An American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer. He is best known for being the lead vocalist and lyricist of the hard rock band Guns N’ Roses and has also been the band’s sole constant member since its inception in 1985. He has also toured with Australian rock band AC/DC, deputizing for Brian Johnson after Johnson’s hearing loss in 2016. Rose has been named one of the greatest singers of all time by various media outlets, including Rolling Stone and NME.
Born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana, Rose moved in the early 1980s to Los Angeles, where he became active in the local hard rock scene and joined several bands, including Hollywood Rose and L.A. Guns. In 1985, he co-founded Guns N’ Roses, with whom he had great success and recognition in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Their first album, Appetite for Destruction (1987), has sold in excess of 30 million copies worldwide and is the best-selling debut album of all time in the U.S. with 18 million units sold. Its full-length follow-ups, the twin albums Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II (1991), were also widely successful; they respectively debuted at No. 2 and No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and have sold a combined 35 million copies worldwide.
After 1994, following the conclusion of their two-and-a-half-year Use Your Illusion Tour, Rose disappeared from public life for several years, while the band disintegrated due to personal and musical differences. As its sole remaining original member, he was able to continue working under the Guns N’ Roses banner because he had legally obtained the band name. In 2001, he resurfaced with a new line-up of Guns N’ Roses at Rock in Rio 3 and subsequently played periodic concert tours to promote the long-delayed Chinese Democracy (2008), which undersold the music industry’s commercial expectations despite positive reviews upon its release. In 2012, Rose was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Guns N’ Roses, though he declined to attend the event and requested exclusion from the Hall. In 2016, the same year as he toured with AC/DC, Rose partially reunited the “classic” lineup of Guns N’ Roses and has since toured the world as part of the Not in This Lifetime… Tour.
Axl Rose was born William Bruce Rose Jr. in Lafayette, Indiana, the oldest child of Sharon Elizabeth (née Lintner), then 16 years old and still in high school, and William Bruce Rose, then 20 years old. His father has been described as “a troubled and charismatic local delinquent,” and the pregnancy was unplanned. His parents separated when Rose was approximately two years old, prompting his father to abduct and allegedly molest him before disappearing from Lafayette. His mother remarried Stephen L. Bailey and changed her son’s name to William Bruce Bailey. He has two younger siblings—a sister, Amy, and a half-brother, Stuart. As young children, both Rose and his siblings were regularly beaten. Until the age of 17, Rose believed Bailey was his natural father. He never met his biological father as an adult; William Rose Sr. was murdered in Marion, Illinois, in 1984 by a criminal acquaintance who was convicted even though the body was never recovered. Rose did not learn about the murder until years later.
The Bailey household was very religious; Rose and his family attended a Pentecostal church, where he was required to attend services three to eight times per week and even taught Sunday school. Rose later recalled an oppressive upbringing, stating, “We’d have televisions one week, then my stepdad would throw them out because they were Satanic. I wasn’t allowed to listen to music. Women were evil. Everything was evil.” He accused his stepfather of physically abusing him and his siblings and sexually abusing his sister. Rose found solace in music from an early age. He sang in the church choir from the age of five and performed at services with his brother and sister under the name the Bailey Trio. At Jefferson High School, he participated in the school chorus and studied piano. A second baritone, Rose began developing “different voices” during chorus practice to confuse his teacher. He eventually formed a band with his friends, one of whom was Jeff Isbell, later known as Izzy Stradlin. He also befriended a girl called Anna Hoon, who would later introduce him to her little brother, Shannon.
At the age of 17, while going through insurance papers in his parents’ home, Rose learned of his biological father’s existence, and he unofficially readopted his birth name. However, he referred to himself only as W. Rose, because he did not want to share a first name with his biological father. Following the discovery of his true family origins, Rose became a local juvenile delinquent in Lafayette; he was arrested more than twenty times on charges such as public intoxication and battery and served jail terms up to three months. After Lafayette authorities threatened to charge him as a habitual criminal, Rose moved to Los Angeles, California, in December 1982. After moving to Los Angeles, he became so engrossed in his band AXL that his friends suggested he call himself Axl Rose. He legally changed his name to W. Axl Rose prior to signing his contract with Geffen Records in March 1986.
In early 1986, Rose began a relationship with model Erin Everly, the daughter of singer Don Everly of The Everly Brothers. He wrote the song “Sweet Child o’ Mine” for her, and Everly appeared in the accompanying music video. Rose and Everly were married on April 28, 1990, in Las Vegas. Less than a month later, Rose first filed for divorce. The couple later reconciled, during which Everly became pregnant. She suffered a miscarriage in October 1990, which deeply affected Rose, who had wanted to start a family. Everly left Rose the following November after an altercation; they annulled their marriage in January 1991. In 1994, Everly filed a suit accusing Rose of physical and emotional abuse throughout their relationship. The lawsuit was settled out of court.
In mid-1991, Rose became involved in a tumultuous high-profile relationship with supermodel Stephanie Seymour. During their relationship, Seymour appeared in the music videos for “Don’t Cry” and “November Rain”. Rose became deeply attached to Seymour’s young son, Dylan, and tried to be a good father figure for the child, as there had been none in his own life. Seymour and Rose became engaged in February 1993 but separated three weeks later.
Axl Rose’s line can be found through the Boring’s lineage.