“Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror:” Camus probably wished he was Milton too or whatever

I just discovered (via this neat online comic by Lewis) this excellent song about artistic self-doubt.  Singer-songwriter Jeffrey Lewis tells the story of the time he thinks he saw Will Oldham on the subway in Brooklyn.

I kinda thought I was gonna grow up to do stuff that would benefit humanity
But it’s getting harder to tell if this artist’s life is even benefitting me
Cause I was gonna waste some time and money today to remaster some dumb old album
And on the L train in the morning, I was totally sure I saw Will Oldham,
He was wearin’ the same big sunglasses he had on stage at the Bowery Ballroom
And since I was feeling in need of answers I just went right up and asked him, I said,
Will Bonnie Prince, Palace or whatever ‘What do you think about it?
Is it worth being an artist or an indie-rock star, or are you better off without it?’
Cause I mean maybe the world would be better if we were all just uncreative drones,
No dead child, hood dreams to haunt us, a decent job, a decent home,
And if we have some extra time we could do real things to promote peace,
Become scientists or history teachers or un-corrupt police at least,
‘Come on Will, you gotta tell me!!’ I grabbed and shook him by the arm…

As the shaggy-dog song continues, Jeffrey Lewis’s own self-doubt about his own identity as an artist, with Will Oldham in the role of the successful, envy-producing artist, spirals outward such that Lewis starts to imagine Oldham himself feeling inadequate next to Dylan; and then in turn Dylan “wishing he was as good as Ginsberg or Camus;” and “Camus probably wished he was Milton too or whatever”…

I was starring into his sunglasses and I was really freakin’ out i was like,
Steamboat Willie Bonnie Prince of all this shit, you’re like the king of a certain genre
But even you must want to quit like if you hear a record by Bob Dylan or Neil Young or whatever
You must start thinkin’ ‘People like me, but i won’t be that good ever’
And I’m sure the thing is probably Dylan himself too stayed up some nights
Wishing he was as good as Ginsberg or Camus
And he was like ‘Dude, I’m such a faker, I’m just a clown who entertains
and these fools who pay for my crap, they just have pathetic punny brains
and Camus probably wished he was Milton too or whatever, you know what i’m sayin’?!’

It is tough being an artist!!

My Will Oldham profile


Here’s my Will Oldham profile.  (Here’s the New Yorkers).

Will Oldham opened the door of his Louisville ranch house, which would have been the perfect size for an upwardly-mobile young family had it not been filled with overflowing boxes of pink tank tops and multi-colored Crocs.

He punched me quickly in the face, muttering ambiguously, “I don’t like press… but I did really love that Pulitzer Prize-winning 2001 Ken Auletta profile of Ted Turner, which is the only reason I’m talking to you today.”

Chewing thoughtfully on marijuana-infused bubble gum, Oldham explained to me that he just wants to be recognized as a hip-hop superstar like his peers Li’l Wayne, R. Kelly and L’il Mama.  “I don’t understand why some listeners consider me to be contrived or affectedly backwoods,” he commented while absent-mindedly pulling old Gypsy good-luck charms, horse-shoe nails, baby mice, and fragments of burlap sacks from his bristling beard. He explained that his name changes every week according to a passphrase system “in order to keep the focus on the music.”  During our interview, his name changed to L’il Viceroy Archduke; when I accidentally addressed him as Mr. Oldham, he punched me in the face again, shouting furiously, “it’s all about the music, man!”

The brash hip-hop superstar, stripping down to nothing but a plaid flannel shirt,  a new pair of 4-color Cayman Crocs, and a pink Boston Red Sox cap, stepped into the shower. Morosely warbling the Mariah Carey smash “Fly Away (Butterfly Reprise),” he seemed to be having fun.