JUDAS PRIEST vocalist Rob Halford: We look at the Metal God’s journey through the ages
Rob Halford, widely recognized as the “Metal God,” has left an indelible mark on the heavy metal genre. From his early years and entry into the music scene to his iconic status as the frontman of JUDAS PRIEST, Halford‘s journey is a testament to passion, resilience, and the enduring power of heavy metal.
Robert John Arthur Halford was born on August 25, 1951, in Walsall, Staffordshire, England. Growing up in a working-class family, Halford‘s musical journey began in his teenage years. Inspired by the energetic and rebellious spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, he started singing in local bands.
Halford‘s powerhouse vocals quickly set him apart, and his ability to effortlessly switch between high-pitched screams and melodic tones caught the attention of the local music scene. It wasn’t long before he found his way into the spotlight, setting the stage for his future in the world of heavy metal.
In 1973, Rob Halford joined JUDAS PRIEST, a British heavy metal band founded in 1969. His distinct vocal style and commanding stage presence propelled the band to new heights. With albums like “Sad Wings of Destiny” (1976) and “Stained Class” (1978), JUDAS PRIEST began solidifying its status as a leading force in the metal scene.
The 1980s marked a pinnacle for the band, with iconic releases like “British Steel” (1980) and “Screaming for Vengeance” (1982). Halford‘s leather-clad persona and powerful vocals became synonymous with the evolving sound of heavy metal. Hits like “Breaking the Law” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin‘” elevated JUDAS PRIEST to international acclaim.
In 1992, after years of success, Halford left JUDAS PRIEST to explore new musical avenues. He formed the band FIGHT and later pursued solo projects, showcasing his versatility beyond the traditional metal genre. Despite the divergence, fans eagerly awaited his return to the iconic band that he helped define.
The early 2000s saw a triumphant reunion as Rob Halford rejoined JUDAS PRIEST in 2003. The band released “Angel of Retribution” (2005), marking a powerful comeback. Halford‘s return revitalized the group, and subsequent albums like “Nostradamus” (2008) and “Firepower” (2018) continued to solidify their legendary status.
Halford‘s impact on heavy metal extends beyond his vocal prowess. As the face of JUDAS PRIEST, he played a crucial role in shaping the genre’s identity. His influence on subsequent generations of metal musicians is immeasurable, and he remains an enduring symbol of the genre’s power, passion, and resilience.
Rob‘s journey from a working-class upbringing to becoming the Metal God of JUDAS PRIEST is a testament to the enduring spirit of heavy metal. His contributions to the genre, both with the band and as a solo artist, have left an indelible mark on the world of music. As a pioneer, performer, and icon, Halford continues to inspire and captivate metal fans worldwide.
13 Things You Didn’t Know About JUDAS PRIEST singer Rob Halford
13 – Early Musical Influences
Before delving into the realm of heavy metal, Halford‘s early musical influences were diverse. His teenage years were shaped by the raw energy of rock ‘n’ roll, but he also harbored a love for soul music. The eclectic mix of influences contributed to the unique and powerful vocal style that would later define his career in JUDAS PRIEST.
12 – Two-Time Singer for BLACK SABBATH
Halford played the role of a musical savior not once but twice for BLACK SABBATH. In 1992, he took the stage for two concerts when Ronnie James Dio declined to open for headliner Ozzy Osbourne. Then, in 2004, Halford once again stepped up, this time filling in for ‘The Prince of Darkness’ himself when Ozzy fell ill. In these pivotal moments, Halford‘s commanding vocals and stage presence ensured that the show went on, solidifying his reputation not only as the Metal God but also as a reliable ally in the world of heavy metal.
11 – Shoved by actor Mickey Rourke
In the 2002 independent film ‘Spun,’ Halford took on a brief role as a porn store clerk. Although his screen time is limited, it’s hard to fathom that the formidable Metal God would endure a shove from a whimsically attired Mickey Rourke as unassumingly as portrayed in the movie. Picture the audacity of trying such antics on a JUDAS PRIEST stage.
10 – Solo Ventures
During his hiatus from JUDAS PRIEST in the 1990s, Halford embarked on solo projects that showcased his range beyond the metal genre. The band FIGHT, formed during this period, delved into a more industrial and groove-oriented sound. This departure allowed Halford to explore and experiment with different musical elements, reinforcing his commitment to artistic evolution.
9 – Screaming for Vengeance in Court
In the late 1980s, PRIEST found themselves in a legal battle that captivated the music industry. Two fans alleged that subliminal messages in the song “Better by You, Better Than Me” from the “Stained Class” album drove them to attempt suicide. The trial ended with a verdict in favor of the band, debunking the claims and highlighting the absurdity of blaming music for personal actions.
8 – Breaking the Closet
Halford publicly came out as gay in 1998, a significant moment in the world of heavy metal. While he was always private about his personal life, Halford‘s openness about his sexuality shattered stereotypes and demonstrated that metal music is inclusive and diverse. His revelation sparked important conversations about acceptance and diversity within the metal community.
Rob had hinted previously about his hidden lifestyle, as written in the 1977 PRIEST song “Raw Deal“. The straightforward lyrics of the song seemed to go unnoticed by the mainstream rock audience, who casually overlooked references to “steely leather guys… fooling with the denim dudes” and a nod to the gay haven of Fire Island.
