Gordon Gano is best known as the lead singer of the Violent Femmes, a band whose name is as oxymoronic as Gano himself ("femme" being a Milwaukee slang term for a wimp). This religious rebel is one of the rare musicians who genuinely defies standard genre labels. Nothing is out of bounds for the artist who turned teenage angst into a raw but precise (and always tuneful) art form.

Gordon James Gano was born into a devoutly Baptist family on June 7, 1963, in New York City. The son of a minister, Gano's family included eight children, most of whom were artistically inclined. Gordon started playing guitar when he was in the sixth grade, had begun composing his own music and lyrics by the following year. Early influences included a varity of country artists such as Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, as well as Broadway hits and church hymns. It was around this time that the Ganos packed up and left New York in favour of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

By high school, Gordon's music career had progressed to appearances at local clubs and coffee houses. As a member of the National Honor Society, Gano was a good student with a thriving extra curricular life. He was also immensely popular among his peers due to his oddball reputation (he apparently wore his bathrobe every Monday as if to indicate to the school administration that he would much rather be in bed than at school). Antics such as these in fact won Gano the Prom King's crown in his senior year. Gano clearly had creative energy to spare, some which was channeled into acting. In an interesting sidenote, a teenaged Gano actually auditioned for the role in the film Ordinary People that went on to win Timothy Hutton an Oscar.

Following one of Gano's performances in his senior year, he was introduced to a punk musician a few years older than himself by the name of Brian Ritchie. The first performance for the duo, whose collabortive efforts would span three decades, was to be a ballad sung at Gordon's National Honor Society induction. While it was expected that Gano and Ritchie would perform a song in keeping with the solemnity of the moment, the two had other plans. Halfway through a their act, they launched into Gimme the Car, a raucous ode to a drunken sexual encounter. While the students loved the song, the administration was hardly pleased, and Gordon was suspended from school and stripped of his NHS membership.

Following the recruitment of Victor DeLorenzo on drums, Gano and Ritchie formed the Violent Femmes about a month after the NHS incident. Gordon spent his days working as an encyclopedia salesman, and later in a sandwich shop, while trying to hit the big time with his band at night. Fortunately for him, their big break came while the band was "busking" outside of a Milwaukee theatre when James Honeyman Scott (the guitarist for the Pretenders) happened by, heard the band, and asked them to open at that night's Pretenders show.

1983 saw the Femmes record their first (eponymous) album, which was a modest success at the time. Today, their debut album holds the puzzling distinction of being the first album to ever reach platinum status without ever cracking the Billboard 200. Today, the album is in fact approaching triple platinum status due to the longevity of songs like Add It Up, Kiss Off, and of course, Blister in the Sun.

The band released their second (1984's Hallowed Ground) and third (1986's The Blind Leading the Naked) albums before breaking up in 1986 due to personality differences. Brian began working on solo projects while Victor tried his hand at producing. Gordon joined up with vocalist Zena von Heppinstall, Patrice Moran (bass/vocals), and Fernando Menendez (drums) to form a gospel group, The Mercy Seat, who released a self-titled album in 1987. By 1988, the band reunited and their fourth album 3 was released, which produced a hit pop single with the song Nightmares.

After 11 Violent Femmes albums (including one which only received an online release on emusic.com and another only released in Australia), three record labels, and over two decades, Gano is still going strong. His first solo album, Higher Ground was released in 2002, featuring collaborations with the likes of Lou Reed, PJ Harvey, and John Cale.

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