In the July Issue: Kid Rock
Posted By MJ On June 20, 2011 @ 3:58 pm In Cover Stories
Kid Rock’s tour names pretty much tell the story: His first big solo shows, in 1999, were billed as the Destroy Your Liver tour. Later that year, he headlined the Between the Legs tour. Since then, there’s been the White Trash on Dope tour, the American Bad Ass tour, the Cocky tour, the Rock ’n’ Roll Pain Train (in fairness, Puddle of Mudd was on the bill), and the Rock ’n’ Rebels tours, I and II.
In January, Kid Rock embarked on the Born Free tour, a name chosen partly because it’s the title of his latest album, but also because it reflects a change in his touring style. “We didn’t give a shit when we were 27,” he says, settling deep into a leather sofa in the home studio of his rural Michigan spread. “It was like a pirate ship rolling from town to town. Now, I’m more conscious of picking my nights when I can party.”
He usually flies home after a show, the benefit of having three cribs across the continent — in Michigan, Nashville, and Malibu — and access to a private plane to fly him there. Spinal Tap it’s not. “If I have a show the next night, I can’t break out a bottle of whiskey and be sucking off of it.” He shrugs, tucks a new cigar into the corner of his mouth, and kicks his boots onto the Restoration Hardware catalog on the coffee table. “I guess that’s the shit that happens when you get older.”
Last January, Kid Rock turned 40. To mark the occasion, he played a three-hour show at Detroit’s Ford Field, where he presented a $100,000 check to a number of Detroit charities, then gathered back at his hotel room with a more select group of revelers — including his 70-year-old father, Bill. “My dad can rock it,” Kid Rock insists. “He was going strong till around two. And that’s after he had, like, five bypasses.” The last guest left at 10 am. Rock gave him a ride to the airport.
The milestone birthday is also celebrated in his live show: Rock performs a country song called “Fuck, I’m 40.” He’d wanted to include it on Born Free, which he recorded last summer in California with producer Rick Rubin, but Rubin nixed it as a violation of his no-novelty-songs rule. (Stripper songs were also verboten.) “Rick hated it,” he says. “I was like, ‘Whatever dude.’ I like novelty shit once in a while. You know why? Because it’s fun. Fun like you don’t know about, fun like when you drink beer all day and fall off the back of a pontoon boat. Or piss off the back of a pontoon boat. Shit you have no idea about.” He pauses, coming down off his rant. “We’re always having arguments about that shit. I’m like, ‘Rick, you can tell me about music, but don’t argue with me about fun.’ ”
Rock’s grasp of adolescent good times is unrivaled, epic, legendary. Over the past two decades, he has lived the kind of unfiltered, hedonistic life we want to believe rock stars still live — steeped in late-night lore, laden with strippers, mug shots, and lawsuits. But somehow, perhaps despite his best intentions, Kid Rock has begun to accrue what was practically unthinkable when he was throwing punches at waffle houses or cavorting with midgets: respectability. Because for all the antics, Rock is far smarter than his public persona would suggest, a stealthily serious guy who puts his considerable energy behind the people and the causes he believes in: supporting the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, or raising money to support Detroit. At 40, right or wrong, Kid Rock has evolved into an upstanding citizen. Or at least Bob Ritchie has.
For more from Kid Rock, check out our July issue, on newsstands now.
Word reached Afghanistan just after sunrise: A special team of U.S. Navy Seals had crossed the Pakistani border, found “the bastard,” and killed him. Now in Kandahar a grinning former Seal stretches out on a bunk in the shipping container he calls home and tries to describe the last men Osama bin Laden ever laid eyes on — the soldiers who had come through the bedroom door of his mansion, too fast for any coherent reaction.
Think of America’s special operations community as a collection of dogs, the Seal starts. “All good dogs,” he says, “but they serve different purposes.” Some are bred to hunt. Others retrieve, or guard, or guide. And some “are designed to attack.”
