Jani Lane, the lead singer for Hollywood glam metal band Warrant, was found dead last night at a Comfort Inn in Woodland Hills. Police responded to a 911 call around 5:30 pm, and fire department officials pronounced him dead shortly thereafter. The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office is investigating the cause of death, which is not known at this time. He was 47.
Though they arrived late on the hair metal scene, Warrant was one of the most popular groups of the era, breaking through with their 1989 debut, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich. The album sold two million copies and had a seemingly endless string of radio hits, including “Down Boys” and the power ballads “Sometimes She Cries” and “Heaven.” The group became best known, however, for their sophomore work Cherry Pie, which also went double platinum. Its lead, eponymous single famously featured model Bobbie Brown being hosed down by the group, dressed as firemen. Brown and Lane later wed, and had a daughter together before divorcing not long after.
Born and raised in northeastern Ohio, Lane met band mate Steven Sweet in Florida, and the pair moved to Los Angeles in the mid-'80s, joining Warrant — which was founded by guitarist Erik Turner — shortly thereafter. Lane was workmanlike in his approach, possessing neither spectacular pipes nor profound songwriting abilities. “One day I was sitting around thinking I want to write a song about ménage a trios…and the line 'love in stereo' came into my head,” he once told Hit Parader magazine. “Inspiration can happen anywhere at any time.”
But that hair. In an era that valued both highly misogynist lyrics and the sartorial approach of a streetwalker, Lane was capable of pulling off both, with a lithe figure, impressive locks, and an androgynous stage name. (Born February 1, 1964, shortly after the death of JFK, his given name was John Kennedy Oswald.)
Like most of the heavy metal lite bands that dominated radio in the late '80s and early '90s, Warrant's fortunes fell with the rise of grunge. The group's third album, 1992's Dog Eat Dog, would be their last on a major, going gold and quickly falling off of the charts. Though Warrant would remain active, their most recent release Rockaholic (on an obscure Italian label called Frontiers) featured a new lead singer, Lane having left the group in the late '00s. He had more recently been filling in as front man for Great White, and had also appeared with a cock rock supergroup called Scrap Metal, which featured members of Nelson, Slaughter, Winger and Journey.
Warrant partied with the best of them during their Sunset Strip heyday, and Lane received a DUI in 2009 and another in 2010. In recent photos, his hair shorn, he looked pale and not in the best of health.
The plight of Lane, along with that of many other hair metal stars, was particularly visible, as their subgenre seemed to fall out of favor almost overnight when Kurt Cobain came on the scene. Bands would come back from tour to find their record label staffs dressed in plaid, and very few groups were able to successfully shed the “hair” label and find continued success into the '90s. Warrant was no exception, although Lane remained something of a household name until his death, appearing on Celebrity Fit Club in 2005, where he lost more than 20 pounds.
His legacy is that of a charismatic front man during the peak of pop metal's popularity, someone who was perfectly suited for his time. Though his music is now seen as faddy, it was enormously popular in its time, and is likely due for a revival.