The famous line “What’s in a name” in William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” suggests that names do not have any meaning. However, when it came to the life of Jani Lane, the name his parents chose for him at birth ended up spelling doom for the musician. After a long struggle with alcoholism, Lane finally died from alcohol poisoning. His friends knew it was a matter of time before he died; hence they always waited for the phone call informing them of his death. Such was the tragic life of a man once thought to have the presence of a superstar.
Becoming a Musician
According to Grunge, Lane’s formal names were John Kennedy Oswald because his parents were huge fans of the late president. Unfortunately, besides naming their son after their beloved president, they also added the president’s assassin’s name “Oswald.” The article cites that parents recognized the mistake and changed the name to John Patrick Oswald after many harassing phone calls. Still, the fact is his last name remained unchanged.
The young Lane came from a musical family, and since his brother loved listening to The Beatles, he turned Lane on to the rock stars. Before long, Lane began practicing and could play the drums at the age of six. He also learned how to play the piano and the guitar at 12, which became his favorite instrument, choosing to play it after school. Besides his musical gift, Lane was a bright student and exceptional quarterback. He would write songs and strum the guitar; he became so good at it that you would think he had taken lessons.
Lane started playing in bands and even in clubs, and according to one of his childhood friends, Randy Arehart, who talked to The Devil Strip, he could tell Lane was destined for greatness. He had a commanding aura that made those around him feel that they were sitting with someone whose star would shine.
Off to a Rough Start
Unfortunately, the star did not shine. After graduating high school, Lane’s good quarterback skills got him a scholarship to Kent State University to study musical theater. However, he had gotten so passionate about music that he gave up education to pursue music. According to Facebook, immediately after his high school graduation, Lane moved to Florida with his friends because they were determined to be a rock band. His father, however, wanted him to go to college and get a degree, and they fought when Lane chose to pursue music. For that reason, it took Lane another five years before he could go back home and face his parents.
For three years, Lane was the drummer for Dorian Gray, a cover band, and it was frustrating that he kept writing songs he could not play. He continued drumming until Dave Brooks told him to be a singer instead. The musician joined hands with Steven Chamberlin and Al Collins to form Plain Jane. They started performing in Los Angeles, but it was not an easy transition. According to Metal Sludge, they were broke, and Lane had to sell his drum set. When they got to Hollywood, they only had $20 to their name.
When performing as Plain Jane, Lane spelled his name as “Jani” but wanted it pronounced as “Johnny.” However, everyone assumed he was called Jani, so the name stuck. The band had opening acts for other famous bands like Guns N’ Roses, but they never got paid, which annoyed Lane. He contemplated moving back to Florida but finally decided to give it one more try with Warrant after he and Chamberlin got an offer to join them. Since Warrant was doing pretty well, it was the right move, and his songwriting skills were put to good use writing ballads. He wrote all the songs for Warrant, and usually, it took him at most ten minutes to come up with lyrics. However, writing “Stronger Now” took him a month, and it ended up becoming his best song because it was therapeutic to him.
On The Path to Destruction
When Lane wrote “Cherry Pie” for Warrant, he did not realize he was sealing his fate to be forever known as the “Cherry Pie Guy.” It overshadowed all his other work, and those who knew him could see he was upset that he could not move past that record. He at one point even said that he could shoot himself in the head for writing the song. Every song he wrote, he was thinking about what he could get with the money paid. Therefore, when he learned that Warrant had been signed to Columbia, he splurged his advance on a black Corvette, which he wrecked.
He started experiencing issues with the band, who would kick him out for his behavior due to alcohol. By 2009, he had become an alcoholic and was arrested for drunken driving. He posted $30,000 bail and got three months in alcohol school and 3-year probation. A year later, he was arrested once again for driving under the influence. According to Los Angeles DUI Attorney Blog, the same police officer who had arrested him in 2009 caught him drunk in 2010. Therefore, Lane was sentenced to 120 days in prison and 30 months in an alcohol education program.
In July 2011, Lane wrote his biography and revealed he was recording eight new songs. Unfortunately, that would never come to pass because, on August 11, 2011, he was found dead in a Motel room with a note that read “I am Jani Lane.” His friends ensured that he carried the note for easy identification because he never carried his ID. He died of alcohol poisoning, and his ex-wife Bobbie Brown blamed the drinking on something that happened years ago. According to Sleaze Roxx, Lane confessed to Brown that he had been drugged and raped by a member of a famous heavy metal band and their manager. Although she wanted him to go public, Lane refused and in the end, trying to fight his own demons with alcohol led to his tragic ending.