The recent news that Kid Rock got into a dust-up on the road at a Waffle House in Atlanta brings back memories. A few days ago, Rock found himself in a verbal tussle that escalated into a brawl, and now faces misdemeanor battery charges.
Rock was never one to back away from a fight: He warred with his father before he left home at age 15, scrapped and scraped to make a living out of music before he finally found success at age 27, and has had it out with a certain ex-wife and even the ex-husband of his ex-wife as documented in countless gossip rags.
Upcoming Kid Rock Concerts
I got to know Rock in the late ‘90s, in the days before he had hits and Pam Anderson. He was a Waffle House guy then, as he is now, celebrity marriage or not. We drove around his native Detroit in a $2000 vintage Coup de Ville convertible with the top down. Rock was at the wheel with a burgundy derby on his head, a sleeveless white T-shirt on his pale torso, and a 40-ounce malt liquor between his thighs. He owned a brick bungalow in a blue-collar suburb, where he lived with his then 5-year-old son, and we drove to his dingy studio in a bombed out section of Detroit, where he was greeted like a minor local celebrity. He had headlined a string of sold-out local shows and had self-released countless records over the previous decade, but he was barely known outside of Michigan.
He would go on to sell millions of records worldwide with an improbable mix of Southern rock, blues- and country-tinged ballads, and hip-hop. And he would become an international celebrity after his on-again, off-again engagement and marriage to Anderson, and their eventual break-up.
But that success and notoriety didn’t really change Rock much, or push his music in any new directions. He has always played a bunch of instruments competently and written all his own music, even though his influences are often transparent and his lyrics sound like they were dashed off on a cocktail napkin after several rounds. On his new album, the modestly titled “Rock N Roll Jesus” (Atlantic), he initiates a shotgun marriage between Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” on the nostalgic “All Summer Long.”
“My thoughts were short, my hair was long,” Rock sings.
A man’s got to know his limitations, Clint Eastwood once said. And Rock knows his. He doesn’t pretend to be who he isn’t.
The CD cover pays homage to AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” and the flip-side image evokes “Superfly,” with a pimped-out Rock flanked by a couple of Pam Grier wanna-be’s. Inside, the music is the usual mix of guitar raunch and stoned country laments from the eight-track cassette era. Rock can be a raving boogie monster in one song, a dead-earnest balladeer in the next. He also gets in a couple of predictable shots at the ex-wife (“I found someone now who treats me better Â… She’s half your age and twice as hot”). His is an irony-free universe. He titles his songs “So Hott” and “Roll On,” and he means it.
But in the spirit of working-class rockers from the great state of Michigan—- Grand Funk Railroad, Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, Mitch Ryder—- Rock doesn’t believe music should be complicated. He’s sincere without being sanctimonious. When he weighs in on more serious subjects, his attitude is live and let live—- a refreshing if somewhat dumbfounding stance from a self-professed red-neck who has been known to wave guns around.