Looking for new tunes? Would you like to know who some of the new names in the world of country and western music are? You might want to check out this new old cat named John Hinkley Jr., who originally grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma and grew up in Dallas. He's got a handful of original songs, a traditional hardcore country sound, and he's not a prima donna, ladies and gentlemen, he made it difficult for himself. After all, he's the guy who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
Now look, I don't mean to be condescending. John Hinkley Jr. shot police officer Thomas Delahanty, intelligence agent Tim McCarthy, seriously wounded press secretary James Brady, and wounded President Ronald Reagan when one of the numerous bullets he fired from his .22 revolver graced the presidential limousine and hit Regan inside of the chest on March 30, 1981 in Washington DC, all to impress actress Jodie Foster.
But a judge and doctors found Mr. Hinkley eligible to re-enter society after originally found not guilty of insanity, and he was placed at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C. for about 35 years. Hinkley was officially released on September 10, 2016, with many restrictions, including the fact that he must live with his mother, along with strict rules not to have any connection with drugs, guns, alcohol, Jodie Foster, or the press. Its internet history must also be cataloged and monitored.
Since Hinkley's release, those restrictions have slowly eased, including allowing the 66-year-old to release songs his YouTube channelwhat he's been doing regularly over the past few months. In addition to cover songs, he has also posted some original songs and has over 22,000 YouTube subscribers (at the time of this post). Then he released numerous songs on streaming services a few weeks ago, including a proper country studio single called "We Have Got That Chemistry" (see below).
Like many of your favorite Texas country artists, Hinkley attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock and traveled to Los Angeles in 1975 to become a songwriter. This was all before his fascination with firearms and his obsession with actress Jodie Foster. But over the years, John Hinkley Jr. has used music and songwriting in his rehabilitation process and to help manage his underlying mental health problems.
Last month, on September 27, a judge ruled that as long as he continues to behave himself, Hinkley will be released unconditionally in June 2022. Music was quoted specifically for the progress of his rehabilitation and recovery.
When I first heard about John Hinkley Jr. making country music, the first instinct was to either be shocked by it or to humorously mock it. But after watching his YouTube videos and reading the surprisingly supportive comments, there seems to be a much deeper lesson here.
Hurting a lot of people, John Hinkley Jr. will never act out his past, just like many of the country heroes of yore. And let's face it, a 66-year-old man institutionalized for 35 years isn't going to be your next favorite country music star, especially after the unusual effect they had on his singing in his first real single.
But country was a way out of a troubled past for Merle Haggard, David Allan Coe and so many other country greats. If John Hinkley Jr. has found his peace and balance in life through country music and songwriting, then I'm not sure we shouldn't be supporting it, regardless of how you feel about the music itself. Because it speaks once more of the power and importance of music for the soul.
… and as we like to say, it's better than 90% of the crap they play on country radio these days.