"John Wayne Gacy, Jr." Project By: Alexis West

Sufjan Stevens, born July 1, 1975, is an American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He was born in Detroit, Michigan. He started his career in Holland, Michigan playing in a band. Stevens is perhaps best known for his 2005 album, Illinois (Illinoise), which hit number one on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart, and for the single "Chicago" from that album. This album also features his song John Wayne Gacy Jr. This song has a deeper meaning that I'm going to try and surface.

Music video featured on YouTube.

Pictured above is John Wayne Gacy, an American serial killer, and rapist. His house is shown on the top right. This is where he raped and murdered 33 young men and teenage boys. The bottom right is a picture of 10 out of the 33 boys that were killed by Gacy. Gacy was executed by the government in 1994. His last words were "Kiss my ass."

Cover of Illinoise album which features the song John Wayne Gacy Jr.

Lyrics to John Wayne Gacy Jr:

His father was a drinker and his mother cried in bed

Folding John Wayne's t-shirts when the swingset hit his head

The neighbors they adored him

For his humor and his conversation

Look underneath the house there

Find the few living things, rotting fast, in their sleep

Oh the dead.

As a child, John was close with is mother and sisters, but he grew watching his alcoholic father beat the whole family. He watched his mother fold his t-shirts as he was hit in the head with a swing. This incident caused Gacy to suffer from blackouts that ruined his childhood. The song implies that John's brain damage could have been a partial cause for his killing spree, along with the abuse of his alcoholic father. Gacy held a lot of backyard parties, which made all of his neighbors love him. He kept some of the bodies in his basement and when he ran out of room, he begun burying them in the garden. Gacy didn't just kill the boys, but their dreams and futures as well.

27 people

Even more, they were boys, with their cars, summer jobs

Oh my God

Are you one of them?

Stevens was referring to 27 out of the 33 boys that were killed by Gacy. These boys had lives and John took it all away in one sweep. The way Stevens coos the words "Oh my God" in the song really emphasizes how Gacy's murders were just horrible. Steven really shows pain in voice during this line. Since Gacy was abused as a child asking "Are you one of them?" really shows how he was a victim as a child and that anyone could be a victim.

He dressed up like a clown for them

With his face paint white and red

And on his best behavior

In a dark room on the bed he kissed them all

He'd kill ten thousand people

With a slight of his hand, running far, running fast to the dead

He took off all their clothes for them

He put a cloth on their lips, quiet hands, quiet kiss on the mouth.

Gacy would do charitable services at fundraising events, parades, and children's parties where he dressed up as "Pogo the Clown". He thought of this character himself. John was otherwise a normal person. No one suspected him to be a serial killer because he was so nonthreatening. The dark room implies that Gacy would hide his homosexuality away from the eyes of his neighbors and family. Before the crimes of rape, assault, and kidnapping, he would seduce several of his victims. Even John physically killed 33 people, he ruined the lives of thousands of people do to his crimes. His life was a "slight of hand" trick. This meant that he hid his actual personality. That is what magicians use to hide a hand movement or action. He experienced so much trauma in his life that he had a desire to kill. This caused him to search far and fast to find potential victims. Gacy was gentle on his victims as if, in his eyes, that they could be easily broken.

And in my best behavior I am really just like him

Look beneath the floor boards

For the secrets I have hid.

Sufjan Stevens refuses to see himself better than anyone, even a serial killer. This belief could have come from his Christian faith. The bible teaches "There is no one righteous, not even one... for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The last references how Gacy hid his victims under his house, but Stevens' "floor boards" are used to hide the real secrets he feels about himself and his self-confidence.

More albums from Sufjan Stevens' career.

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