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Jake Burns

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Jake Burns
Burns, performing with Stiff Little Fingers in 2019
Burns, performing with Stiff Little Fingers in 2019
Background information
Birth nameJohn Burns
Born (1958-02-21) 21 February 1958 (age 66)
Belfast, Northern Ireland
GenresPunk rock
Instrument(s)Vocals, guitar
Years active1977–present
LabelsChrysalis, Rough Trade, Rigid Digits

John "Jake" Burns (born 21 February 1958) is a singer and guitarist, and is best known as the frontman of Stiff Little Fingers, although he has also recorded with Jake Burns and the Big Wheel, 3 Men + Black, and as a solo artist.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11]

Early life[edit]

Burns was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and grew up in Joanmount in Ballysillan.[12] Burns's mother was a seamstress, and his father was a machinist in a textile machinery factory/steel foundry, where he was a shop steward, and his socialist views were an influence on Burns.[13] Prior to punk, Burns's musical influences included Rory Gallagher, Dr. Feelgood, Graham Parker, and Bob Marley.[13]


Stiff Little Fingers[edit]

Burns started off his career at Belfast Boys' Model School with a rock covers band, Highway Star,[8] which consisted of Burns, Gordon Blair, Henry Cluney, and Brian Faloon. Gordon Blair subsequently left the group to join Rudi, and Ali McMordie joined, about the time the band discovered punk.[14]

They were briefly named The Fast, but as there was already a group of that name they changed it to Stiff Little Fingers, taken from the song of the same name that had appeared on Pure Mania, the 1977 album by The Vibrators. [15][9]

Apart from a five-year gap from 1983 to 1987, Stiff Little Fingers have been active since 1977 to the present day and have released ten studio albums.

Solo work[edit]

In 1981, Burns made his acting debut in an episode of the BBC's Play For Today series entitled Iris in the Traffic, Ruby in the Rain, written by Belfast-born poet and playwright Stewart Parker, which also featured the rest of Stiff Little Fingers effectively playing themselves as 'The Band'.[16]

After the breakup of SLF in 1983, Burns formed Jake Burns and the Big Wheel. The band consisted of Burns on vocals and guitar, Steve Grantley on drums, Sean Martin on bass guitar, and Pete Saunders on keyboards.[13] Big Wheel recorded a total of three singles, "On Fortune Street", "She Grew Up" and "Breathless". A compilation album, also called On Fortune Street, was released after the band's demise, in 2002.[17][18]

In 1987, Burns disbanded Big Wheel, and Stiff Little Fingers reformed, because they were "skint and wanted to make a bit of cash to get back to Ireland for Christmas".[19]

From about 2001 to 2005, Burns was involved in a side project with Pauline Black of The Selecter, called 3 Men and Black. This involved Black touring with three male artists from the late 1970s, early 1980s doing acoustic versions of songs they are famous for, and talking a little about how they came to write the songs etc. The line up for the concerts was fairly fluid, and has included such people as Bruce Foxton, J. J. Burnel, Eric Faulkner and Nick Welsh.[20]

On 27 March 2006, Burns released a solo album titled Drinkin' Again.[21]

In 2009, Burns formed a Chicago punk rock supergroup called The Nefarious Fat Cats to raise money for local charities. Notable members include John Haggerty (Pegboy, Naked Raygun), Joe Haggerty (Pegboy), Joe Principe (Rise Against), Scott Lucas (Local H), Herb Rosen (Beer Nuts, Right of the Accused) and Mark DeRosa (Dummy).[22] Mr. Burns also contributed guitar and vocals on a track of The Black Sheep Band charity record for Children's Memorial Hospital, A Chicago Punk Rock Collaboration for the Kids, Vol 1.[23][13]

In 2016, Burns joined an acoustic "supergroup" formed by Kirk Brandon, of Spear of Destiny called Dead Men Walking which also included David Ruffy and John "Segs" Jennings, both of Ruts DC.[24][25][26]

Personal life[edit]

Burns lived in London for over ten years from 1978 after Stiff Little Fingers had relocated there.[27] His first wife lived in Newcastle upon Tyne, and after their marriage, he moved to Newcastle, where he lived for 16 years, becoming a supporter of Newcastle United F.C.[28] He is also an avid supporter of the Northern Ireland national football team.[29][28]

Burns's second wife, Shirley, is American and they have lived in Chicago since 2004. Burns would eventually become a US citizen, partially so he could help vote out Donald Trump.[13][28][30]


With Stiff Little Fingers[edit]

see Stiff Little Fingers#Discography

Jake Burns and the Big Wheel[edit]

  • On Fortune Street (2002), EMI
  • "She Grew Up" (1984), Rigid Digits – UK Independent no. 36[31]
  • "On Fortune Street" (1985), Rigid Digits
  • "Breathless" (1987), Jive – UK no. 99[32]

With 3 Men + Black[edit]

  • Acoustic (2005), A2E

With Dead Men Walking[edit]

