Wesley Wilis dead at 40

From: "Pope Cleetus II" <jellobabes112@yahoo.com>
Date: Fri, Aug 22, 2003

(original by Rory B. Bellows re-posted to alt.slack)

Another great one has left the building....

------------ cut -----------------


Wesley Willis, one of the most unusual characters in music, died
Thursday evening, most likely from heart failure. He was 40.

The schizophrenic singer from the streets of Chicago had been
recovering at an Illinois hospice after undergoing emergency surgery
on June 2 to suppress and identify the source of internal bleeding,
according to his record label, Alternative Tentacles, which noted that
Willis died peacefully.

Willis, famous for greeting fans with a head butt, was diagnosed with
chronic myelogenous leukemia at the end of 2002 and his health had
been deteriorating rapidly.

"[Wesley's] music, lyrics, drawings, insight and the way he put them
together are like no one else. Ever," Alternative Tentacles
founder/ex-Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra said in a statement.
"As I got to know Wes, what really struck me was his sheer will power,
his unrelenting drive to succeed and overcome his horrifically poor
background [of] child abuse, racism, chronic schizophrenia and
obesity, among other things. He was the most courageous person I have
ever known."

Willis, with his distinctive frame and forever-bruised forehead, was
well-known on the streets of Chicago in the early 1990s for his
off-key commentaries put to the tune of rudimentary Casio keyboard

His simple songs covered a variety of topics over the years, but he
was notorious for his homages to other musicians, including tracks
titled "Hootie and the Blowfish," "Nirvana" and "Morbid Angel" - all
featured on 1996's Rock 'N' Roll Will Never Die. "Is there any band he
saw that escaped being in their own song about how much he loved their
show?" Biafra said.

By the mid '90s, Willis' popularity had soared and he had signed with
Rick Rubin's American Recordings, which released Fabian Road Warrior
and Feel the Power, both in 1996.

Hours after Willis signed with the label, he did his first and last
interview with MTV News, telling reporter Tabitha Soren he struggled
with a demon in his head (see "Wesley's Big Ride"). "It talks to me
with profanity I do not want to hear," he said. "The demon thinks I'm
a bum, a jerk and an a-hole."

Willis had a minor hit with his song "Alanis Morissette," but was
dropped from American the following year. Still, he continued
recording and touring, doing occasional albums and shows with his punk
band, the Wesley Willis Fiasco.

In 1997, the band covered "Girls on Film" for The Duran Duran Tribute
Album, which also included the Deftones, Jimmy Eat World and Less Than
Jake (see "Goldfinger, Less Than Jake, Wesley Willis Revisit Duran
Duran" ).

Altogether, the singer recorded more than 50 albums, according to
Alternative Tentacles, which released three of them and already had
plans for a fourth, Wesley Willis Greatest Hits Vol. 3, due in
October. Some of his classics include "I Whupped Batman's Ass," "Rock
N' Roll McDonald's" and "I'm Sorry That I Got Fat."

Biafra said there will likely be a memorial concert or gathering in
Chicago to pay tribute to Willis.

"Wes was deeply religious," Biafra said. "He was afraid that if he
died he would no longer get to go see bands play. If there is a
hereafter I hope he's right up front with Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray
Vaughan, his beloved Otis Redding and his dear friend Bradley [Nowell]
from Sublime 'storming the stage' as the crowd 'roars like a sea
monster.' All opening for Wesley, of course.

"It will be hard now that he's gone, but I'm not going to let myself
stop enjoying the funny stuff, or the look on people's faces when they
first hear 'Rock N' Roll McDonalds,' or the memories of the good times
and Wesley's many adventures," Biafra continued. "He wouldn't want it
any other way."

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