Okkervil River’s Will Sheff underwent an emergency tracheotomy when he was barely even a toddler. I know this because he just released a song about it. That must have been ridiculously scary for Sheff’s folks, particularly in light of this key lyric: “I was one and a half/ I was my parents’ only kid, and they had lost two before that/ And growing up, I always knew how close I’d come/ Well, that must have been scary, mom.” Damn.
From there, “Famous Tracheotomies” traces the history of some celebrities who also underwent the procedure, including Gary Coleman, Ray Davies, and Dylan Thomas. Each figure gets their own little vignette crafted with the artful care we’ve come to expect from Sheff. One of the most affecting is the tale of Mary Wells, the Motown star who lost her career due to laryngeal cancer, despite Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick’s attempts to help.
In The Rainbow Rain is out 4/27 on ATO. Pre-order it here.