If you were a teenager in Washington, D.C., in the Eighties, as I was, and if you didn’t quite fit in, as I didn’t, chances are good that you were drawn to the punk scene. If so, then you were a fan of the seminal hardcore punk act Bad Brains and their frontman, HR (Paul D. Hudson, born 1956). Born in London to Jamaican parents, HR’s adopted moniker stands for “Human Rights,” reflecting an outward-looking concern that is genuine, almost naïve. His rejection of rockist hedonism, and espousal of thinking and living in a positive manner, was fundamental to the development of the D.C. punk scene’s “straight edge” philosophy. (Today, social consciousness in punk seems hackneyed; back then, it was significant.) More importantly, Bad Brains was the one and only band that rose above all the bickering about which coast had the best punk scene: they were tighter, faster, and more eclectic (punk, ska, reggae, jazz) than anyone else; HR’s music and stage performance exhibited a controlled frenzy that shaped the hardcore movement. His solo career consists of a number of albums that are more reggae and mellow, but no less impressive musically. HR’s increasingly nonsensical answers to interview questions are, to me, endearing. A few unfortunate homophobic remarks are the only blemish on his extraordinary legacy.
PUNK, POST-PUNK & ALTERNATIVE on HILOBROW: Joey Ramone | Dez Cadena | Jello Biafra | HR | Mike Watt | Vivienne Westwood | Iggy Pop | D. Boon | John Lydon | Henry Rollins | Palmolive | Plastic Bertrand | Kira Roessler | Lisa Carver | Frank Black | Ari Up | Gary Panter | Mike Watt | Ian Curtis | Paul Simonon | Darby Crash | Penelope Houston | Exene Cervenka | Sid Vicious | Andrew Eldritch | Kate Pierson | Richard Hell | Paul Westerberg | Lux Interior | Ian Dury | Stiv Bators | Tom Verlaine | Colin Newman | Johnny Thunders | Poison Ivy | Green Gartside | Lydia Lunch | Mark E. Smith | David Byrne | Debbie Harry | Captain Sensible | Mark Mothersbaugh | Kim Gordon | ALSO: The Original Generation X (1954–63) and the birth of DIY | The Original Stooge | Origin of the Pogo | Shocking Blocking: Rock’n’Roll High School | Punk fanzines from the 1970s | Post-Punk and New Wave on HiLobrow
On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Leó Szilárd.
READ MORE about members of the Original Generation X (1954-63).