Devo and John Hinckley Jr. Are Feuding Over a Songwriting Credit

Yes, that John Hinckley Jr.

DEVO during 12th Annual Music Midtown Festival - Day 3 in Atlanta.
DEVO during 12th Annual Music Midtown Festival - Day 3 in Atlanta.

Last month, John Hinckley Jr. — who, of course, shot then-President Ronald Reagan and three others in 1981 — was granted full unconditional release, allowing him to join social media. (The would-be assassin was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sentenced to spend several decades in a psychiatric hospital.) Since then, he’s tweeted mostly about his music career, and earlier this week claimed that Devo owe him royalties for his contributions to their 1982 track “I Desire.”

“Back in 1982 I co-wrote a song with DEVO called ‘I Desire,” Hinckley Jr. wrote. “It is on their album Oh No, It’s DEVO. The album is still selling worldwide, especially in Japan and Europe. I haven’t seen royalties in 35 years. What’s the deal?”

To be clear, it’s a bit of a stretch to say that Hinckley Jr. “co-wrote” the song. “I Desire” includes several verses that pull lyrics from a love poem he wrote to Jodie Foster that were published by a tabloid in the wake of his assassination attempt. (Hinckley Jr., who has schizophrenia, was obsessed with Foster at the time and shot Reagan in an attempt to impress her.) And in a new interview with Newsweek, Devo’s Gerald Casale responded to the assertion that the band owes him money, telling the publication that it’s “always the unpleasant things that never go away.” 

“It’s possible that he’s not lying,” Casale said. “We’re not talking about a lot of money here. Believe me, it wasn’t a hit. But certainly it’s not because of Devo that he didn’t get his money.”

Casale also spoke a bit about the song’s origins, saying that he and his bandmates had been “blown away by the poetic sociopathy” after reading Hinckley Jr.’s poem. He noted that at the time, the band got permission from Hinckley Jr. and Foster to use the poem in the song, but they made clear that Devo was in no way “endorsing” his actions.

“We did take two verses from one love poem and then I wrote subsequent verses that completely twisted the meaning of his verses on their head,” he said. “So that the [narrator] is telling the girl… to run from him because he’s a dangerous guy.”

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.