Overcoming Impossibility: Rob Halford’s 50 years of heavy metal mastery

By Bradley J. Burt-Editor-in-chief

Rob Halford, singer for Judas Priest, was born in Birmingham, England on August 25, 1951.

Halford leads by empowering fans as a godfather of heavy metal. As an entrepreneur, Halford trademarked his nickname, Metal God, which is what his fans refer to him as.

Halford lives the lifestyle of a legend.

Little do fans know, according to a 2010 interview with Motor Trend, “I didn’t pass my driving test till I was 38,” Halford shared.

During the interview, Halford boasted how much he loved driving his 2006 Cadillac DTS while living in Arizona.

Halford told the article’s author, K.S. Wang, he was chauffeured most of his life. Halford’s love for speed followed him throughout the band’s 50-year heavy metal reign.

Judas Priest battled coming out of the pandemic, seeking induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On Saturday November 5th, 2022, the hard work paid off and the band was inducted.

The group worked hard with fans making the monumental event happen. As a reward, fans witnessed Halford sing a duet with Dolly Parton, who was also inducted.  

Both smiled in celebration while singing “Jolene.”

In 2022, the band kicked off their 50 years of heavy metal tour, while mastering the art of being legendary.

50 years of heavy metal music making watched singers come and go.

Halford was not the band’s original front man though. Halford’s debut happened when his sister introduced him to her partner at-the-time, Ian Hill, who was Judas Priest’s long-standing bass player and cofounder, where she scored him the job.

50 years later, Halford set out with his band on tour commemorating their debut and played songs from their earlier album, “British Steel,” which was noted by Halford as one of their all-time greatest achievements. On March 13, 2022, I turned 47, and witnessed the tour at Zappo’s Theater in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Overcoming the Impossibility of Stigma

Growing up, Halford’s overcoming of impossibility with being secretly attracted to men, led him through a hidden life due to hetero dominant metal hard-edged norms between the ‘70s and ‘80s, which started when Halford was a boy.

I later learned he had a secret. Little did I know growing up that while Judas Priest won hearts and blew minds, Halford was about to begin his journey of coming out with his sexuality, which led to advocating for equal rights as a “homosexualin 1998, according to Blabbermouth.net.  

Looking back in time for the 50-year heavy metal reflection, the hard driving heavy metal retrospective viewpoint of Halford, provided stories about twists and turns that could have ended the band.

The band dealt with controversial issues during the ‘80s. Nonetheless, Halford was my saint growing up in a divorced home listening to Judas Priest while drowning the fact that my parents split.

Halford blew my mind with the song “The Sentinel.”

The song would lead me to places on my dirt bike like the railroad tracks where we would hang out with junior high kids.

We would wear our Judas Priest logos on our jean jackets. We all kept our cigarettes in the inside pocket next to the black permanent marker we used while proclaiming our rebellious stake as troubled youth.  

I grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin, as an alderman’s son, who’s community shunned those who were open about their sexuality during sermons on Sunday.

While sitting in church anxiously awaiting listening to Judas Priest after, we never suspected Halford was hiding himself to protect his fame and fan following.

Halford was a gifted singer with a golden voice, which does not stand in the way of his talent.

The hetero dominant society we grew up in did not allow us the freedom to wear our jean jackets in the basement of church gatherings, who warned us about listening to Judas Priest and “getting high.”

At the time, the band was dealing with parental advisement over a suicide pact claiming Priest influenced the ordeal. The incident almost ended the band.

Defenders of the Faith was my first cassette I bought at Exclusive Company on College Ave. “The Sentinel” drove my pre-teen cigarette smoking angst into sipping booze in my parent’s liquor cabinet and sneaking out to wonder College Ave. on the weekends.

Notably, the angst of Halford’s manifestation of fame, started with the “British Steel” album during the cold war and performed events like “Live Aid” and raised awareness about oppression that eventually witnessed the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

50 Years of Heavy Metal: The Halford Legacy

From introspect, Rob Halford was my Archangel growing up and looked up to him for being a bad ass. Halford fueled my rebellion.

One thing fans love about Rob Halford is his falsetto screams and his stage presence with his motorcycle, which his fans adore.

He is also notorious for reinventing fashion with his biker attire on stage. He is tall, veering around 6’8.

I met him at Ozzfest. His screams were heard for miles that day at Alpine Valley.

From a triumphant standpoint, this year, Halford brought back his friend and songwriter from the ‘80s, Glenn Tipton. Tipton played three songs at the end of the show in Vegas for Parkinson’s disease awareness.

Tipton was also the other cofounder. Tipton’s condition took him away from the band. Seeing him play was like being a part of a victory celebration. The show was one of the greatest birthday gifts a Judas Priest fan could ask for.

Halford is notorious for beating the odds and overcoming impossibility of performing in a hetero dominant entertainment field. Musicians and fans in the ‘80s flashed sex appeal.

Halford kept his sexuality a secret but subversively suggested his sexuality in songs like “You got another thing comin’.”

The band transformed their sound and style when new drummer, Scott Travis, made his debut on the “Painkiller” album.  He replaced drummer Dave Holland due to a rape incident involving a 17-year-old boy. On January 16, 2018, Holland died at age 69, according to Rolling Stone.

The band quickly snapped back after the Holland controversy. The British Steel legacy remained.

Stephen Hill of Metal Hammer shared Halford’s words during an interview on March 2, 2022, whose headline states, “We’ve never made a record like British Steel, and we never will.”

The author’s feature shared insight about Halford’s sexuality during the interview. The story style is a “Q and A” format that provided Halford’s responses.

Hill asked, “When was the first time you became aware of your sexuality?”

Halford’s partial response noted, “you start to question yourself: ‘What’s wrong with me? Am I a freak?’ because you hear people saying you should be locked up for it. As a young person, it does your head in. You have to learn to deal with all of that.”

By 1990, the album “Painkiller” opened many opportunities for Halford’s sexuality and image.

The ‘aha’ moment occurred when the band toured after the album’s release. Halford told Kerrang according to the “Song Facts.com” website that “Painkiller embodies what metal is – it’s everything a full-on screamy metal track should have. Everybody is going a million miles an hour on it, and yet the melody still comes across. That statement that ‘He is the Painkiller’ – you get 30,000 metalheads chanting it at a festival and it’s a great feeling. It’s become a very important song for Priest, and for metal too, I think.”

“Painkiller” became the opportunity to build a second empire and did. The album’s success with Travis opened a portal to audiences young and old.

Taking Action

Surprisingly, the major choices Halford and Judas Priest needed to make led to finding the right drummer.

From an entertainment addition, Travis provides commentary and drum solos that built the second empire into an icon.

Between sexual identity and following the bad press with the Dave Holland scandal, the band had to reinvent itself.

Travis opened the door and the band celebrated 50 years of success as a well-oiled heavy metal machine. The group acted by delivering on their word each time a new album was released. Halford stands up for what he believes and his band backs him for his sexuality.

The awareness required for the band’s success was trusting Halford’s intuition with coming out.

The secret would not have to stay hidden for long and helped those dealing with stigma locate resources along with fundraising for Africa with Live Aid. The band became resourceful by sticking together and forging what they believed.

As a front man, Halford’s reliability provided a solid voice with each performance through self-care and adversity over oppression from a hetero dominant society.

Halford’s advocacy opened many new doors for the oppressed by coming clean about his sexuality and staying true to his convictions. The miracle of the 50-year iconic feat revels in the truth that fans stayed true throughout the duration.

50 years of heavy metal mastery resulted from fan loyalty, which drives the band’s legacy and success.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s