Farewell to a friend
I am a nice guy in Jesus’ name
I have a mean schizophrenia demon in my head
My demon racks me with profanity
My demon tells me lies and says I’m a jerk, a bum and an asshole
My demon keeps me from joy bus riding by torturing me
Kinkos, it’s the copy center
– Wesley Willis, “Wesley Willis”
I found out about the death of Wesley Willis minutes after it was official, when I called Alternative Tentacles records to see if it was true. It was, and it wrecked me. My roommate had turned me on to Wesley in 2000, so I’d had barely three years to appreciate him.
You know Pink Floyd, how they suck more and more with every passing year, and how you wish they would have broken the fuck up when they could still write songs? That wasn’t an issue with Wesley. He could NEVER write songs. Willis “wrote” new tunes by playing one of three melodies on his keyboard and singing three verses about whatever was on his mind. And I wrote “singing,” which is sort of a slander. Willis attacked these subjects like the 6’5”, 350 pounds schizophrenic street artist that he was.
Willis’s lyrics came out in a yelp, thick with mucus and thin on sense. He sang a song about whupping Batman’s ass because “He was running me amok/ He ridiculed me calling me a bum.”
This was fun music. It offered vicarious insanity, sneak peeks into the mind of a guy who truly thought he was possessed by demons who engaged him in constant combat. And the limited melodies made them easy to replicate – my roommate and I would always write bullshit “tributes” to stuff in the Wesley style, because it was so damn brainless.
When I sat and thought about it, like I’m doing now, I liked Wesley because he could only exist in an enlightened liberal democracy. Seriously! Only a free society would allow a mentally ill man to function on his own. And only the free market could have provided a guy like this with a way to make money, release records, and get booked on national radio shows to plug his terrible art.
We didn’t laugh at Wesley. We loved him. And I’ll always wonder what kind of songs he’d be writing if he lived another 30 years. “Howard Dean”? “Nuclear Holocaust”? “Martian Invasion”? We’ll miss out on that. And that’s too bad.