I’m a sucker for outsider art, and you don’t get much more outsider than Charles Manson.
He was born “no name Maddox” to 16-year-old, unmarried runaway Kathleen Maddox in Cincinnati, Ohio. By the age of 32, he had spent over half of his life in prison or reform schools.
Despite having very little formal education, he scored above average on prison issued IQ tests. He is particularly renowned for his uncanny social engineering skills. He is most famous for having convinced a small group of followers to engage in the Tate/LaBianca murders, which were carried out to spark a panic which Charles Manson hoped would result in a race war.
Manson had met and befriended Dennis Wilson, founding member of the Beach Boys, and recorded numerous songs with him before the murders. After his arrest, Manson released some of these previously recorded works as “Lie: The Love and Terror Cult” to pay for his defense. Manson continued to record music after his imprisonment, but like so many recording artists, his first album was his best.
The Beach Boys recorded their own version of “Cease To Exist” as “Never Learn Not To Love,” without crediting Manson, and bands including Guns ’n Roses and The Lemonheads have also covered Manson’s songs.
Regardless of what you think of the man, you can’t deny that some of his music is great. Sanity is a highly overrated trait for artists, anyway.