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Halford, Rob (b. 1951)  
 
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With a four-and-a-half octave vocal range, Rob Halford--dubbed "The Metal God" by fans and critics--is one of the most talented vocalists in heavy metal music. Though many of his friends, family members, and fellow musicians have known for quite some time that he is gay, he did not come out publicly until 1998 in an interview that aired on MTV.

Shortly after proclaiming his sexual identity in that interview, Halford was profiled in The Advocate, where he spoke openly about his sexuality and his decision to come out in the media.

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Halford had met and performed with the queercore band Pansy Division--who encouraged him to come out--at several gay pride events in 1997. Even though he had support from some friends and fellow musicians, coming out publicly was especially difficult because of the small number of gay metal artists who are out.

Additionally, as a recovering alcoholic, Halford did not feel like he was in a place where he could come out publicly until he was more secure in himself.

In The Advocate, Halford described a volatile relationship with a lover that was fueled by drugs and alcohol. After a particularly violent fight, he realized he needed to leave for his own safety. As he got into a waiting cab, his lover pulled out a gun and killed himself. Halford points to this event as being the moment that pushed him into recovery.

After twelve years of sobriety, he finally arrived at a "great clarity and . . . great peace" about himself and his sexuality, and so the time was right to come out publicly.

In 1999, the one-man punk band Atom and His Package released the song "Hats Off to Halford" (on the CD Making Love, No Idea Records) as a tribute to Halford and his courage to come out in the metal world.

Early Life and Judas Priest

Born Robert John Arthur Halford into a working-class family in Walsall, England (northwest of Birmingham), on August 25, 1951, Halford began singing in school choirs as a teenager. After leaving school at the age of sixteen, he worked as a lighting engineer in a theater.

Halford plays several instruments, including the guitar, bass, keyboards, harmonica, and drums. Although he has played harmonica and guitar on a few scattered recordings and often composes songs on the guitar, he does not consider himself to be enough of an accomplished musician to play instruments while performing on stage.

In 1973, Sue Halford introduced her brother Rob to her future husband bassist Ian Hill, who was organizing a band and looking for a singer and drummer. Halford joined the new band, Judas Priest, which included K.K. Downing on guitar and Hill on bass, and brought along drummer John Hinch from his previous band, Hiroshima.

Guitarist and keyboardist Glenn Tipton joined the band in 1974, and they released their first album, Rocka Rolla, later that same year. Though the band has undergone several changes in drummers over the years, Halford and Hill, along with the two-pronged guitar attack of Downing and Tipton, would form the musical core of the band until Halford's departure from Priest in 1993.

Priest followed Rocka Rolla with several more releases during the 1970s, including Killing Floor (1978), which was released in the U.S. as Hell Bent for Leather and was the first Priest album to go platinum.

It was also around this time that Halford began to create his famous leather-clad stage persona, which he modeled largely on fashions of the gay leather scene. While this leather iconography was interpreted as gay by those familiar with the leather subculture, many of Priest's fans (as well as critics) interpreted Halford's hyper-masculinized stage presence as confirmation of a macho heterosexuality.

Priest received quite a bit of attention in the U.S. as a result of the single "Hell Bent for Leather," and their success continued to build with the 1980 release of British Steel, which included popular radio singles "Living after Midnight" and "Breaking the Law." Popular success continued with the singles "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" and "Defenders of the Faith," which appeared on Screaming for Vengeance (1982).

The band's popularity began to wane a bit in the late 1980s--Turbo (1986) and Ram It Down (1988) were critically low points for Priest--but it picked up again with the release of Painkiller in 1990.

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Rob Halford performing with Judas Priest in Moline, Illinois in 2005. Photograph by Zach Petersen.
  
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