FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: WESLEY WILLIS 1963-2003
A letter from one of his biggest fans, Jello Biafra:
We lost Wesley Willis some time before 9PM Chicago time August 21, 2003. Word is he died peacefully. The likely cause may be heart failure. Wes had been battling leukemia for less than a year. No services are planned as of yet. There will probably be a memorial concert, or at least a gathering in his honor in Chicago in the near future. We will let you know.
Wesley will go down as one of the most unique songwriters and entertainment personalities in history. 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 over come his horrifically poor background, child abuse, racism, chronic schizophrenia and obesity among other things. He was the most courageous person I have ever known. Yet through it all he had such a deep, all-encompassing love of life. Little things, big things. He loved bus rides. He loved watching trains. He loved writing songs about how much he loved his friends. He loved travelling to new towns so he could headbutt new friends. Is there any band he saw that escaped being in their own song about how much he loved their show? He was so warm, so sweet, so giving. He could be a handful when he came to visit; but as soon as he left, we'd miss him immediately.
As his long time friend Dennis Cooper said, "No More Demons." The voices in Wesley's head can't yell at him and put him down any more.
Wes was deeply religious. 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 as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, his beloved Otis Redding and his dear friend Bradley from Sublime "storm 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. He wouldn't want it any other way. There are many down times when all I have to do is think of one of Wes's songs, something he said or simply marvel at his Wesley-isms, and the clouds part and a smile comes to my face. I think he does that for a lot of people. He always will.
Rock over London Rock on Chicago
Sail on, Wes. I love you.
Jello Biafra 8-22-03
For more info: