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Jani Lane, Former Lead Singer of Warrant – 1964-2011

Jani Lane
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

The passing of former Warrant singer Jani Lane at age 47 brings a reaction of shock and sadness from his friends and musical peers. Lane was found dead in a Woodland Hills, Calif. hotel room on Thursday (Aug. 11). The cause of death has not been released at this time. He had been married three times, leaving behind his current wife Kimberly Nash and four children.

Born as John Kennedy Oswald in Akron, Ohio on February 1, 1964, Lane was the youngest of five children. His older brother Eric had already had picked up the guitar, so Jani learned how to play drums at the age of six. By age 11, he was playing his first professional gigs as a drummer under the name ‘Mitch Dynamite.’

Music wasn’t his only love, though –  he was also a talented football player. However, he soon grew bored and frustrated with his football coach, who didn’t like his long hair. He found a love for musical theater and was offered a partial scholarship to Kent State University. Lane soon realized, though, that rock music was his real passion. As he continued to explore that path, he also eventually realized that he really wanted to be out in front as a lead singer.

Lane played in a variety of bands during his time growing up in Ohio, and would later relocate to Florida where he met future Warrant drummer Steven Sweet. He adopted the stage name of ‘Jani Lane’ at this point, which came partially from his German grandparents, who spelled his given name as ‘Jani’ and pronounced it as “Yay-nee.”

Sweet and Lane moved their musical aspirations to Los Angeles in late ’85 and began to make a good amount of noise with their band Plain Jane. The scene brought them into contact with rhythm guitarist Erik Turner, who had formed his own band, Warrant, in 1984. He invited Sweet and Lane to join the band after being impressed with Plain Jane’s performances and songwriting.

They signed a record deal with Columbia Records for their 1989 album ‘Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich,’ which charted Top Ten on the Billboard 200, launching three huge Top 40 singles for the group: ‘Down Boys,’ ‘Sometimes She Cries’ and ‘Heaven,’ an older song that Lane and Sweet had recorded initially with Plain Jane.

Just like that, Warrant was riding high amongst the so-called “hair bands” that were popular during the late ‘80s, and the success of the group would continue similarly with their next release, 1990′s ‘Cherry Pie.’

‘Cherry Pie’ is quite possibly best known for the title track’s memorable video, with model Bobbie Brown providing the eye candy in the extremely sexually unsubtle clip. She and Lane met for the first time on the set, and were married in 1991, later divorcing after having a daughter together, Taylar Jane Lane.

The ‘Cherry Pie’ album charted at No. 7 on the Top Ten, and spawned three more Top 40 singles with the title track, ‘I Saw Red’ and ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin.’ At a point when it seemed like things couldn’t go any better, the success of Warrant’s music suddenly fell victim to the rising popularity of grunge. (Lane often told of finding his band’s picture replaced by one of Alice in Chains at their record label’s headquarters to illustrate the shift.) Although the band tried to toughen up their sound with the release of ‘Dog Eat Dog’ in 1992, their record sales flagged.

Warrant and Lane parted ways for the first time in 1993, although he eventually returned to the band in mid-1994, recording four more albums with the group prior to departing again in 2004. At the time of his exit, Lane had finally released his first solo CD, ‘Back Down To One.’ He continued to dabble with various solo recordings through the remainder of the decade, interrupted only by a brief and unsuccessful reunion with Warrant that lasted just a few months in 2008.

Struggling with drug and alcohol addiction throughout his career, Lane made many attempts to clean up his act, with the most high profile move being his appearance on ‘Celebrity Fit Club’ in 2005. In 2010, he was again in the headlines, having been busted for a DUI and subsequently ordered to spend 120 days in jail for the incident.

He briefly lent his vocal talents to fellow ‘80s rockers Great White, stepping in vocally last year for frontman Jack Russell, who took time away from the band to deal with his own issues. At the time of his death, Lane had been talking about an official release of his oft-bootlegged ‘Jabberwocky’ solo demos and was back at work, writing and recording new music.

Lane always maintained a love for his hometown of Akron, offering support to his fellow Cleveland/Akron area musicians (UCR HQ, as we often proudly state!), including guitarist Billy Morris, who he enlisted to play guitar in a later lineup of Warrant. As his success cooled, Lane eventually would move back to Akron, which became his home base again for several years.

Reflecting on one of his most famous songs, which has been subject to perhaps more than it’s fair share of abuse, Lane recently said “Yes, I love the song ‘Cherry Pie!!!’…..SWING IT!” He also expressed gratitude for his success, telling his fans “I am truly grateful for each and every one of you.”

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