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David Anthony Pirner (born April 16, 1964) is an American songwriter, singer, and producer best known as the lead vocalist and frontman for the alternative rock band Soul Asylum.[2]

Dave Pirner
Dave Pirner 2.jpg
Dave Pirner in 2010
Background information
Birth nameDavid Anthony Pirner
Born (1964-04-16) April 16, 1964 (age 55)
Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States[1]
GenresAlternative rock, grunge
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, record producer
Instrumentsvocals, guitar, trumpet, drums, percussion, keyboard, harmonica, saxophone
Years active1981–present
LabelsA&M, Columbia
Associated actsSoul Asylum, Within Temptation


Early life and workEdit

Pirner was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He taught himself how to play the drums. By age 20, Pirner started his career drumming with a punk band called Loud Fast Rules as part of the Minneapolis scene, together with Karl Mueller (bass) and Dan Murphy (guitar). When Pirner switched to singing and playing rhythm guitar, Pat Morley joined on drums. Morley was later replaced by Grant Young, and the band changed their name to Soul Asylum. After touring the United States for a number of years they gathered a cult following of fans, but did not quite reach commercial visibility. Pirner at the time was the band's songwriter and he produced the album, Coup De Grace, by the Minneapolis metal band the Coup de Grace in 1990.

Commercial successEdit

The band achieved commercial success and visibility on MTV and VH1 with the 1993 single "Runaway Train", followed by another hit song, "Black Gold"; both from their album Grave Dancers Union. As Soul Asylum grew in popularity, Pirner was seen guesting on albums of differing genres, including artists like Paul Westerberg, Jason Karaban, Mike Watt, The Autumn Defense[2] and Victoria Williams. His disheveled appearance and blonde matted dreadlocks made an unmistakable impression on fans and critics alike, making Pirner easily recognized and associating the band with the grunge scene.

Dave Pirner playing with Soul Asylum in 2016

By 1999, Soul Asylum went into hiatus after making 1998's Candy from a Stranger, which sold the fewest copies of the three albums released at that point (after Grave Dancers Union and Let Your Dim Light Shine (1995), which yielded the big hits "Misery" and "Just Like Anyone"). After four years, Soul Asylum reunited and started writing songs in the studio.[2] Bassist Karl Mueller died on June 17, 2005, at the age of 42 from esophageal cancer. About a year after his death, Soul Asylum released The Silver Lining on Legacy Recordings, which was dedicated to Mueller. About half the songs on the album were recorded with the late bassist, such as "Lately", "Slowly Rising" and "Standing Water". The first hit from this album was "Stand Up And Be Strong". Soul Asylum toured with their new line-up, which consisted of Pirner on guitar and vocals, Dan Murphy on lead guitar, Michael Bland on drums and Tommy Stinson on bass (as well as John Fields standing in on bass and piano for Mueller). Soul Asylum's latest effort was released on July 17, 2012, titled Delayed Reaction.

Jared Gertzen also quotes Pirner as "One of the best Singer/Songwriters to come out of Minnesota since Prince".

Pirner had a small role in the film Reality Bites in 1994. He was also part of the all-star band assembled for the soundtrack of the 1994 film Backbeat. Pirner also contributed to the soundtrack of Kevin Smith's 1997 film Chasing Amy with an instrumental song called "Tube Of Wonderful". The song "Can't Even Tell" is featured in Smith's Clerks, and Smith used "Misery" in the sequel, Clerks II.

In 2002 Pirner released his first solo album entitled Faces & Names on Ultimatum Music.[2] He also contributed guest vocals on the song "Chillout Tent" in The Hold Steady's 2006 release, Boys and Girls in America.

Personal lifeEdit

Pirner started dating actress Winona Ryder after the pair were introduced at Soul Asylum's performance on MTV Unplugged in 1993.[3] They broke up three years later.

Pirner lived in Bywater, New Orleans, Louisiana for a time and still maintains a residence and recording studio in New Orleans. He also maintains a residence in Minneapolis. He has a son, Eli, with his ex-wife.[4]

Discography (solo)Edit

Faces & Names, (2002), (Ultimatum Music)

Guest vocalsEdit

Pirner appears on the track "Whole World Is Watching" by Within Temptation on their 2014 release, Hydra as well as provides guest vocals on The Hold Steady’s ‘Chillout Tent”, from the album Boys and Girls in America.


  1. ^ Minnesota, Birth Index, 1935-2002
  2. ^ a b c d "Dave Pirner > Biography". Retrieved January 31, 2010.
  3. ^ "Interview: Winona Ryder". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
  4. ^ Rivera, Erica. "Dave Pirner talks divorce, longevity, and Soul Asylum's 'shit show' heyday | City Pages". City Pages. Retrieved 2018-03-29.

External linksEdit