August 10, 2011 – Jani Lane, (Warrant) born on February 1, 1964 as John Kennedy Oswald later changed to John Patrick Oswald. The youngest of Eileen and Robert Oswald’s five children, John grew up just east of Akron in Brimfield, along with his older brother (Eric) and 3 older sisters (Marcine, Michelle and Victoria). Eric was an accomplished guitarist and Lane himself learned to play drums, guitar and piano by ear at age 6 with his brother, Eric and sister, Vicky, guiding, teaching, and participating with him. Lane grew up listening to Cleveland rock station WMMS “The Buzzard”), and was introduced to all types of bands and music by his brother, Eric. With his sister Vicky’s connections in the music scene with many bands and with his parents Bob and Eileen’s aid, he quickly made a name for himself at a very young age. Lane played drums under the name “Mitch Dynamite” in clubs by age 11, again with the prompting of his sister and her boyfriend’s band “Pokerface”, he started his climb to bigger and better things. (“Mitch Dynamite” is listed as the drummer in the credits for Warrant’s Latest and Greatest CD). Throughout the years, Lane would sometimes jump behind the kit to play with his band, and he had played the drums in various formats and gigs, always enjoying “jam sessions” at home and in public with his brother and sister as back-ups.
By the time Lane was 11, his siblings had left for college or marriage. He graduated from Field High School in 1982 with many options available to him in the immediate future, including football scholarships at Kent State and Ohio State, drama scholarships, etc. He was an Honor Roll and above-average, intelligent student from kindergarten through high school. He chose his passion much to the chagrin of his parents, who wanted him to continue his education.
After making a name for himself in Ohio, Jani relocated to Florida in 1983 with Dorian Gray. He eventually formed Plain Jane in FL with future Warrant bandmate Steven (Chamberlin) Sweet and longtime friend/bassist Al Collins. It was at this time Lane adopted the stage name “Jani Lane.” Lane got the name from his German grandparents’ pronunciation and spelling of Johnny as “Jani.” They said it as Yay-nee and that stuck. While living in FL, Lane began vocal training with vocal coach/trainer Ron Feldman.
Jani, Al and Steven recorded the first Plain Jane 4-track demos at their rented house in Winter Park, FL before relocating to CA in the spring of ’84. Jani loved FL and was not interested in moving to Los Angeles at first but the music scene on the Hollywood Sunset Strip seemed like the place to be if a band wanted to get a record deal so they rented a trailer and headed west. They broke down in almost every state on the way to CA, leaving the boys broke by the time they landed at the Hollywood Bowl Motel. They put the last of their change together, bought a quart of milk and a loaf of bread and made sandwiches with mustard packets while taking turns calling their parents for cash.
Now living in Los Angeles, the boys took various odd jobs to survive. Struggling to make ends meet as a musician, Lane resorted to working in a pornographic video warehouse. It was harder to pay the bills in CA, so the band and new road crew plus a few girlfriends pooled their wages and lived in a 2 bedroom condo rented by new Plain Jane guitarist Paul Noble. At one time there were 13 people living in the crowded space. Everyone pitched in to have a stage show built that included a spinning drum riser. The band rehearsed for months until Plain Jane was ready to take on Hollywood.
By 1985, Plain Jane had become a regular feature in the L.A. club circuit and opened many shows for a band called Warrant. Coincidentally, Plain Jane’s bassist and guitarist left the band on the same day Warrant’s singer and drummer quit. It seemed as though the stars were lining up for the camps to merge into one monster of a rock band. Erik Turner, who had founded Warrant in July 1984, was impressed by Plain Jane’s songwriting and vocal performance, and invited Lane and Sweet to jam with his band at Hollywood’s db Sound in September 1986.
After generating more notoriety on the club circuit, Warrant began to attract the attention of record labels. Following an abortive deal with A&M records over a contribution to the soundtrack for the motion picture Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the band signed with Columbia Records. The Columbia deal came via the partnering of Warrant and manager Tom Hulet (known for working with The Beach Boys, Elvis Presley, and others). In true heavy metal fashion, Lane bought and smashed a black Corvette with his share of the money from the band’s record deal advance. Tom Hulet then became Lane’s mentor and friend until his death from cancer in 1993.
