Song of the Day: Kasey Anderson’s ‘Don’t Look Back.’

Kasey Anderson has been one of my favorite songwriter/performers for the last ten years. I’m playing keyboards with him at the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland on Thursday evening (headliner is Chris Margolin & The Dead Bird Collection) and this lovely song will definitely be in the set.

To learn more about Kasey’s recent jinks, hi- and lo-, check out this interview on the FarceTheMusic website. Then go to Kasey’s website and download his 2012 album LET THE BLOODY MOON RISE, for not a penny more than $5. It’s a great record.

Kasey Anderson stole, lied and cheated but it still isn’t what it seems


You can see the whole shocking story here on Ryan White’s blog. To make it brief, Portland-Vancouver songwriter/singer/guitarist Kasey Anderson, has just been indicted of a variety of federal fraud offenses, all related to a jaw-dropping scam that relieved several extremely credulous investors of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Kasey performed similarly larcenous lo-jinks to folks within the music industry, everyone from working-man musicians (or their record companies) to superstars. To make it all the more excruciating for me some of his victims are people I have worked with and maintain friendly relationships.

Basically everything Kasey did was wrong. And obviously criminal. The investors filed a lawsuit months ago, and now those federal beefs could send him away for as long as 15 years.

But now I’m going to tell you something else: Kasey is a great guy. I’m not talking about his artistry, which I have admired for years. I’m talking about Kasey as a human being. Along with being smart, funny and insightful, he’s also a warm and generous friend.

Who, as it turns out, happens to have a pretty severe mental illness.

I know more about this than I can say right now, but I can say that it’s a pretty recent diagnosis, with a lot of unpleasant ramifications. Recovery won’t be easy — it never is when the most fundamental aspects of consciousness take you over the cliff. From what I can see Kasey is doing his best to get back on track. I’m not with him 24 hours a day (haven’t seen him in a few weeks, in fact). I hope, and trust, he’s every bit as serious about getting his ass back to the straight and  narrow as he seems to be.

None of which makes up for, let alone excuses, the shit that he did. This is not a no-harm, no-foul type of situation. Kasey must, and I sincerely hope he will, make serious amends for his deeds, no matter how they came about.

And yet Kasey deserves to be understood in the larger context of his life and his disease. He is not a career criminal. He has had other problems in his past, mostly involving drug abuse, but even that was far more self-destructive than harmful to others.

Mental illness is a ferociously complex, and just plain ferocious, thing. It strikes at the core of your being and twists it into its own illogical image. Gentle people become violent. People with wonderful lives yearn for death. A warm-hearted, hard-working musician becomes a grifter. Does this always make them evil, weak willed people? Perhaps, but only if we judge the victims of every victim of chemical-based, hereditary diseases — cancer, diabetes, congenital heart disease — as failures and reprobates. After all, we’re all healthy. We watch our diets, don’t smoke, take our exercise, buy our rutabagas and cauliflower from the organic bins, no matter the cost. Health is a lifestyle choice, you know? Let ’em burn.

That’s ridiculous. Everyone with a serious illness deserves some level of understanding, and often sympathy. I’m not saying  that Kasey’s illness relieves of his accountability.  But his crime shouldn’t relieve us of our humanity, either. I know it’s usually too much to ask for on the Internet. Even the writer/NPR host John Moe, a staunch advocate for victims of depression (his brother committed suicide)  took to Twitter last night to mock and denounce Kasey. “I have no sympathy for con men,” he responded when I asked after his sympathy for the mentally ill. When one woman proposed that he might show a bit more humanity, Moe blocked her then told everyone he had done it.

The Kasey I know, the real Kasey, is a remarkably humane person. I think his song “I Was a Photograph (Blake’s Song)” is the best song anyone has written about the psychological toll of the Iraq war. It’s about — and sung in the voice of — James Blake Miller, the guy you’ll remember from the photograph of him from the Iraq front lines,  a filthy, battered soldier gazing emptily into the camera while a shock white cigarette burns between his lips. They called him a hero that day. By the time he got home his head was filled with other voices.

…You inherit my blood, boy/But your sins are all your own…