Reflecting on the time, Rob Halford remarked in his memoir, “Confess“, that he believed the lyrics were overt and obvious, a candid expression of his sexual desires encapsulated in lines like “heavy bodies ducking, stealing, eager for some action.”
However, it wasn’t until 1981 that the song’s true nature sparked recognition. A fan approached him to sign a copy of the “Sin After Sin” album and inquired, “Is that song, ‘Raw Deal,’ on this record about gay guys?” This unexpected revelation not only brought attention to the song’s subtext but also marked the beginning of a meaningful relationship between Halford and the perceptive fan.
7 – He loved hanging out with Gene Simmons of KISS
His admiration for Gene Simmons went beyond being a KISS enthusiast. In the late Seventies, when KISS extended a special invitation for PRIEST to open for them, Rob found himself captivated not by the iconic band but by Gene Simmons‘ girlfriend. Cher, a prominent figure especially for the gay community, thrilled Halford. Recalling those moments, he humorously admitted to crafting feeble excuses just to linger in proximity to her, all for the simple joy of being able to say a casual ‘Hi!’
6 – Motorcycles are still dangerous, especially on stage
On the last show of the tour supporting JUDAS PRIEST‘s 1990 ‘Painkiller‘ album, Halford was knocked off the motorcycle he rides onto the stage at the end of each show by a misplaced prop. He broke his nose and was knocked unconscious, causing him to miss the last song of what would be his final show with the band for more than a decade.
5 – His notoriety could have killed his producer
Back in 2010, Halford found himself in an unexpected studio drama while working on material for his solo album, “Halford IV — Made of Metal“. The incident unfolded when Halford observed his guitarist, co-writer, and producer, Roy Z, consuming coffee like it was Gatorade to combat fatigue after a late night.
As the hours ticked by, signs of trouble emerged when Roy Z abruptly declared the need for a break during a recording session. Concerned that he might be experiencing a heart attack, he urgently called 911, prompting an ambulance to rush to the studio with lights flashing. With Roy Z taken out of the room for medical attention, Halford was left alone with an unsettling pause before a paramedic arrived.
In a surprising turn, the paramedic recognized the Metal God, causing a brief diversion from the urgency of the situation. Rather than rushing Roy Z to the hospital immediately, the paramedic fetched a group of colleagues, turning the studio into an impromptu fan meet-and-greet. Autographs were signed, pictures were taken, and amidst the surreal encounter, Halford found himself contemplating the surreal situation: “God, I can’t believe this. My producer’s going to die on me.” This intense experience later inspired Halford to compose the reflective and stomping love song “Heartless,” featuring a rousing chorus.
4 – No Ordained Priest, Yet Took on the Role
In a clever casting choice, Rob Halford embraced an unexpected persona as a playful priest in a 2010 commercial for Virgin Mobile telephones. Despite not holding any religious title, the singer, raised in a Christian household, attributes his sobriety to the spiritual upbringing he received in his formative years.
3 – Embracing Electronica Alongside Trent Reznor
In 1997, Halford temporarily stepped away from his initial post-PRIEST venture, FIGHT, to explore a different sonic realm with the creation of ‘Voyeurs.’ This album marked a departure, leaning into electronic and techno influences and featuring the talents of John 5, known for his work with Marilyn Manson and later, Rob Zombie.
Under the executive production guidance of NINE INCH NAILS visionary Trent Reznor, the project unfolded. Despite not achieving commercial success, this experimental detour led Halford back to more familiar musical territory. His subsequent album, the aptly named ‘Resurrection‘ in 2000, saw the Metal God returning to his roots with his eponymous band.
2 – Made a cheesy joke to the Queen after possibly offending her
Halford shared a memorable encounter with royalty at Buckingham Palace during a reception celebrating great British music. In attendance alongside luminaries like Brian May of QUEEN, Roger Daltrey of THE WHO and STATUS QUO, Halford had the distinct pleasure of meeting Queen Elizabeth II.
Introduced to the monarch by the late Cilla Black, also present at the event, Halford eagerly accepted the opportunity to meet the Queen. Cilla, the former Blind Date host, facilitated the introduction, but not without a playful reminder of royal etiquette.
The Queen, foregoing gloves due to holding a glass, was met with Halford extending his hand for a handshake, prompting a subtle interaction. The Queen, with a hint of humor, remarked on the loudness of heavy metal to which Halford replied, “It’s so we can bang our heads, your Majesty.” Cilla, quick to observe the light breach of protocol, playfully chastised Halford for his unconventional approach after the Queen gracefully exited the scene.
1 – A live of absolute debauchery
Halford candidly recounted his journey towards sobriety in his raw and unapologetic memoir, “Confess.” In this brutally honest account, the PRIEST singer opens up about a tumultuous past marked by a series of intense experiences. Among the revelations, Halford discloses engaging in intimate encounters with fans during tours, confronting personal demons that led to a violent incident with a lover, and grappling with a prolonged struggle against the clutches of addiction.
The memoir lays bare the challenges Halford faced during years of battling with alcohol dependency and a consumption of cocaine that reached what he describes as “Scarface levels.”
The intensity of his substance abuse is juxtaposed against the backdrop of a life in the fast lane, characterized by the highs and lows of rock and roll stardom. However, within the pages of “Confess,” readers witness the pivotal turning point in Halford‘s life – the arduous yet transformative journey toward sobriety. This revelation adds a profound layer to the narrative, showcasing the resilience and strength it took for the Metal God to confront his personal demons and emerge on the other side of addiction.