The group began to work on its legendary debut, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, a process that led Lane into a psychiatric hospital for a nervous breakdown after he caught his best friend having an affair with his girlfriend. Once he fully recovered, Lane recorded his vocals and the album went on to be one of the biggest-selling records of the glam metal era.
As lead vocalist with Warrant, Lane wrote all of the band’s material including four Top 40 hit singles: “Down Boys”, “Sometimes She Cries”, “Big Talk” and the number 2 Billboard Hot 100 hit “Heaven” for Warrant’s debut double platinum album, which peaked at number 10 on The Billboard 200. Lane also wrote another four Top 40 hit singles: “Cherry Pie,” “I Saw Red,” “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “Blind Faith” for the second album, the double platinum Cherry Pie in 1990, which peaked at number 7 on the Billboard 200. Lane also co-wrote and performed with Warrant the song “The Power” in the 1992 movie Gladiator. The band also released their third album in 1992, the critically acclaimed Gold record Dog Eat Dog which peaked at number 25 on the Billboard 200.
Even though the band’s follow-up Cherry Pie reached double platinum ranking over time, it failed to meet the debut’s success; this, combined with the emergence and popularity of grunge, led to Warrant being dropped by their label. Lane left for the first time in 1993 to pursue a solo career (also enforced by the death of his friend Tom Hulet) he returned several months later, helping the band to secure a new record with Tom Lipsky of CMC International. The band then recorded Ultraphobic in 1995, Belly to Belly in 1996, Greatest & Latest in 1999 and a cover album Under the Influence in 2001.
Lane left Warrant again in 2002 to pursue a solo career. He released Back Down to One in 2003, but shortly after was admitted to a rehab center for alcohol and drug-related exhaustion. He rebounded, and after a few acting roles and appearances on compilations, attempted to restart his own version of Warrant. Lawyers for the original band quickly struck this down. He later participated in VH1’s reality series Celebrity Fit Club. He left for the last time in 2008, citing writing differences.
In summer 2010, Lane toured with Great White, filling in for singer Jack Russell, who was recuperating from surgery after suffering internal complications.
In a genre of music where survival of the fittest is not just a cliché but a way of life, Jani Lane embodied the spirit of a decade of excess, hedonism, and rock & roll. As the lead singer of Warrant, he helped to propel the band into the upper stratosphere with such hits as “Heaven,” “Down Boys,” and “Cherry Pie.”
On August 11, 2011 Jani was found dead at the Comfort Inn Hotel in Woodland Hills, California. Although no official cause of death was determined, it was most likely alcohol poisoning related. He was 47.
A mysterious identification note was found on Warrant singer Jani Lane’s person when his body was discovered. The note, written by a friend, said simply ‘I am Jani Lane’ and contained a phone number. Law enforcement sources revealed that this was not the first time such a note had been written in case someone found the rocker, who had not carried formal identification for for some time.
Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash tweeted: ‘Just heard about Jani Lane. What a shame. RIP man.’
Poison frontman Bret Michaels wrote: ‘We’d like to offer our deepest condolences to the family of Jani Lane regarding their loss. Respectfully, Bret and all at MEGI.’
VH1’s Jennifer Gimenez said: ‘It is very sad and my heart is saddened to hear the news that I lost my lovable friend Jani Lane.’
Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx tweeted: ‘I just heard the sad news about Janie Lane. So hard to swallow when people have kids. RIP.’
And comic Jim Florentine wrote: ‘So sad to hear about the passing of Jani Lane. He just taped an episode of That Metal Show 3 weeks ago and was in great spirits. RIP Buddy.’
Stryper frontman Michael Sweet posted online: ‘I’m still in shock… I was just sitting in a dressing room with him less than a month ago. Had I known, I would have spent more time with him.
‘He was a good-hearted guy with a gentle soul. I know he had a tough life and many battles, but who doesn’t? He seemed to be genuinely working so hard at sorting things out and getting things in order. It’s a true shame.’