Happy Birthday Joseph Merrick: An Elephant Man's Playlist

Categories: Miles-tones

Today would be the the Elephant Man's 149th birthday. Born Joseph Merrick (sometimes erroneously listed as John Merrick), the Elephant Man suffered from an illness that, although still inconclusively proven, caused enlargement of various parts of his body. His grotesque appearance led to his only being able to work as a sideshow freak until a doctor took pity on him and had him committed to the Royal London Hospital.

Merrick lived quietly in the hospital until he died. His visitors included Princess Alexandra of Wales, who gave him a signed picture of herself and wrote him every Christmas for the rest of his life. Merrick was, by all accounts, and sad but lovely man who spent his time building models and hoping to one day find a blind woman who would be able to overlook his appearance. He died in his sleep at age 27 on April 11, 1890.

Over the years, many musicians have penned tributes to Merrick, and today we thought we'd give some of them a spin.

5. Buckethead, "The Elephant Man's Alarm Clock"

The Elephants Man's Alarm Clock.jpg

Truth be told, we've never really gotten into Buckethead. As a singer, we're always waiting for lyrics that never come when we listen to his songs. However, even we can get behind the desperate sadness of "The Elephant Man's Alarm Clock" off 2006 album of the same name. Because of Merrick's enlarged skull, he had to sleep sitting up, and often expressed a desire to rest like a normal man. Many believe that attempting to recline while sleeping is what ultimately killed him. Such a notion turns Buckethead's tune into a frenzied attempt to save Merrick's life.

4. Michael Jackson, "Leave Me Alone"

While not a song strictly about Merrick, he does make an appearance of sorts in the official video. Jackson was plagued by rumors for years that he had attempted to buy Merrick's skeleton. He vehemently denied having done so; indeed, Merrick's remains are part of the pathology collection at the Royal London Hospital and have never been on public display.

Even though Jackson said he hadn't tried to purchase the skeleton, he did say he empathized a great deal with Merrick. The persistence of the rumor led to Jackson dancing with an animated version of Merrick in the video for "Leave Me Alone," from 1987's Bad.

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Daniel Mee
Daniel Mee

There's actually a lot of stuff on Leviathan that has nothing to do with Moby Dick. "Island" is about Vikings. "Megalodon" is named after a giant prehistoric shark, but the lyrics are about mermaids or something. 

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