On August 31, 2011, the B.B. King Blues Club in New York is hosting “Spirit of Mink DeVille”: The 2nd Annual Willy DeVille Memorial Concert. Willy DeVille — who passed away two years ago this month and was born in 1950 this Thursday, August 25 — had a long career as a musician, singer, and songwriter. He formed the band Mink DeVille in 1974, and it lasted until 1986. He recorded in a number of styles, ranging from punk rock to New Orleans R&B to an Academy-Award-nominated ballad. Later in his career, he became interested in Spanish-American music and began exploring his Native American background. At various times he was more popular in Europe than in his home country of the U.S., but he continued to create music throughout his life.
DeVille struggled for success throughout his career, and he battled a heroin addiction. After getting off heroin in 2000, his second wife, Lisa Leggett, committed suicide in 2001. Then, in 2009, he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, and during treatment, doctors discovered pancreatic cancer. He died three months later in August 2009.
For those who have never heard of Willy DeVille, you most likely know one of his songs, “Storybook Love.” The song is from The Princess Bride and was nominated for an Academy Award. DeVille wrote the song with Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits fame. It is DeVille’s voice you hear at the end of the movie, and it is a perfect song for a perfect movie. Check out this 2002 live performance of the song (available on his Live in Berlin CD).
To get a sense of DeVille’s range over the course of his career, compare “Storybook Love” to this Mink DeVille recording of “Spanish Stroll.”
Overall, it is a pretty impressive career for someone whose name is unfamiliar to many people. Thanks to Mike for introducing me to these compelling performances by DeVille.
What is your favorite Willy DeVille song? Leave a comment.