Born in 1949, Chaim Witz, better known by his stage name Gene Simmons, was born in Haifa, Israel, and spent a good portion of his early childhood there living with his mother and father. When Simmons turned eight, he and his mother immigrated to the United States while his father stayed back in Israel. The two went to New York, where Simmons changed his original name to Gene Klein.
Simmons’ first band he was a part of was titled Lynx, which then was renamed the Missing Links before being disbanded so Simmons could form the Long Island Sounds. As a teenager, he juggled jobs and education. Simmons would go on to attend Richmond College and Sullivan County Community College before entering the workforce.
The roots of what would become KISS started with the band Wicked Lester, which was formed by Simmons and Stanely Eisen (better known as Paul Stanley). With little success in Wicked Lester, the duo decided a new direction was needed and left Wicked Lester. After hosting auditions for new band members, KISS then consisted of Simmons on bass, Stanley and Ace Frehley on guitar, and Peter Criss on drums.
While playing shows and gaining notoriety, KISS stood out due to the band members' use of makeup. Simmons would go on to become the personality known as “The Demon,” a figure that would represent the group more so than the other members. The band released their self-titled debut in 1974, but it wasn’t until a year later that KISS began to cement themselves into stardom.
After charting and touring successes, KISS became a household name in music. With platinum albums and merchandise sales, members of the group then decided to each do a solo project. Simmons’ self-titled solo debut was released in 1978 and saw the most commercial success among the four albums, as it charted at No. 22 on the Billboard 200. Simmons’ only other solo album would come nearly 30 years after his debut, with Asshole in 2004. The project didn’t see the same success as its predecessor, reaching only No. 86 on the Billboard 200.
After taking off the makeup and rebranding their image in 1983, KISS went through different members throughout their rise in success, but only two members remained constant: Simmons and Stanley. While having other ventures into film and television, Simmons’ main success lies within being the seminal figure of KISS. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.