Daily Dose is your daily source for the song you absolutely, positively need to hear every day. Curated by the Paste Music Team.
Back in 1951, while living in Mexico City, William S. Burroughs accidentally shot and killed his common-law wife Joan Vollmer. Though he gave conflicting stories about how it happened, the one that is oft-repeated is that they were attempting a drunk William Tell act—she with a highball glass on her head—and he aimed low.
It sounds like the inspiration for a blues song more than a life of letters, which Burroughs pursued in earnest after being released from prison as the shooting was deemed a “culpable homicide” by the courts in Mexico. Yet, the famous author of Naked Lunch and Junky claims it was the moment that set his career as a writer in motion: “I am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would never have become a writer but for Joan’s death…[it] brought me in contact with the invader, the Ugly Spirit, and maneuvered me into a life long struggle, in which I have had no choice except to write my way out.”
Apocryphal or not, the tale does draw up an important question, one that Portland-based singer-songwiter Jeffrey Martin dares to ask on his forthcoming album One Go Around: was it worth it?
Martin doesn’t find the answer on his song about the incident and its aftermath, entitled simply “Billy Burroughs.” But in his weary delivery and the slow tumble of his country-leaning pop, it’s clear that he’s weighing his own faulty decisions, wondering what combination of factors brought him to this point in his life: singing dusty odes to the ghosts of American literature.
Check out the song below and keep an eye on Fluff & Gravy Records, the label that will be releasing One Go Around on October 14th.