So now that the fourth season of American Horror Story is apparently going to be a musical, it got me thinking about songs that have been dedicated to human oddities over the years. There have been a fair few of them, actually, and today we sing their praises for the part they've played in history.
Daisy and Violet Hilton Side Show, "Like Everyone Else" The Hilton Sisters were British conjoined twins who were sold by their mother to a promoter, who abused the girls and put them on the road as freakshow performers. Eventually they were abandoned, broke, and died destitute.
In 1997 Bill Russell and Henry Krieger put together a Broadway musical about their lives titled Side Show; in one of its best numbers, "Like Everyone Else," the sisters describe their hopes and dreams.
Johnny Eck Tom Waits, "Table Top Joe" One of the most famous performers in Tod Browning's famous cult film Freaks was the half-man, Johnny Eck, who was born with virtually nothing below his waist. His nurse described him as a broken doll when he was born. Urbane, talented and intelligent, Eck toured the country with his normal twin brother until he retired, along the way also becoming a painter, race-car driver and jazz musician.
Tom Waits is among those inspired by Eck, and a figure very much like Eck features in this tune from 2002's Alice.
Fedor Jeftichew Annette Funicello, "Jojo, The Dogfaced Boy" Hypertrichosis, also known as Werewolf syndrome, is a rare disease that causes abnormal hair growth all over the body. One man with the condition, who rose to fame on the carnival circuit, was Fedor Jeftichew, also known as Jojo the Dogfaced Boy. P.T. Barnum portrayed him as a savage wild man who spoke only in growls, but he was in reality a gentleman who spoke German and English in addition to his native Russian.
He is also wildly celebrated in fiction and song, but the best tribute to him comes from Annette Funicello's lighthearted tale of a high-school dance that Jojo attends.
List continues on the next page.
Pasqual Pinon Pascal Pinon, "Bloom" Billed as the two-headed Mexican, Pasqual Pinon developed a large cyst or tumor on his head. Seeing an opportunity, the head of the Sells-Floto Circus paid Pinon to allow him to paint another face on the growth and bill them as a sideshow freak.
Pinon agreed, and for several years was exhibited until retiring from performing and having the growth removed by the grateful promoter. Iceland's twin-sister musical act Pascal Pinon take their name from the Texas oddity.
Joseph Merrick oMyMachine, "Sweet Thing" And finally, there was the world-famous Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick. To this day it's unknown exactly what caused his profound disfigurement, but the gentle man with the monstrous visage has come down through history as a tragic tale of inner beauty. Everyone from Buckethead to Mastodon has paid him a musical tribute, but I love this little YouTube gem the best. It sums up the juxtaposition of the horrific and the serene that so often seems to accompany the lives of these extraordinary people.
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