Before going farther, listen to this song by Joshua Tillman, stage name Father John Misty:
It’s an existential contemplation framed by environmentalism. Excellent vocals. Expressive and earnest. From his online bio:
Tillman grew up in an Evangelical Christian household in Rockville, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. He is the son of … an engineer at Hewlett-Packard, who met [his wife] at a Christian youth group. His mother was raised in Ethiopia, where her own parents were missionaries. The oldest of four children, he has a brother and two sisters. Before Tillman settled on a career as a musician, he briefly had ambitions of becoming a pastor because of the performance aspect when he was approximately six years old. He comments that his parents focused on the spiritual aspects of his upbringing, which he describes as “culturally oppressive”. They were estranged for many years, but they reconciled. After learning drums at a young age, Tillman learned guitar when he was 12.
Tillman was raised in a Baptist church, attended an Episcopal elementary school, then a Pentecostal Messianic day school. Tillman said he was naive when he was growing up because there was almost no cultural influence and no secular music allowed. Around the age of 17, there were new stipulations from his parents – he was allowed to listen to secular music that had a “spiritual theme”. So his early purchases included albums like Bob Dylan’s Slow Train Coming as he was able to establish that Dylan was classified as a “Christian artist”.
Inflexibility backfires. Going with the assumption that those biographical bits are true… You can’t beat a bright boy with an independent spirit into conformity and expect good results. He once said in an interview:
I was so angry and terrified that I’d been raised that way that, at some point, my number one mission became to make as big of a joke out it as I could.
If you wall your family off from mainstream culture, you have to connect yourselves with like-minded peers. Everyone needs a community, which is why the Amish are thriving as a counterculture.
Millennials are the hardest-kicked generation, which is also why Tillman is a blasphemer with gamma’esque antics in his live videos. But talent overcomes a lot. One of Tillman’s finest songs:
My love, you’re the one I wanna watch the ship go down with
The future can’t be real, I barely know how long a moment is
Unless we’re naked, getting high on the mattress
While the global market crashes
As death fills the streets we’re garden-variety oblivious
You grab my hand and say in “I-told-you-so” voice:
“It’s just how we expected”
The soulful voice, the lyrics about the simulacrum of private peace in the midst of social chaos. Good video, too. One of the best death-scenes in cinematography.
Every Man Needs a Companion is a similar slow-tempo contemplation. It lays bare his conflict with God, with his popular culture, and with his patrimony:
Joseph Campbell and The Rolling Stones
Couldn’t give me a myth
So I had to write my own
Like I’m hung up on religion
Though I know it’s a waste
I never liked the name Joshua
I got tired of J [his earlier stage name – PA]
Something went wrong. Heavy-handed parenting, unlucky “secular horoscope” a.k.a. generational cohort, or was Tillman born irredeemable?
What Went Wrong, Part 2 is about the rebellious daughter.