Kid Rock's been called trailer-trash, a joke, an idiot and worse. No matter, he has prevailed. While still in high school Rock began as a DJ/Rapper. He might have experienced a Vanilla Ice-type career but a fascination with Rock music's various mutations saved him from such a cruel fate. Before long he was merging the two. Of course, there were those who thought the two styles shouldn't or couldn't be mixed. Still others figured that even if you pulled it off it wouldn't sell. What did they know? Kid Rock has done beer commercials, Pamela Anderson (though they eventually became "just friends") and released a string of commercially successful albums ("Devil Without A Cause," "Cocky" and "Kid Rock"). Can't do much better than that.
Fact - There's a saying in the music biz that no matter what you do - strange, weird, outlandish or even conservative - if you stick with it long enough your time will come: Kid Rock was dropped by Jive Records following his '90 debut "Grits Sandwiches For Breakfast." It wasn't until '98 that he scored big time with "Devil Without A Cause."
Fact - You've got to go where there's an audience that will appreciate you: Kid Rock was born in Romeo, MI (near Dearborn) but moved to Detroit because the small town life was too stifling. He spent a large chunk of the early '90s recording and performing in semi-obscurity. Just well-known enough to build a small but loyal fan base, while at the same time, getting a heap of flak/criticism from the local music community.
Fact - The great thing about showbiz is you can dump your loser real name: At birth, Kid Rock was tagged with the moniker Robert James Ritchie - 1/17/71.
Fact - Nobody does it alone unless you're a Folk singer: In the mid-90s, Kid Rock formed a backing band dubbed Twisted Brown Tucker featuring rapper Joe C. (Joseph Calleja, who passed away 11/16/00), guitarists Kenny Olsen and Jason Krause, keyboardist Jimmy Bones (a.k.a. Jimmy Trombly) and drummer Stefanie Eulinberg. Uncle Cracker ran the turntables and served as DJ while Misty Love and Shirly Hayden handled backing vocals.
Fact - Controversy is good for the career: A NY college radio station played the obscenely funny "Yodelin' In The Valley" and got themselves a 20K fine from the F.C.C. (the government's broadcast regulator). The radio station beat the fine (crazy kids) but not before Rock nailed a ton of publicity.
Fact - Controversy is still good for the career: Gotta hand it to Kid Rock. He knows how to get publicity for a new album. Namely, punch out your ex-wife's ex-husband - Tommy Lee (Motley Crue). The two tangled at the '07 MTV Video Music Awards in Las Vegas. The former spouses of 'actress' Pamela Anderson exchange words before Rock threw a punch (according to witnesses) that sent Lee to the pavement. "I was trying to be the bigger man, but he was acting childish," claimed Lee. "This is what people do when they have s***ty albums and their careers are going down the drain." Ouch. Lee should have just claimed he was blindsided or lost his balance and let it go at that. Rock also took a blow when he was slapped with a misdemeanor battery charge. But anything is better than sitting through those awards shows.
Fact - Controversy - Part III (or Please Pass The Syrup): In the summer of '08 Rock entered a no-contest plea to assault charges stemming from an '07 incident at an Atlanta-area Waffle House. Rock was slapped with a $1,000 fine and was put on a year's probation. He also had to do 80 hours of community service and attend six anger-management classes. Rock was arrested after he and some associates scuffled with a fellow Waffle House customer.
As that was percolating, Rock released "Rock N Roll Jesus" with the single, "So Hott." Co-produced by Rock and Rob Cavallo (Green Day, My Chemical Romance), the album featured longtime backing group, the Twisted Brown Trucker Band.
Rock's '08 Rock N' Revival Tour started in Evansville, IN. Run DMC's Rev. Run and J. Geils Band frontman Peter Wolf were on the bill. The initial response to the revue-style package tour was positive. "After the first show, we were all like, 'I can't believe this thing worked,'" recalled Rock. Later in the tour, founding Allman Brothers Band singer-guitarist Dickey Betts was a supporting act.
Fact - What's old is new again: Rock mashed up Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" with Warren Zevon's "Werewolves Of London" to create the '08 party hit, "All Summer Long."
Just as "All Summer Long" was doing serious chart damage, Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd embarked on the joint Rock and Rebels Tour. Rock then won the World's Best Pop Male Artist and World's Best Pop/Rock Male Artist prizes (not much difference there) at the World Music Awards in Monaco. He also performed at the event.
Fact - Controversy - Part IV (or Please Pass The Syrup II/Skinned Alive): Rock requested to have his performances for overseas U.S. troops count toward the community service required as a result of the infamous Waffle House altercation. The court denied his motion. "I really take it as a slap in the face, and really have trouble thinking of a better way to 'serve the community," said Rock. In retaliation, Rock posted the judge's contact information online, and encouraged fans to voice their disapproval.
Next, People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) felt Rock's wrath. He lashed out at the animal rights organization declaring that he'll always wear fur. "I'm willing the animal-rights protesters to chuck red paint on me," said Rock. "To throw paint on someone is just wrong. They do it to little Hollywood actresses who can't defend themselves." PETA countered saying it was time for Rock to "grow up and grow out of his cruel wardrobe." They also implied that Rock's divorce from well-known PETA supporter, Anderson, was the true motivation behind his behavior. Cheap shot.
