You Say It's Your Birthday: Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against The Machine

You Say Its Your Birthday

Today marks the 28th birthday of Rage Against The Machine's politically outspoken lead vocalist, Zack de la Rocha. Rage is probably best known for their punk-inspired hip-hop/metal fusion, which is topped off with confrontational vocals by de la Rocha. De la Rocha was born in Long Beach, Calif., and grew up with his mother in Irvine, Calif., after his father -- a Spanish mural painter -- and mother separated. He fronted a band called Inside Out in L.A. before hooking up with guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Timmy C and drummer Brad Wilk to form Rage in 1991. They put together a 12-song cassette, of which they sold 5,000 copies at their live gigs around L.A. that year. Rage signed with Epic in July of 1992 and earned a devoted following while opening for bands such as Porno For Pyros and Pearl Jam. In 1993, they released their debut album, Rage Against The Machine , to rave reviews and began their politcal activism by playing a 'Rock For Choice' benefit. That same year, Rage appeared nude at a Lollapalooza show in Pennsylvania with the letters 'P-M-R-C' scrawled across their chests and duct tape on their mouths, protesting the Parents Music Resource Center, a group that supports censorship of music.

In 1994, Rage Against The Machine finally peaked at #45 after being on the charts for 89 weeks. Later that year, the album was certified platinum (more than 1 million sold). In April 1994, the band organized a benefit show for the Leonard Peltier defense fund, a Native American on death row for allegedly murdering two FBI agents. 1995 furthered Rage's involvement in politics when they held a benefit concert in Washington, D.C., for Mumia Abu-Jamal, another minority on death row who had been convicted of murdering a police officer, despite conflicting evidence. In 1996, Rage released their second album, Evil Empire , which debuted at #1 on the U.S. charts with sales of 250,000 copies in the first week. They followed it up by performing in the first Tibetan Freedom Concert in San Francisco, Calif. Rage has recently been involved in an anti-Guess? campaign, speaking against the clothing corporation's alleged use of sweatshops. Just last week, de la Rocha joined in a large L.A. protest over the massacre of 45 Indian peasants in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

Other birthdays: Ray Price, 72; William Lee Gordon (Oak Ridge Boys), 59; Cynthia Robinson (Sly and the Family Stone), 52; Blixa Bargeld (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Einsturzende Neubauten), 39; and Raekwon (Wu-Tang Clan), 30.