W. Axl Rose (born William Bruce Rose, Jr.; raised as William Bruce Bailey; February 6, 1962) is an American singer-songwriter and musician. He is the lead vocalist and only remaining original member of the hard rock band Guns N' Roses, with whom he enjoyed great success and recognition in the late 1980s and early 1990s, before disappearing from the public eye for several years. In 2001, he resurfaced with a new line-up of Guns N' Roses at Rock in Rio 3, and subsequently played periodic concert tours, before releasing the long-delayed album Chinese Democracy in 2008. Rose has been named one of the greatest singers of all time by various media outlets, including Rolling Stone and NME.
In July 1987, Guns N' Roses released its debut album Appetite for Destruction. Although the record received critical acclaim, it experienced a slow commercial start, selling only 500,000 copies in its first year of release. However, fueled by the band's relentless touring and the mainstream success of the single "Sweet Child o' Mine"—Rose's tribute to his then-girlfriend Erin Everly—the album rose to the No. 1 position on the U.S. chart in August 1988, and again in February 1989. To date, Appetite for Destruction has sold over 28 million copies worldwide, 18 million of which in the United States, making it the best-selling debut album of all time in the U.S.
During the band's performance at the Monsters of Rock festival in Castle Donington, England in August 1988, two fans were crushed to death when many in the crowd of 107,000 began slam-dancing to "It's So Easy". Rose had halted the show several times to calm the audience. From then on, he became known for personally addressing disruptive fans and giving instructions to security personnel from the stage, at times stopping concerts to deal with issues in the crowd. In 1992, Rose stated, "Most performers would go to a security person in their organization, and it would just be done very quietly. I'll confront the person, stop the song: 'Guess what: You wasted your money, you get to leave.'" As a result of the deaths at Monsters of Rock, the festival was canceled the following year.
In November 1988, Guns N' Roses released the stopgap album G N' R Lies, which sold over five million copies in the U.S. alone. The band—and Rose in particular—were accused of promoting racist and homophobic attitudes with the song "One in a Million", in which Rose warns "niggers" to "get out of my way" and complains about "faggots" who "spread some fucking disease." During the controversy, Rose defended his use of the racial slur by claiming that "it's a word to describe somebody that is basically a pain in your life, a problem. The word nigger doesn't necessarily mean black." In 1992, however, he conceded that he had used the word as an insult towards black people, stating, "I was pissed off about some black people that were trying to rob me. I wanted to insult those particular black people. I didn't want to support racism." In response to the allegations of homophobia, Rose stated that he considered himself "pro-heterosexual" and blamed this attitude on "bad experiences" with gay men, citing an attempted rape in his late teens and the alleged molestation by his biological father. The controversy led to Guns N' Roses being dropped from the roster of an AIDS benefit show in New York organized by the Gay Men's Health Crisis.
With the success of Appetite for Destruction and G N' R Lies, Rose found himself lauded as one of rock's most prominent frontmen. By the time he appeared solo on the cover of Rolling Stone in August 1989, his celebrity was such that the influential music magazine agreed to his absolute requirement that the interview and accompanying photographs would be provided by two of his friends, writer Del James and photographer Robert John. MTV anchorman Kurt Loder described Rose as "maybe the finest hard rock singer currently on the scene, and certainly the most charismatic."
In early 1990, Guns N' Roses returned to the studio to begin recording the full-length follow-up to Appetite for Destruction. Recording sessions initially proved unproductive due to Steven Adler's struggle with drug addiction, which made him unable to perform and caused sessions to abort for several days at a time. Adler was fired the following July and replaced by Matt Sorum of The Cult. Keyboardist Dizzy Reed also joined the band that year at Rose's insistence. Sorum and Reed played their first show with Guns N' Roses at Rock in Rio 2 in January 1991. The group fired its long-time manager, Alan Niven, in May of that year; Rose reportedly forced the dismissal of Niven against the wishes of his band mates by refusing to complete the new album until Niven was gone. He was replaced by roadie Doug Goldstein, whom Izzy Stradlin described as "the guy who gets to go over to Axl's at six in the morning after he's smashed his $60,000 grand piano out of the picture window."
In May 1991, still without an album to promote, the band embarked on the two-and-a-half-year Use Your Illusion Tour, which became known for both its financial success and the many controversial incidents that occurred during shows, including late starts, on-stage rantings, and even riots. Rose received much criticism for his late appearances at concerts, sometimes taking the stage hours after the band was scheduled to go on. In July 1991, ninety minutes into a concert at the Riverport Amphitheater near St. Louis, and after on-stage requests from Rose for security personnel to address the situation, Rose dove into the crowd to confiscate a banned video camera. After being pulled back on stage, he announced, "Thanks to the lame-ass security, I'm going home!" and left, following which some 2500 fans staged a riot, resulting in an estimated $200,000 in damages