"I want to go to war with PETA," concluded Rock. "My biggest extravagance is fur coats - I've got every kind of animal in my wardrobe."
Fact: Smart performers diversify (whatever that means): Rock announced in '08 that he'd teamed up with the Michigan Brewing Company to produce a line of beers. Was this a publicity stunt? Or was Rock just lending his name to the project? No, Rock was directly involved, claimed brewery owner Bobby Mason. "He's giving me direction, he's tasting the beers," Mason reported. No doubt about the tasting. Founded in '95 and located in Webberville, the Michigan Brewing Company produced craft beers. According to reports, the $7 million project employed a couple hundred workers.
Fact: Well into a career, it's wise not to get too cocky (even when getting help from some big guns). "Born Free" dropped in November, '10, after being pushed back from September. With guest performances by Country's Martina McBride, Sheryl Crow, Bob Seger and Rapper T.I., the Rick Rubin produced effort was originally going to be a three-disc set. "It was just sensory overload, too many songs," said Rock. "In the end, it would've been kind of pretentious to release a triple album."
Rock's 8th studio album contained the title track, "Slow My Roll," "God Bless Saturday," "Rock On" and "Times Like These."
"Born Free" sold 189,000 copies in its debut week to land at #5 on the Billboard 200. It was notable for being Rock's first album without a parental advisory sticker on it.
"Born Free went platinum eight months after its release while title track single charted on the Country, Mainstream Rock and Active Rock surveys before becoming the theme song for the '10 MLB playoffs and WWE's Tribute To The Troops Special.
Fact - Controversy Part V (or Even Getting an Award Can Cause Problems): Detroit members of the NAACP protested the organization's plan to give their Great Expectations Award to Kid Rock. They claimed Rock's use of the Confederate flag in his shows did not fit with the organization's mission. "It's a slap in the face for anyone who fought for civil rights in this country," said Adolph Mongo, head of Detroiters for Progress. "It's a symbol of hate and bigotry." Rock received the award despite objections.
Fact - Kid Rock loves Detroit: Rock celebrated his 40th birthday with a performance at Ford Field in Detroit (on 1/15/11). He was then featured on the fourth season of PBS' Live from the Artists' Den. His performance was taped at Elvis Presley's Automobile Museum in Graceland, which had previously never been filmed for television.
Rock formally endorsed Mitt Romney in the Michigan Republican Presidential primary and performed "Born Free," Romney's campaign theme song, at a rally. Prior to the endorsement, Rock sought assurances from Romney that he would look out for Michigan and the city of Detroit if elected President.
Rock already had Motor City's back. He teamed up with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for a fundraising concert to benefit the orchestra. "As a musician, and of course a Detroiter, I am proud to be supporting this longstanding cultural institution," said Rock. The performance raised over $1 million.
Next, the team of Kid Rock, Pulte Homes and Operation Finally Home presented Sgt. Davin Dumar and his wife Dana with a free new home. Dumar, a veteran of the Afghanistan war lost his leg and severely injured his arm in combat. Kid Rock personally called the founder of Operation Finally Home to talk about Sgt. Dumar, a fellow Michigan native. Rock also told the Dumars that they would be receiving the house and thanked Dumar for his sacrifice and service.
Kid Rock also recorded "In Detroit," the theme song for the Detroit Lions, as part of the NFL's promotion "Pepsi Anthems."
Having endorsed Romney, a Detroit native, for President, Rock performed at the '12 Republican convention and appeared at a handful of Romney rallies where he sang "Let's Ride," the lead single from his '12 set "Rebel Soul." Like "Born Free," "Let's Ride" became the theme song for WWE's Tribute To The Troops Special.
"Rebel Soul" came out just two weeks after Romney's defeat. Rock's label, Top Dog/Atlantic Records said, "this album cements his place as the premier genre-hopping Rock and Roller of all time."
Kid Rock Discography
1990: Grits Sandwiches For Breakfast
1993: The Polyfuze Method
1996: Early Mornin' Stoned Pimp
1998: Devil Without a Cause
2000: The History Of Rock (remixes)
2003: Kid Rock
2006: Live Trucker
2007: Rock N Roll Jesus
2010: Born Free
2012: Rebel Soul
Kid Rock, what can you say? He started as a steamy Rock Rapper then incorporated Southern Rock elements (especially Lynyrd Skynyrd) for a "Sweet Home Motor City" sound. And if you don't like it, be sure to tell him the next time you see Rock at some music awards show or local Waffle House (see above).
Kid Rock is not an R&B innovator or Country standard-bearer. Everything he's done has been done before. But his genius, and it is a genius, is to be perfectly in the moment, whether it is Country, 70's Rock, R&B or Hip-Hop. He reconfigures musical/lyrical elements while making it still sound like a 'Kid Rock song'. "Rebel Soul" is a perfect example.
