Rethinking Jani Lane Upon His Death

by Bill Brenner on August 12, 2011

Former Warrant singer Jani Lane was found dead last night in a Comfort Inn in L.A. at age 47. It’s unclear at this point what the cause is, but his death is making me re-think a few things about my attitude.

Mood music:

I remember when Warrant came out in the late 1980s. I couldn’t stand them. Sure, they sounded good. Crunchy guitar sound. Good vocals. But it all sounded so fake. I thought “Cherry Pie” was the dumbest song I’d ever heard. Again, the sound was good. But the lyrics were stupid and the feel wasn’t real to me. Admittedly, though, I liked “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and hated the fact that I liked it.

The band also came out at a point in the late 80s when every band was starting to sound and look alike. I decided I was too cool for it all.

I did what a lot of other metal heads did in the early 90s when the metal scene imploded under the weight of all the copycats: I started listening to so-called grunge: Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains. My own band, Skeptic Slang, sounded a lot like the grunge we were listening to, with hints of old-school metal here and there.

I still listen to all those bands, but in recent years I’ve returned to my 80s hard rock roots. Warrant has not been part of my playlist.

I’ve seen interviews with Jani Lane over the years where he lamented writing “Cherry Pie” and took a crack at reality TV. He looked and sounded like a troubled man in those clips, and he did indeed wrestle some demons. He was recently sentenced to serve 120 days in jail after pleading no contest to a 2010 DUI charge — his second in two years.

As for his death, no one really knows what happened. We can speculate, but I won’t. I’ll just wait for the follow-up news reports.

Instead, I’m examining my own reaction to his death and what it says about me and human nature in general.

When I first saw the news an hour ago, I felt bad. I went on Youtube and started playing Warrant songs. I was thinking that they sounded much better with age, then I had a “what the fuck?” moment.

Here I am, thinking these songs sound pretty good. And I’m sneering at all the nasty comments people make about being glad he’s dead. Then I catch myself, because in my self-righteous anger I quickly remember that I used to say things about how bands like this sucked and needed to be destroyed. I’m pretty sure I’ve joked from time to time about how it would be nice for bands like this to go down in a flaming plane wreck.

That’s not nice. It’s certainly not a good fit with my Christian beliefs. But there it is.

It’s funny how we get when musicians and celebrities we don’t think much of die. I found it amusing that people were tearing Michael Jackson down in the last decade of his life because of his alleged pedophilia, yet, when he died, everyone magically forgot that stuff and acted as if Jesus Himself had been crucified again.

When Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx opined about Jackson being a “child rapist” and I wrote about it, the comments section of this blog descended into all kinds of name calling. Most of it came from people who love Michael Jackson’s music.

More then one person noted that Jackson was never found guilty of such things. When he was still alive, people were not defending him so ardently.

We do this stuff a lot when famous, tarnished figures die. We play up the good stuff they did and conveniently forget the bad stuff. Or, at least, we minimize the latter as some unfortunate little interlude between the acts of greatness. Richard Nixon comes to mind.

And now we’re remembering the good stuff Jani Lane contributed to the world in his 47 years.

You know what? That’s how it should be.

Everyone deserves a shot at redemption, and making music I personally didn’t care for doesn’t mean there was something wrong with Jani Lane. He wrote the music he wanted to write. It spoke to him, and it spoke to others, even if I wasn’t one of them.

The band’s success in the late 80s and early 90s happened because the music made a lot of kids happy, just as Motley Crue’s “Shout At The Devil” and Def Leppard’s “Pyromania” gave me moments of happiness during a troubled youth.

We all have our tastes and opinions. We all tend to think our opinions are better than everyone else’s.

That’s part of the human condition. We don’t just do it to celebrities. We do it to everyone. We are judgmental savages sometimes.

Rest in Peace, Jani Lane. I apologize for any of the bad stuff I said about you over the years.

OCD Diaries

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Melissa August 12, 2011 at 4:53 am

Jani Lane Him self said he hated the song Cherry pie,he hated the lyrics, the tune, he thought it was a stupid song and didnt know why people liked it, RIP buddy BTW dont be sorry only AFTER some one dies, its not fair, and its a shity thing to do, feel bad, but not sorry,you weren’t sorry when you said it, to late now to apllogize.

juliebooth August 12, 2011 at 5:14 am

Ha ha! he wrote Cherry Pie under pressure to get out a hit rock anthem…. and he did hate it.. I, on the other hand, totally loved watching the drag queens rock it at Trumps in KnoxVegas when I was in grad school.
RIP Jani Lane —

MMDubya August 12, 2011 at 10:39 am

You just summarized my thoughts and feelings on Lane’s death exactly. I also was too cool for Warrant in their prime. In my metal snobbery view, I saw them as posers and would turn the channel if they were on. Still do on Sirius XM.

