Last week would have been famed Chicago punk rock legend Wesley Willis' 50th Birthday. A chronic schizophrenic, Willis' boundless creativity helped ward off his personal demons as he released roughly 40 albums in his lifetime both by himself as well as through several different punk labels who treated a Willis release in their catalog like a badge of honor. Being that there's literally hundreds of Willis songs to choose from, we at the Weekly have put together our picks for the top five Wesley Willis songs of all time so that longtime fans and the Wesley-curious alike can look back at one of the most inspiring legacies in music history.
5) “Jesus is the Answer”
Along with the songs on his Casio that made him famous, for a time Wesley played with The Wesley Willis Fiasco, a full blown band that toured with Sublime (who they even split a 7″ with) and Lordz of Brooklyn. While the backing made for more complex tracks, it also allowed Willis to experiment with his song structure in tracks like the unforgettable “Jesus is the Answer.” Tell it like it is, jack!
4) “Northwest Airlines”
While, yes, there is the contingent that listens to Willis to laugh at him, the majority of his fans are well aware of Willis not only being in on the joke, but appreciate his perspective on the mundane aspects of day-to-day living that most of us take for granted. One such song is “Northwest Airlines.” Most storytellers wouldn't begin a tale of riding an airplane with “Once upon a time,” or dedicate a third verse to how nice everybody was, but Wesley Willis isn't most storytellers.
3) “The Chicken Cow”
A lot of Wesley's earlier work centered around fantastical tales of him either beating somebody up (“I Whooped Batman's Ass”) or getting beat up (“Birdman Kicked My Ass”). One of the most memorable has to be “The Chicken Cow.” Describing the conditions and viciousness of the mythical beast as matter-of-factly as if he were talking about any household pest, it's a clash of the titans that could only come from a Wesley Willis song.
2) “Cut the Mullet”
While Willis never devoted much of his live shows to playing his “hits,” he would occasionally close his shows with a treat for long time fans in “Cut the Mullet.” Channeling the energy he'd typically reserve for instructing an unnamed antagonist to perform a sexual act on a animal, Willis tells those with the iconic 80s hairstyle that they need to “Get that rat's nest off your skull.”
1) “Rock and Roll McDonald's”
Willis' most famous song, “Rock and Roll McDonald's” encapsulates everything that Willis as a musician and as a man stood for. Being that, outside of music, Willis spent his days riding and drawing the Chicago metro-transit, he spent a many hours paying homage to his hometown. One notable Chicago landmark, the Rock and Roll McDonald's, inspired Wilis to pen such a fun tribute that it was included in both the Oscar-nominated documentary Super Size Me as well as the Troma Film Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger Part IV. Rock over London, Rock on Chicago. Wesley Willis, Uh-Huh!