I like weirdness. Even when it comes to music. Matter fact, I want to build up my collection of weird black music.
Perhaps y’all can help me. I welcome any recommendations of the most eccentric, off-the-wallest, out-to-lunchest black music you know about.
For examples... click the song titles below to stream these tracks on my Vox blog:
1. “I Whipped Batman’s Ass” – Wesley Willis
The late Wesley Willis was a bona fide schizophrenic; he talked about hearing “demon voices” in his head. He was homeless.
Yet Willis became a cult figure in Chicago’s rock-’n’-roll underground... and beyond.
In 1996, he appeared on “The Howard Stern Show” and “MTV News.” His fans included Rick Rubin and Jello Biafra.
“I Whipped Batman’s Ass” gives a sense of Wesley’s songwriting style. I promise, you have never heard anything quite like it.
Wesley Willis died from complications of leukemia in 2003. MTV.com posted an obituary.
2. “Feast of the Mau-Mau” – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
More than any other black singer, Jalacy Hawkins made weirdness pay. His 1956 single “I Put a Spell On You” – supposedly recorded while drunk – is an American classic.
And it was the legendary rock deejay Alan Freed who suggested that Hawkins spice up his act by climbing out of a coffin onstage.
“Feast of the Mau-Mau” might be offensive by the standards of modern race consciousness. But it is an impressive piece of eccentric blackness.
3. “Oh! Love of Life” – Albert Ayler
Albert Ayler was an influential free-jazz saxophonist. But it’s his singing on this track – from the 1969 album “Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe” – that blows my mind. I think it’ll blow yours too.
4. “Cousin Mosquito #2” – Congress-Woman Malinda Jackson Parker
Malinda Jackson Parker (pictured below) actually served in the Congress... of Liberia. But she is known today, among fans of “outsider music,” for her 1971 album “Tubman Goodtype Songs of Liberia.”
For this track, Parker wrote bizarre lyrics for Rachmaninoff’s famous “Prelude in C-sharp Minor.” Even weirder than the lyrics is her spoken introduction, in which she mispronounces the name “Rachmaninoff” three different ways.
She also gets the facts wrong concerning Rachmaninoff’s life. For one thing, the Russian composer didn’t live “centuries” ago, and he didn’t die in poverty. He died in 1943 in Beverly Hills. But hey... it’s the thought that counts.
5. “Vultures Ate My Dead Ass Up” – Wesley Willis
One more from Mr. Willis... in case you thought I was making it all up.