April 26, 2004

Wesley Willis 1963 - 2003
(Originally Aired 1st Sept 2003)

Wesley Willis is one of the true icons of outsider music. This obese African-American schizophrenic from Chicago seemed destined for an anonymous life of either homelessness or institutionalisation before "discovering" the delights of preset Casiotone rhythms in 1990, and embarking on one of the most staggeringly prolific songwriting careers of recent times. In the 13 years that followed, he recorded 30 albums (2 of which were actually released by a major label) and wrote 35,000 songs.

Sure, they were formulaic to the point of sounding like the same song rewritten over and over again... But still, its hard not to be amused and entertained by tunes like "Cut The Mullet", "I Whupped Spiderman's Ass" and "Rock'n'Roll McDonalds" especially when delivered with the sort of unsmirking rant-and-bellow gusto that was Wesley's "singing" style.

A good selection of Wesley's recorded output is available for purchase at Alternative Tentacles (You can download some mp3s there too.) And if you want to find out more about Wesley, there is an excellent article and complete discography in The Hip Surgery Music Guide. There is also a documentary about him which was released in 2002.

Wesley Willis passed away in August 2003 after a six month battle with leukemia. He was 40 year old.

Posted by Warren at April 26, 2004 09:00 PM | Outsider