25th August 2003, 16:46
Join Date: May 2000
The Passing of a Rock and Roll Great: Wesley Willis
I don't often start threads, but a great man passed away recently.
passed away Aug. 21, 2003.
Google News Links
NEW YORK (Billboard) - Singer/songwriter Wesley Willis, a diagnosed schizophrenic who recorded more than 50 albums during his career, has died after a long battle with chronic myelogenous leukemia.
The Chicago-based artist underwent emergency surgery to suppress internal bleeding on June 2 and remained in hospice care until his death on Aug. 21. He was 40.
Standing 6'5" tall and weighing more than 300 pounds, Willis began writing songs in 1992, primarily about his favorite rock 'n' roll artists. He would also be frequently seen riding the Chicago bus lines, selling his accomplished pen drawings of the cityscapes.
In the mid-'90s, Willis released two albums for Rick Rubin's American Recordings label. They deviated little, if at all, from formula: three chords, a chorus with the subject's name repeated over and over, and an outtro featuring the slogan, "Rock over London, rock over Chicago."
Willis' "Greatest Hits Vol. 1" was released in 1995 by Alternative Tentacles, the label run by former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra. A second volume followed in 1999 and a third edition will be released on Oct. 7. "Volume III" will feature video footage of Willis as well as downloads and an art and photo gallery.
"Wesley will go down as one of the most unique songwriters and entertainment personalities in history," Biafra said in a statement. "His music, lyrics, drawings, insight and the way he put them together are like no one else. Ever. There will never be another. 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, child abuse, racism, chronic schizophrenia and obesity, among other things. He was the most courageous person I have ever known."
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
My younger brother turned me on to him. Although some critics thought of him as exploited by record companies and promoters, he used music as a way to deal with the "demons" in his head and was happiest when making and experiencing it.
I was away for a while.
But I'm feeling much better now.