  • Unofficially Official: Live In Bristol 2016 (2016)

With Ruts DC and Kirk Brandon[edit]

  • "Kill the Pain" (2017), Westworld Recordings


  • Drinkin' Again (2006), EMI
Compilation appearances
  • Poxmen of the Horslypse: A Tribute to Horslips (2017), Shite'n'Onions: "Warm Sweet Breath of Love"


  1. ^ McBride, Paul (18 January 2014). "Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers". The AU Review. Archived from the original on 2 August 2017. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  2. ^ Vile, Tyler (February 2014). "Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers Part 1". Punk Globe. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  3. ^ Vile, Tyler (February 2014). "Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers Part 2". Punk Globe. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  4. ^ Jenkins, Owen (February 2014). "Owen Jenkins Gets Deep With Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers". Punk Globe. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  5. ^ Lazar, Bart (11 September 2014). "Still Punk and political: A Conversation with Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers". Newcity. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  6. ^ Lee, Bob (3 February 2014). "Eternally Inflammable: An Interview With Stiff Little Fingers' Jake Burns". The LA Beat. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  7. ^ Jennings, Dave (3 March 2013). "Jake Burns from Stiff Little Fingers interview". Louder Than War. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  8. ^ a b Pinnegar, Shane (28 March 2016). "INTERVIEW – JAKE BURNS, STIFF LITTLE FINGERS – February 2016". 100 Percent Rock. Archived from the original on 28 March 2016. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  9. ^ a b Derdeyn, Stuart (17 October 2016). "Stiff Little Fingers still raising rigid digits to the system". The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  10. ^ Bell, Mike (21 October 2016). "Belfast punk legends Stiff Little Fingers will go back but embrace change". Calgary Herald. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  11. ^ Ansill, Laura (20 February 2014). "Interview: Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers on Songwriting, Bernie Madoff and Audience Faith". mxdwn.com. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  12. ^ O'Neill, Leona (25 August 2017). "Stiff Little Fingers' Jake Burns still outraged after 40 years and ready to rock hometown at anniversary gig". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  13. ^ a b c d e Raw, Louise (20 December 2019). "Still rocking against racism, Louise Raw talks to JAKE BURNS". Morning Star. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  14. ^ Roy, David (2 June 2017). "Jake Burns on Stiff Little Fingers' 40th birthday bash in Belfast". The Irish News. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  15. ^ Burns, Jake; Parker, Alan (2 August 2003). Stiff Little Fingers: Song By Song. Sanctuary Publishing. ISBN 1-86074-513-X.
  16. ^ "Iris in the Traffic, Ruby in the Rain". TV Cream. 24 June 2009. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  17. ^ Strong, Martin (March 2015). "Stiff Little Fingers biography". The Great Rock Bible. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  18. ^ Rabid, Jack (22 January 2002). "On Fortune Street". Allmusic. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  19. ^ Sims, Davy (19 October 2007). "Fuelled by three decades of three-chord fury…". Davy Sims. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  20. ^ Hawking, Tom (30 September 2015). "The Forgotten Women of Punk: The Selecter's Pauline Black on Anti-Racism, Ska, and the Power of Subculture". Flavorwire. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  21. ^ Werth, Kate (5 August 2017). "Review: 2017.07.31 From Boston to Berkeley tour- Sterling Heights, MI". Medium. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  22. ^ DeRogatis, Jim (25 August 2009). "This weekend: Bye-bye M.O.T.O., hello Jake Burns". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 13 August 2011. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  23. ^ "The Black Sheep Band". Jaded in Chicago. 22 February 1999. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  24. ^ "With a combined age of about 240, it's easy to see where 'supergroup' Dead Men Walking got their name". Shields Gazette. 6 December 2016. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  25. ^ Chapple-Gill, Lawrence (20 June 2016). "Dead Nen Walking ft. Jake Burns, Kirk Brandon and Ruts DC – live review". Louder Than War. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  26. ^ Neal, Martin (6 December 2018). "Rebels with a cause – Theatre of Hate still hold the spear of their own destiny". Essex Live. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  27. ^ O'Dornan, David (23 August 2019). "Stiff Little Fingers' Jake Burns: Why I could never really write a love song". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  28. ^ a b c "Jake Burns quizzed on how he ended up supporting Newcastle United". The Mag (UK). 1 November 2018. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  29. ^ Paltrowitz, Darren (9 November 2018). "Stiff Little Fingers' Jake Burns on being a fan of Newcastle United and the Chicago Cubs". Morning Star. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  30. ^ Jennings, Dave (11 September 2017). "Jake Burns interview". Louder Than War. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  31. ^ Lazell, Barry (1997). Indie Hits 1980–1989. Cherry Red Books. p. 33. ISBN 0-9517206-9-4.
  32. ^ "Jake Burns and the Big Wheel", Official Charts Company. Retrieved 20 September 2020

External links[edit]