The most elite Seals unit, the one that killed Bin Laden, is a species bred for vengeance. It is the offspring of the daring but disastrous mission in 1980 to rescue hostages held by terrorists at the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Bad intelligence and inter-service rivalry crippled that operation, called Eagle Claw, and it ended with six helicopters strewn across the Persian desert, zero hostages retrieved, and eight dead American servicemen. It was a debacle in every sense but one: its legacy. In the Senate investigation that followed, the legendary founder of Delta Force, Col. “Chargin’ Charlie” Beckwith, called for the creation of multiple secret Special Mission Units — SMUs, which rhymes with crews, in military jargon — under the authority of the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC. In effect, it collected the best operators from across the U.S. military services under one banner, including a small cohort of the Navy’s Sea, Air, and Land special ops units.
At the time, just two Seal teams existed: Team One on the West Coast and Team Two on the East. The new group, based in a coastal Virginia town, called itself Team Six, a move to confuse Soviet analysts studying just how many Seal teams there were. In 1987 that team disbanded and reincarnated as the even murkier Naval Special Warfare Development Group, known in the special ops community as DevGroup, or just DevGru. It is, officially, a U.S. Navy workshop designed to test sea- and airborne equipment and tactics for other units within the department. In reality, the team may be the most successful covert military unit in America’s history. Most of its work is unseen and unheralded, but the examples that have surfaced are spectacular. It rescued Grenada’s governor-general during a counterinsurgency in 1983. It snatched war criminals in Bosnia in the ’90s. Two years ago it picked off three Somali pirates on a rolling sea. In the meantime, DevGroup has taken on another, more secretive name, which will likely change again before long — part of a regular rotation to cloak its identity. But in regular conversation its members simply call themselves exactly what they are: the boys from Dam Neck.
Fire and wind, wind and fire. They come brawling out of the chemical heart of matter, a couple of colossal kids, hot and fast, into the grass, up in the brush, torching the trees, stripping the landscape, everything burned to shit, and then — vamanos! Gone. It’s an old story in Texas, where periodic wildfires harrow the weak, renew the strong: natural selection. Just six years ago, wildfires burned through a million acres of windswept grasslands around Amarillo. Now the more populous hill country farther east awaited its date with fire and wind. Just a question of when, not if. By some measures Texas was drier than it had ever been since record keeping began in 1895. When cattle trod the grass, it sounded like they were walking on cornflakes. Trees were as parched as kiln-dried lumber, ready to make a jump for the sun.
Fire and wind rule this land. Think of the wind as a big, sturdy ranch hand, none too bright, don’t know his own strength; and fire as the little guy with the hair-trigger temper who can’t stop the hurtin’, not with a howling wind behind him, goading him on — a toxic duo like the killers in In Cold Blood.
Fire and wind found each other on April 9 on Hohertz Road, outside the little crossroads town of Strawn and just 10 miles from Possum Kingdom Lake, with all its prime real estate crowned with multimillion-dollar homes. In the sepia haze of heat and drought, wind worried a pair of power lines, swinging them closer and closer until they touched — sparked — and fire and wind took off. They wouldn’t be stopped before they accomplished monstrous destruction, consuming 168 homes, more than any other fire in Texas history.
It was a harbinger of future nightmares, as wildfires will continue to rage where people now choose to live. Compared with the dusty, hardscrabble ranchlands of the recent past, the part of Texas around Possum Kingdom Lake looked a lot more livable. All those pretty trees and gated communities. But the ancient grassland underneath awaited with the patience of dirt. Just a spark.
Nobody could know it at the time, but that spark on Hohertz Road was the opening shot of what would become total war.
Soon to be known as the Possum Kingdom Complex Fire, as four near-simultaneous blazes merged into one, it was fought on hundreds of fronts by more than a thousand firefighters from all over the country. With daytime temperatures spiking to an unseasonable 100 degrees, high winds with frequent directional shifts, and difficult terrain, the only tactical advantage the fire lacked was the element of total surprise.
A million acres had burned in Texas since January. There were already 22 active wildfires burning across the state. It was the fieriest kickoff ever, with the summer fire season still to come. Some blamed global warming; others argued cyclical drought. March in Texas was supposed to be rainy, but a powerful La Niña system was shutting off the taps. Cold fronts were missing the state. Weather-wise, fuel-wise, it was the perfect scenario for wildfire.
For more on Texas’s devastating, destructive fire season, check out our July issue.
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