But when I heard last night, I felt sorrow because a piece of my youth, though disconnected in a way, was gone. Thanks for putting things in perspective like you always do, Bill. And Rest In Peace Jani. You deserve it.

mike August 14, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Funny, I read this and thought the exact thing as the author, right down to pyromania and shout being important. RIP Jani

Laura Coy August 13, 2011 at 8:57 am

I don’t think he was ever hurt by your words or changing the channel….we are supposed to keep all negativity out of our thoughts and not pollute our lives with it….how many people do you know are truly successful of being non-judgmental some of the time, never mind all of the time. Did you write him a personal letter that told him how much you hated him? And, if you did, did he actually receive it….do you think he cared?? Cherry Pie was a fun, catchy, sex infused song created to make money….that’s what people do sometimes…it can’t always be art. When I think of Jani Lane dead in a comfort inn…I think drug overdose or suicide….that is what comes to mind. Maybe I am wrong, but this “celebrity life” that so many people aspire to seems to be killing all of these “celebrities”. We crave constant entertainment, and put people in that industry on such high pedestals because we want to avoid our lives, we don’t want to think about anything else. When you put someone up so high…..what makes us think they will not fall????

randy-O August 14, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Laura, this is an excellent comment. His is a tragic end and it is the result of exactly what you’ve described. I cannot add anything else to it, except to say Bravo.

randy-O August 14, 2011 at 9:32 am

I like Warrant from the moment they put out “Down Boys.” I still like them. I’ve seen them live many times. Jani Lane was an excellent singer. His music must be judged according to his genre. Their style was highly refined and that total perfection can make it appear “fake.” At the end of the day though, his tunes were just plain fun. Sunshiny, going-to-the-beach-in-a-baby-blue-Trans-Am, feelin’ fine fun!!! Take it for what it was (and will forever be).

As far as “Cherry Pie”, I wasn’t very impressed. I can see how he would hate it. It was the one song by them that everyone outside of metal (teeny boppers, rap fans, new wavers) knew and liked. His better songs are all underrated. “Down Boys” remains the best, but I would say second best is “In the Sticks.” It is virtually unknown off of their first album, but it kicks so much ass. Give it a listen people, especially if you’ve never heard it before (as is likely).


Nickolaus A. Pacione May 11, 2014 at 11:08 pm

I was looking at the era where he was living out a nightmare — I am even guilty of making the guy with boyish grin a whipping boy too. Seeing that my friends and roster listen to them — I approached Warrant about having my roster be their biographer and especially where Jani had the Edgar Allan Poe moment. That moment of seeing Alice In Chains’ poster on the wall, when one is 22 years old and seeing something like that. I was 23 when I penned Mental Graffeti; seeing the industry stifling me every step of the way. I suggested that the surviving members of Warrant re-record Uncle Tom’s Cabin as a doom metal song to see how the masses will respond to it. I pulled out Iced Earth’s Watching Over Me for the band as a peace offering and played my friend’s Death Is Another Word. I think if they re-did Uncle Tom’s Cabin and re-imagine it as a doom metal track for his biography. It would give a track like that a new meaning when you seen a kid with a boyish grin get the shit verbally beat on by the underground. The rest of the band freaked when they seen how dark he was getting.

Angel May 21, 2015 at 12:48 am

Regarding this article, I could go on & on, believe me, there are many people who daily read various tirades I have jumped on my proverbial soapbox & went crazy about. I think I should just keep this short & sweet.
I am one of the young people you spoke about who found happiness & related to the words Jani Lane & Warrant gave us in the 80’s & 90’s & after Jani’s death of course, nothing has broke my heart more than being on YouTube as you mentioned & seeing some of the horrendous things I have seen some people who did not relate write. All I can think to myself is; “How would you like if someone said such terrible things about someone you loved & admired?”
So, in closing I just want to THANK YOU Bill Brenner, for having the guts to write this article & also to say you are sorry for things you formerly said, that means more than I can say, it shows the type of human being you are & I will now be looking forward to reading much more about what you have to say, since I see this about your character. God Bless You ~Angel~

Steven April 18, 2016 at 2:18 pm

I found this page today by accident, I’ll be honest, I read the page blog but not many of the follow on replies…nothing personal but very few people are level headed usually they come from one side or the other, very very few people are like me in their fairness and honesty. So here goes: I was a massive Warrant fan from just after DRFSR came out, Cherry Pie filled a very plesant gap in my life when it came out. Love in stereo, In the sticks, etc were staples in my life as for me, Poisons Flesh and Blood was not their finest, GN’R hadn’t released Illusions at this point…so Warrant and Skid Row hit at the right time for me personally. As for as things progressed, I saw Warrant live three times, each to me at least matched only by GN’R Wembley dates. Both groups were awesome. However, I wasn’t overly keen on the Dog Eat Dog album, so I avoided it and I went away from Rock 24/7 to radio blandness. Big mistake. One day I saw a weird Orange and Yellow cd cover with the word Warrant on it. It was the Ultraphobic album. I was intreged , I listened and I was back in full on rocker boy mode. A few weeks later, I found DED…instead of avoiding, I brought it and discovered euphoria in a cd. DED is simply one of the greatest albums ever made. Luckily, the Internet happened in my life…a quick search and I was back in Warrant heaven. I was drunk on understanding the lyrics on the latter Warrant albums, then Jani realeased the solo album…Back Down To One. I had my 2nd child at this point ,work was manic and again I missed what was I front of me. I’d imported the cd but after ne listen I left it alone. After moving, I sold the album by subconsiencly I told the buyer it was a great album. Fast forward 5 years and my life had resettled, I got to listen to my music when wanted, the Cherry Pie album came first, then The rest followed. I actually listened to DED and FFS I was nailed. I relics tended to BDTO and my head exploded, these two albums are beyond mind blowing. Ultraphobic is 9.9/10 to DED 10/10. If you listen to Jani ‘s lyrics you’ll notice that the guy is a genius who had personal issues but don’t we all.

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