Devo Confirms Would-Be Reagan Assassin May Be Owed Song Royalties

By Andrew Magnotta @AndrewMagnotta

October 27, 2021

Photo: Getty Images North America

Devo bassist Gerald Casale says it's entirely possible that would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley Jr. is indeed owed royalties for his contribution to a 1982 album track called "I Desire."

Casale added, however, that the payment of royalties is not up to the band but the song publishers and the record companies involved. Furthermore, if Hinckley is due a check, he shouldn't expect it to be a big one.

"It's possible that he's not lying," Casale told Newsweek. "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."

Hinckley shot Ronald Reagan and three other people on March 30, 1981. He was placed in a psychiatric facility for more than 30 years before his release in 2016. Last year, a judge ruled that Hinckley could publish writings, artwork and music under his own name, rather than anonymously.

Not long after Hinckley made headlines for trying to kill the president, Devo obtained his permission to use an excerpt from one of his poems in "I Desire," which appeared on their 1982 album, Oh, No! It's Devo. Hinckley is duly credited as a cowriter, alongside Casale and Devo lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh.

Over the weekend, Hinckley claimed via Twitter that somebody owes him money for using his work.

"Back in 1982 I co-wrote a song with DEVO called 'I Desire," Hinckley 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?"

Casale told Newsweek that the band became aware of Hinckley's poem after it was published in a tabloid. Astounded by the "poetic sociopathy" of the writing, the band wrote music and additional lyrics to twist its context "So that the [narrator] is telling the girl... to run from him because he's a dangerous guy."

Since Hinckley claimed his assassination attempt was, in fact, a delusional bid to impress actress Jodie Foster — and the love poem in question was apparently directed towards Foster — Devo made sure to clear the track with her as well before releasing it.

Casale concluded that Hinckley established his own publishing company years ago, so whatever royalties he's owed "should have been going straight to him."

Devo
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