John Linnell: Wikis


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John Linnell

John Linnell of They Might Be Giants, in concert at The Meridian in Houston, TX
Background information
Birth name John Sidney Linnell
Also known as Linnell
Born June 12, 1959 (1959-06-12) (age 50)
Origin Lincoln, Massachusetts
Genres Alternative rock
Instruments Accordion, keyboard, saxophone, clarinet, others
Years active 1980–present
Associated acts They Might Be Giants

John Sidney Linnell (born June 12, 1959, New York City, New York) is an American musician, is known primarily as one half of Brooklyn, New York alternative rock duo They Might Be Giants. In addition to singing and songwriting, he plays accordion, baritone and bass saxophone, clarinet, and keyboards for the group.

Linnell's lyrics are perhaps most well-known for their inclusion of strange subject matter and wordplay. Persistent themes include aging, delusional behavior, bad relationships, death, and the personification of inanimate objects. Conversely, the accompanying melodies are usually cascading and upbeat.

He is married and has a son, Henry. Henry appeared as a performer on They Might Be Giants' children's albums Here Come the ABCs and Here Come the 123s.


They Might Be Giants

Linnell co-founded They Might Be Giants in 1982 with high school friend John Flansburgh. While the two split singing and songwriting duties roughly in half, Linnell's songs enjoyed the most commercial success in their early years: singles like "Don't Let's Start" and "Ana Ng" introduced the band to college radio, and they made waves on the Billboard charts in 1990 with "Birdhouse in Your Soul."

Linnell described his role in the group during an interview for Splatter Effect in 1994:

I have a personal, a real obsession, with melody and harmony. I can really never get enough of that kind of thing. I don't think too much about the cultural context of what we're doing. I think John [Flansburgh] is more on that end of it. He thinks more in terms of the larger picture, the larger meaning of what we're doing. I'm more into the technical end: the chords and the rhythms and the melodies.

In December 2005, the band began to produce a twice-monthly podcast. Early on, Linnell frequently contributed humorous spoken-word pieces to the program.

Side projects

Since 1994, Linnell has done some solo work: in that year he released the State Songs EP, which he expanded to a full-length album in 1999. The EP and album's concept is intentionally misleading: U.S. states feature prominently in the title and chorus of each song, but have very little to do with their actual narratives: "Montana", for instance, is about the insane ramblings of somebody who is about to die; "Idaho" explores a famous rock story in which John Lennon, having consumed hallucinogenic drugs, believed he could drive his house; "South Carolina" is about getting rich off of a bicycle accident.

Other side-projects include the limited-release House of Mayors EP in 1996, the 1997 Olive, the Other Reindeer single released under pseudonym Johnny Hart, and playing the accordion on David Byrne's 2004 effort, Grown Backwards. In 2009 he sang "Other Father Song" in the movie, Coraline.

People magazine poll

In a People Magazine online poll - "The Most Beautiful People of 1998" - John Linnell finished ninth (with 4,189 votes, eight ahead of Sarah Michelle Gellar, and 1,038 behind Madonna). He responded to the curious poll results with an op-ed piece in the New York Times:

Linnell performing in Fort Lauderdale in 3/12/2008. In this photo, his accordion is a Main Squeeze 911 26-key and 5 treble switch instrument.
I had already gotten wind of the existence of the poll a few days earlier when I read that Leonardo DiCaprio had been knocked out of the No. 1 spot by a dark horse named Hank the Angry, Drunken Dwarf. The on-line voters, it seemed, had a new, more evolved definition of beauty that gave low marks to standard celebrity good looks. What they really valued was a person's inner beauty. Anyway, that's what I told myself as I went on line to see the results firsthand.

He went on to say, of online voting:

It has been suggested that the Internet might be a good way to vote for our elected officials. If my experience is any guide, though, it appears there are still a few bugs to be worked out before you'll be able to elect the next President while sitting at home in your underwear, unless you want Shecky Greene running the country."

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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