s and 1980s as "incredibly difficult", but not counting it as important music-wise. Halford jokingly claims that he can not be replaced by a straight man, bringing up late Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury, saying that "if Freddie hadn't have been gay, Queen would've been a totally different band. But that's a really important part of my life that I have to get down on paper at some point."
Despite being born and raised in a Christian household, he is critical of the rights and laws that are being passed that help take advantage of the LGBT community. Halford explained that he did not have a plan or an agenda when coming in to do his interview with MTV. He mainly spoke about and promoted the Voyeurs album he made with ex-Marilyn Manson guitarist John 5, was when he slipped out his sexuality after being asked a question from the studio's producer. He cited it being "kind of a big leap forward."
The subject matter of his lyrics had not changed since his coming out and avoided addressing it in Judas Priest's lyrics. However, the song "Raw Deal" from the 1977 album Sin After Sin speaks about Fire Island. He felt that the lyrics were "just too much", but was approved by the other members of the band. "But you listen to that song, it really is almost like a coming-out experience for me. And it never really registered. [Laughs] It's only been in recent years that people have picked up on that song. That's the one," he said.
In the Behind the Music documentary series, Halford said that hiding his sexuality during Judas Priest's career caused him a lot of depression and isolation which led to his alcohol and drug abuse.
During the making of the band's 1986 album Turbo, Halford struggled with increasing substance abuse and violent feuds with his romantic partner. After the latter committed suicide, he resolved to get clean.
He says that he has been clean and sober since entering a rehabilitation facility following a painkiller overdose in 1986, stating that, before that point, he heavily abused drugs and alcohol. He made an energetic recovery and his live performances during the subsequent Fuel for Life Tour was described as some of his strongest ever.
He was born and raised in a Christian household, and said that his upbringing "has become more important since I became clean and sober on 6 January 1986. That was 25 years ago and I think that's probably more important to me now, on a daily basis."
His sobriety helped improve his live performances. He felt that upon walking up on stage drunk and drugged would cheat the fans and cause disappointment. Halford called upon sufferers to overcome their addiction through people or established organizations.
When asked what part sobriety has played in the band's longevity, he responded, "Without it? Oh, I'd be dead. Literally, I would be dead."
Halford credited the music as support for helping him through his addiction.
Despite being clean and sober since 1986, he confessed that he did have the desire to "have a drink" and "have a smoke and do a line. I wish I could do all that, but I can't. I've done all that. I've done all that and it nearly killed me. I wish I could do that because when I'm with my friends and they're having a good time and there's this little devil on your shoulder, 'Just have a quick shot. Do a shot of Jack.'" He pointed out to those who are recovering from their abuse about dealing with the "little devil on your shoulder or the monkey on your back", and that being clean and sober was "the greatest gift I was given. It was a gift. I can't do this by myself. There's another source helping. That's just a thrill to share with the music at this point."
Singing style and influences
Halford possesses a powerful voice with a wide vocal range which is marked by his high-pitched screams and strong vibrato. However, with age, his lower range has matured and become more powerful. Along with Ronnie James Dio and Bruce Dickinson, Halford is one of the pioneers of the pseudo-operatic vocal style later to be adopted by power metal vocalists and regularly appears near the top in lists of the greatest rock vocalists/front-men of all time.
Halford describes himself as "a huge Queen fan" since they began and saw their very early shows. He has called Freddie Mercury, the late lead singer of the band, his "ultimate hero" and expressed regret that he never got to know him.
As a vocalist, Halford was influenced by Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin and Robert Plant. He was also influenced by the music of Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, David Bowie, King Crimson, the Rolling Stones, John Mayall and Alice Cooper.
- Rocka Rolla (1974)
- Sad Wings of Destiny (1976)
- Sin After Sin (1977)
- Stained Class (1978)
- Killing Machine (1978)
- Unleashed in the East (1979)
- British Steel (1980)
- Point of Entry (1981)
- Screaming for Vengeance (1982)
- Defenders of the Faith (1984)
- Turbo (1986)
- Priest...Live! (1987)
- Ram It Down (1988)
- Painkiller (1990)
- Angel of Retribution (2005)
- Nostradamus (2008)
- A Touch of Evil: Live (2009)
- Redeemer of Souls (2014)
- Battle Cry (2016)
- Firepower (2018)
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- Mutations (1994)
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- Resurrection (2000)
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- Crucible (2002)
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- Live in Anaheim (2010)
- Halford III: Winter Songs (2009)
- Halford IV: Made of Metal (2010)
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Rob Halford with Family and Friends
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- Krokus – Headhunter – backing vocals on "Ready to Burn" (1983)
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- Ugly Kid Joe – America's Least Wanted – backing vocals on "Goddamn Devil" (1992)
- Skid Row – B-Side Ourselves – vocals on "Delivering the Goods" in a live version (1992)
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- Ronnie James Dio tribute album, This Is Your Life (2014) – vocals on "Man on the Silver Mountain"
- The Simpsons – Singing a rendition of "Breaking the Law" in the episode "Steal This Episode" (2014)
- In This Moment's album Ritual (2017) – vocals on "Black Wedding"
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