DEVO responds to failed Reagan assassin John Hinckley Jr’s claims of unpaid royalties
DEVO's 1982 album Oh No! It's Devo contains the song "I Desire" which incorporated part of a poem written by John Hinckley Jr, the man who had tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981. Hinckley, who was released from prison and institutional care in 2016, says he is owed royalties, writing on Twitter, "Back in 1982 I co-wrote a song with DEVO called 'I Desire. 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?"
While "co-wrote" is not the term DEVO would use, they obtained Hinckley's permission to use the poem -- which Hinckley wrote about actress Jodie Foster, who he was obsessed with -- and credited him on the album. A tabloid had published the poems, which is how the band encountered them. "I saw it and I showed it to Mark Mothersbaugh," Gerald V Casale told Newsweek. "We couldn’t believe how inspired and pathological the poetry was, given what he had done. And this poetry was all love poems to Jodie Foster,” Casale said, "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. So that the [narrator] is telling the girl... to run from him because he's a dangerous guy."
Casale also says they obtained permission from Jodie Foster to use the poem, stipulating that they were not "endorsing" Hinckley or his actions. He also told Newsweek that the band has little to no involvement with the label and publishing side of things, and that Hinckley had established his own publishing company so royalties "should have been going straight to him."
"It's possible that he's not lying," said Casale. "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."