There is one tradition in America I am proud to inherit. It is our first freedom and the truest expression of our Americanism: the ability to dissent without fear. It is our right to utter the words, "I disagree." We must feel at liberty to speak those words to our neighbors, our clergy, our educators, our news media, our lawmakers and, above all, to the one among us we elect President.
The Nation (15 July 1991)
I grew up as a TV baby, with my TV babysitter, up until I was about 10. Then my mother just ripped the thing out of the wall and put it in a closet, and we didn't watch it. I have that sort of ability to become addicted to it. And I'm just so fascinated by it once I turn it on, I'm not even that aware what's there. I'm just watching it. So I don't ever turn it on. I get my news from the newspaper. I don't want to watch the Hollywood news product on TV... There's no other piece of furniture in my home I'd stare at for three hours at a time, so I try not to do it to the TV.
Orlando Sentinel (6 November 1992)
My drug period was between the age of 17 and 18. That was a time when I was experimenting with a lot of things, I was experimenting with sleep deprivation, fasting. The longest fast I ever did was 12 days. You go that long without food and you hallucinate. I would take this powder made out of guarana seed, my friend Mary would bake it up like cocoa in muffins and leave them on my doorstep. My drinking period was when I was 13, 14. Drugs fascinated me for a short period of time but not any more. A glass of wine puts me in a weird enough state.
It’s pretty obvious to everyone that the revolution has happened.
It’s pretty obvious to everyone that the revolution has happened. The People can now easily cut out a hoard of middlemen (record companies, radio stations, music press and retail shops). With a series of computer strokes they can find the music they want to hear, become informed about the musicians who make it, find other people who share their interest and ultimately either buy, trade or steal that coveted sound.
After spending nearly 20 years contracted to a major label, I have mixed feelings about their demise. These companies have profited immensely from your insatiable desire for listening and helped musicians for several decades to reach you. They grew fat and excessive. They exploited and they monopolized. They edited and censured. They’ve been rapidly losing their means of production, distribution and promotion to the internet. They have been economizing by dropping artists, cutting staff and folding into one another but they can’t keep up with the pace of disintegration. You might not have ever heard my name if Elektra Records hadn’t made me one of their artists for hire. I’m both grateful and resentful and you probably are too.
I don’t listen to anything on the radio but NPR and occasional oldies programs. I can’t comment on the content or format of most commercial radio but I have read the statistics about the step-by-step deregulation of FCC rules that has allowed monopolies like Clear Channel to buy up massive shares of the airwaves. This has damaged our business (music) and our culture (American). The internet is offering bold alternatives but a transistor radio is only $25.00 and not everyone is hooked up through a computer and high speed connection.
I don’t want to overdo discussing my experience of motherhood, its too private and profound to parade around. I will say that carrying a child, giving birth to a child and raising that child up has made me feel more engaged and connected to others. I have a greater understanding of people (living past & present). We all begin so pure, so innocent and so hungry for physical and emotional comfort. It’s so important that every baby be generously cherished, fed and comforted. I can see now how withholding these essentials can do irreparable damage. Now (post-baby) when I encounter a sad or aggressive character, I wonder what the first three years of his or her life were like. Imaging them alone, crying in their cribs has given me much more compassion.
For the time being I am enjoying my chance to enjoy civilian life off the road. If I combined all the months that I have lived out of a van or tour bus it would amount to twelve solid years. That would be twelve years of driving or flying an average of 100 to 400 miles per day and sleeping in a different city every night. It was a very unique lifestyle that I adapted to and even enjoyed with it’s surreal pace. It’s also a lifestyle that can take a toll on the body and relationships with the people that you are constantly leaving behind.
I think many people have been made curious about Henry Darger because of the song on my album Motherland. Henry Darger (1892-1973) was the author and illustrator of what could possibly be the longest unfinished fictional work of all time. His towering hand-bound manuscript of 17,000 pages was found in this obscure retired hospital janitor’s apartment after his death. Henry worked in obsessed isolation for six decades on his saga entitled, The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion.
I saw my first Henry Darger collage/paintings in the early 1980’s when the tale of Henry’s life was just emerging through rumor and scattered fragments of his book. He lived and died a recluse in Chicago where no one knew of his writings or paintings. There was a folk art gallery in New Orleans that had acquired a small pile of Realms of the Unreal illustrations. I was on tour with REM at the time, Michael Stipe and I visited the gallery where we had a first look at these images of seven little horrified girls pursued by a purple and orange winged cats or evil professors on horseback or resting peacefully under giant sunflowers. I was completely captivated and intrigued.
hey Jack Kerouac
I think of your mother
and the tears she cried, she cried for none other
than her little boy lost in our little world that hated
and that dared to drag him down
her little boy courageous
who chose his words from mouths of
babes got lost in the wood
hip flask slinging madman, steaming cafe flirts
they all spoke through you
now for the tricky part
when you were the brightest star
who were the shadows?
of the San Francisco beat boys
you were the favorite
now they sit and rattle their bones
and think of their blood stoned days
doctors have come from distant cities
just to see me
stand over my bed
disbelieving what they're seeing
they say I must be one of the wonders
of god's own creation
and as far as they can see they can offer
newspapers ask intimate questions
they reach into my head
to steal the glory of my story
people see me
I'm a challenge to your balance
I'm over your heads
how I confound you and astound you
o, I believe
fate smiled and destiny
laughed as she came to my cradle
know this child will be able
laughed as she came to my mother
know this child will not suffer
laughed as my body she lifted
know this child will be gifted
with love, with patience and with faith
she'll make her way
you've been so kind and generous
I don't know how you keep on giving
for your kindness I'm in debt to you
for your selflessness, my admiration
and for everything you've done
you know I'm bound...
I'm bound to thank you for it
I want to thank you
for so many gifts
you gave with love and tenderness
I want to thank you
I want to thank you
for your generosity
the love and the honesty
that you gave me