Henry Rollins Tattoo Designs and Tattoo Symbolism

Henry Rollins is a classic American music success story. From his early days as a heavy metal rocker to what many consider the highlight of his career, his 5 year stint in Black Flag, a punk rock band that toured in the early to mid eighties, Henry Rollins has always been a strong force both on and offstage. His tattoos, like his personality and his performances, are characterized by intense, violent emotion. Sadly for the world of fans, punk aficionados and Henry Rollins scholars, he has never been convinced to discuss his tattoos and their personal significance. However, we can list the major components of his extensive tattoo collection and, in many cases, speculate about how these tattoos became part of Rollins repertoire. 

In addition to being a punk rock icon, Rollins also is a songwriter, a standup comedian, an author and an actor. He owns his own record label and publishing company, 2.13.61, which he uses to produce his own spoken word albums and also to promote a variety of charitable causes. In the past decade, he has focused his efforts largely on gay rights and gay marriage, but also began to literally support the troops while campaigning against the war by touring in Iraq but never letting his audiences forget that while he appreciated their service, he thought that the government was probably lying to them. He also campaigns to raise money for the defense of the “West Memphis Three,” a group of young men that many people believe were wrongly convicted of murder in 1993. One of these men was condemned to death and the others two received life in prison. All are under appeal but remain behind bars, much to Rollins€™ and other supporters outrage. 

Since Rollins prepared for shows by stalking around in a small pair of black shorts and squeezing an eight ball for upwards of an hour before each performance, most of his tattoos have been on display at one point or another. They are all in black and white and grayscale, and they extend down one arm in a variety of patterns. Rollins most notable and famous tattoos are as follows:

A Black Flag logo on his left bicep

Considering how hard Rollins worked to get into Black Flag, it is not surprising that he would have a tattoo of the band's distinctive black barred logo on his arm. Before Rollins started singing for the band, he worked as a roadie and learned the songs and the acts on the road. He originally got involved with the band by exchanging letters with band members and offering to let them stay at his house when they toured the area. He was a dedicated fan, and attended as many concerts as possible before going on the road and eventually becoming their vocalist. 

The Misfits skull logo

Black Flag opened shows for the Misfits during their tours in the early 1980s. The Misfits were and are a touchstone for the punk rock movement, and it is not surprising that the young Rollins would have such a tattoo on his body since he was extremely devoted to the lifestyle and ideas of punk at that time. 

Search and Destroy sun back-piece

This tattoo shows an angry sun that covers the majority of Rollins back. The sun is glaring out at the viewer and looks both furious and vengeful. It is topped with the words Search and Destroy. Autobiographers speculate that Rollins life on the road had turned him into a warrior who would not back down from the things he felt were important ever again. He got the tattoo over the course of the months after Black Flag completed their tour in 1985 and he was spending nearly all of his time listening to music and writing spoken word compositions in a shed in a friend's backyard. 

A large spider descending over the left collarbone

The spider is a black widow. At one point during a tour, Rollins commented jokingly on the tattoo to the audience, saying that he was fearful of spiders and that he got the tattoo hoping to develop some type of rapport with spiders by getting the tattoo. 

Rollins has many other tattoos on his body, including tribal art and a number of written-word tattoos. However, these are largely undocumented except by fans who have seen him in person, and require more research to determine why he may have gotten the tattoo designs.

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