Hello there! I was asked to write a few words for the reissue of God, Forgive These Bastards, a book and album about a man named Henry Turner that was originally released in 2012. That there is still interest in the story is really neat and humbling for me and the rest of the folks in the Taxpayers—especially considering the haphazard/shoestring manner in which we tend to create and release things.
Henry Turner is a fictional character who was dreamed up around January of 2011 when I was living in a storage container in Florida for the winter with the rest of the Taxpayers. One day, I sat outside the storage container to watch the vultures circle overhead, and wrote a song about a schizophrenic guy living on the streets, telling anybody who’ll listen that he used to be a major league pitcher back in the 1970’s. That song became “Who the Hell Are You?” We started writing more songs about that guy - eventually enough to make up a whole album about Henry Turner.
Then, one day while on tour, I decided a book should be written about him. I thought this would be a neat thing to do because 1) it would give the songs greater context, and 2) it would give flesh and bones to the Turner character. At first I tried to get our friend Keith Rosson to write the book, because he is a real writer. But he had his own writing to work on, so I decided to give it a shot myself.
Somewhere along the line, I started writing the book from the perspective of Turner being a guy that I actually knew in real life. It was exciting. I went to the library and researched some actual historical Turner families from Georgia, and linked the fictional Henry to those families. Strangely, I found out that there was a post civil war senator named Henry Gray Turner who married a woman named Lavinia Calhoun Morton – who, according to the librarian who was helping me, might be loosely related to me. The lineage gets muddy somewhere in early 1800’s New York City, so according to the librarian it’s tough to say for certain, but it was neat to think about.
The plan became this: we would release the album/book as a tribute to Henry Turner, a close friend who had recently died. There were a few reasons for this. First, it would give even more authority and dignity to the Turner character. Second, it would be an experiment in group psychology to see how people reacted to this person. The hope was that feelings would be mixed – some people would appreciate the voice being given to this damaged and complicated man, some people would find Turner’s crimes repulsive and unforgivable, others would be critical of my relationship with this homeless man and feel he was being taken advantage of, and so forth.
All these things happened. There was even an MRR review that demanded the profits (of which there are none, I can assure you – this is DIY punk, after all) be given to Savannah Turner, Henry’s (nonexistent) daughter! Pretty funny.
So that is how the whole thing came to be. The book had some typos and the songs had some blemishes, but everyone involved with bringing it to life did a great job, I think. If Turner had existed, I don’t know if he would be proud or not.
So that’s that, I guess. I hope you enjoy the story! If not, we will try better next time. Until then, keep trying to look out for each other.