Love ’em or hate ’em, Warrant wrote some of the hookiest hard rock songs of the late 80s.early 90s and the man responsible for the best known of them was their exuberant frontman Jani Lane.
Lane, who began his musical career as a drummer, joined Warrant in 1986 and led them for the next 18 years until he finally parted ways from them in 2004.
Jani Lane, born John Kennedy Oswald on February 1, 1964 in Akron, Ohio, was introduced to music early by his guitarist older brother Eric.He began learning the drums at age 4 and by the time he was 11 he was playing with bands in local clubs. After graduating high school, he joined local band Cyren in 1982 before moving to Florida the following year where he played in Dorian Gray for a while until he formed Plain Jane with Steven Sweet, thereby moving from drums to lead vocals. Taking inspiration from the way his German grandparents pronounced his real name, John Oswald became Jani Lane at the same time.
Lane and Sweet soon took Plain Jane to LA, working hard enough to become a regular club fixture and causing enough of a buzz for Warrant’s Erik Turner to invite both men to join his band as replacements for Adam Shore and Max Asher in September 1986. Before long, Lane had become Warrant’s principal song writer, penning all tracks on the band’s debut album Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich that would spawn three US Top 40 hits including the #2 single “Heaven”, instantly propelling the band into the upper echelons of the hair metal hierarchy. The Cherry Pie album from the following year became Warrant’s worldwide breakthrough thanks to Lane’s joyously anthemic title track; it also included the autobiographical power balled “I Saw Red” and fan favourite “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. The follow-up Dog Eat Dog showed a real flowering of Lane’s song writing as the band experimented with darker themes and even progressive elements, but the rise of grunge and the enormous shift in the rock market away from bands like Warrant meant it was far less successful than the previous albums and the band wouldn’t record again for three years. Lane then left Warrant in early 1993, only to rejoin eighteen months later; their 1995 album Ultraphobic was lyrically inspired by the singer’s bitter divorce.
He finally split from Warrant in 2004 due in the main to his continuing struggle with alcohol. His first solo album, Back Down to One, written with Alice Cooper/Pretty Boy Floyd guitarist Kerri Kelli was released in 2002. In 2005 he appeared on Celebrity Fit Club with actor Gary Busey, eventually losing 10kg. Warrant and Lane renewed their association in January 2008, but the reunion only lasted until September. In the years following, Lane worked hard to battle his addictions and spoke frankly about his problems with drugs and booze. As recently as July 2011 he appeared on an episode of That Metal Show with Stryper’s Michael Sweet and Taime Downe from Faster Pussycat.
On August 11, 2011, Jani Lane was found dead in his room at the Comfort Inn in Woodland Hills, California. He was 47. No cause of death has yet been released. Jani Lane had an extraordinary but under-rated talent for song writing. His tunes and dynamics as a frontman remain an inspiration to many.