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Axl Rose Is 50: Guns N’ Roses Singer Gets Birthday Tweet From Slash

Chris McKay, Getty Images

Fifty years ago today, William Bruce Rose, Jr. — the child who would become Axl — came kicking and screaming into this world. He’s been kicking and screaming ever since, and that’s precisely why we love him. Undoubtedly, it’s been a richer half-century for his existence, and while he’s not always the easiest guy to root for, we’d be remiss if we didn’t honor the Guns N’ Roses frontman for all he’s accomplished.

Born in Lafayette, Ind., to a stiflingly religious family, Rose gravitated toward music at an early age. He moved to Los Angeles in 1982, and by 1985, he’d formed GNR, a group that, whether by luck or design, played sleazy Sunset Strip metal with just the right amount of punk edge and classic-rock formalism, inventing a sound that would resonate with millions.

Rose legally changed his name to W. Axl in 1986, and the following year, the group released ‘Appetite for Destruction,’ a game-changer of an album that would go on to sell more than 28 million copies. Seemingly overnight, Axl became a fixture on MTV, thrilling kids and terrifying parents with his banshee howls, strange outfits (kilts, biker shorts, mesh shirts) and numerous brushes with the law.

In September 1991, Guns dropped their magnum opus, the two-part ‘Use Your Illusion’ collection. Volume one contained ‘November Rain,’ a string-laden epic that hit No. 3 and inspired one of the more awesomely confounding and melodramatic videos of all time.

Sadly, ‘November Rain’ marked the start of long drought for the band. By 1997, the classic ‘Appetite’-era lineup had completely dissolved, and while Rose soldiered on, cycling through replacement sidemen and devoting much blood and treasure to the creation of 2008′s ‘Chinese Democracy,’ the band has never scored another top 10 hit.

Given that ‘Democracy’ took a decade to record, it seems unlikely Axl and his latest gang of ringers will reverse the trend and treat us to another blockbuster anytime soon.

But that doesn’t matter. Loving Axl means always waiting for him to say “sorry” and knowing full well he never will. He’s notoriously combative and unreliable, but at the end of the day, those traits probably make him a better singer and songwriter. They certainly make him a better rock star.

Perhaps Slash said it best, when he took to Twitter earlier today to send b-day wishes to both Axl and former Guns bassist Duff McKagan.

“Duff’s bday yesterday, the redhead’s today, Happy Birthday f—ers! iiiI; )’” he tweeted.

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