At its root, "Chickens In The Pen" is classic R&B while "Let's Roll" is a slice of red, white and blue collar (pro-military) '70s Rock.
Rock knows there are two sides to every coin. "Redneck Paradise" talks about good times to be had while "Cocaine And Gin" is a Country song of regret.
Though it's not the best song on "Rebel Soul," too much competition, by far the most sincere is "Detroit, Michigan." Rock gives shout-outs to Motor City music legends. It's clear he listened to them all, and they made a lasting impression.
If a song had the line "tears on the pillow is all you leave behind" and other tracks referenced a levee failing, the bible and church bells you'd assume it was a mainstream Country album. But it's actually Kid Rock's "Born Free," which often sounds like a blend of John Mellencamp's storytelling and Creedence Clearwater Revival's swamp Rock. But his standard dose of sass and crass has been dialed down considerably. And who would have thought it would be missed? Another odd twist is the guest appearances (McBride, Crow and Seger). They are confined to the ballads ("Care" and "Collide") which seems like an under utilization of their talents.
The title track is standard Country Rock, good but nothing special, while "Slow My Roll" is brazen fun. With the title "God Bless Saturday," an uproarious Southern Rocker seems a sure thing, but this track can't seem to jump into high gear, though it comes close. "Rock On" (the song with the "tears" lyric) is an unexpected ballad. It's fine but what this album really needs is an unbridled barn burner. That comes with the feel-good boogie number "Rock Bottom Blues." But if Rock's ultimate career goal is to ditch his past and hole up in Nashville, "Born Free" will put him in good standing.
Rock is all things to all people on "Rock N Roll Jesus." Lusty Rap Rocker ("Sugar"), moralist ("Amen"), workingman ("Roll On") and non-traditional hero ("Low Life"). Mostly, these guises work - or rather, Rock is able to pull them off though it's hard to believe that the indiscretions committed by men of the cloth has made him "afraid to send his kids to church." Or on "Sugar" when he sings about "sucking hot pussy until it's cold" it's more likely to conjure images of sushi rather than sex.
Stylistically, Rock dabbles in Nu Metal ("So Hott"), Midwest Rock (the title track), New Orleans Jazz ("New Orleans") and Country ("Blue Jeans And A Rosary" and "Half Your Age"). The only unifying element is Rock's vocals.
The title track, with its wah-wah guitar and horns, is right out of '70s Rock canon, ala Seger. Rock takes Warren Zevon's "Werewolves Of London" chord progression and mashes it with Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" for a catchy romp on "All Summer Long" (one of the all-time great 'summer' songs). And you can't argue with "So Hott." The sonically dense track and "Sugar" are the only times Rock really pushes it up against the wall. That's expected. What's not are the Country-influenced tracks that Rock sings with such conviction and charm that they're near impossible to resist. And like any good Country song, the lyrics are little punchlines ("she's half your age and twice as hot" or "I've got kids I've never seen, their mama is just seventeen").
If you want to catch Kid Rock at his best, his debut "Grits Sandwich For Breakfast" and his major commercial breakthrough "Devil Without A Cause" are it. The former has "Yodelin' In The Valley" and the latter features the hits "Badwitdaba" and "Cowboy." "What I Learned On The Road," "I'm Wrong, But You Ain't Right," "Midnight Train To Memphis" and "Drunk In The Morning," read like song titles from some low-rent Country CD, rather than tracks from Kid Rock's '01 release "Cocky." Rock's crazy quilt of Rock, Rap, Hip-Hop, Industrial and, god knows what else, is intact. Though Rock develops some Soul tendencies, the pile driving guitars and Industrial thrash are never far away. For listeners dazzled by "Devil Without A Cause" this will do the trick. For those out of the loop "Cocky," with the hit "Lonely Road Of Faith" is a good entry point.
For many performers there's little difference between their first major success and their last. Long term artists are able to develop their sound and take the audience with them. But few are able to successfully jump genres as Rock does on his self-titled '03 release. He brings his trash Country tendencies to the forefront with a dose of southern Rock. The album has been called an Alt. Country revival. The pairing with Alt. Country poster boy Hank Williams III yields "Cadillac Pussy," a hot boogie-woogie number. "Rock & Roll Pain," "Hillbilly Stomp" and "Run Off To L.A." (featuring Sheryl Crow) rely heavily on acoustic Country Blues but that's as far as Rock travels down the Alt. Country road. "Son Of Detroit" has a ZZ Top flare (thanks to Billy Gibbons) as Rock rattles off the names of "outlaw" Country legends (Waylon, Willie, etc.). "Rock 'N' Roll" has loads of Lynyrd Skynyrd while "Black Bob" sounds like Stevie Ray Vaughan channeling Hendrix. This represents a major stylistic change for Rock and it's hard to imagine it coming off any better. But just in case listeners aren't convinced, Rock pads his hand. A cover of Bad Company's "Feel Like Makin' Love" is the leadoff single. Rock slows down this workhorse making it an even better (if that's possible) area Rock ballad.
Of Rock's early '90s efforts, the hard hitting "The Polyfuze Method" is preferred. "The History Of Rock" remixes his '90s indie releases.