Ronald Reagan Shooter John Hinkley Jr. Is Free & Making Country Music

On the hunt for some new tunes? Want to know who some of the new names are in the world of country & Western music? Well perhaps you might want to check out this new old cat that just arrived on the scene named John Hinkley Jr., originally from Ardmore, Oklahoma, and raised in Dallas. He’s got a handful of original songs, a hardcore traditional country sound, and he’s no prima donna ladies and gentlemen, he’s done hard time. After all, he’s the dude who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

Now look, I don’t mean to be patronizing. John Hinkley Jr. did shoot police officer Thomas Delahanty, Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy, critically wounded Press Secretary James Brady, and wounded President Ronald Reagan when one of the multiple bullets he fired from his .22 revolver graced off the Presidential limousine, and struck Regan in the chest on March 30th, 1981 in Washington D.C, all in an attempt to impress actress Jodie Foster.

But a judge and doctors deemed Mr. Hinkley as competent to re-enter society after originally being found not guilty by reasons of insanity, and he was institutionalized at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C. for some 35 years. Hinkley was officially released on September 10th, 2016 with many stipulations, including having to live with his mother, along with strict rules that he can’t have any involvement with drugs, guns, alcohol, Jodie Foster, or speak to the press. His internet history also has to be cataloged and monitored.

Since Hinkley’s release, those restrictions have slowly eased, including the allowance for the 66-year-old to start posting songs on his YouTube channel, which he’s been doing on a regular basis over the past couple of months. Along with cover songs, he’s also posted some original songs, and has amassed over 22,000 YouTube subscribers (at the time of this post). Then a couple of weeks ago, he released numerous songs to streaming services, including a proper country music studio single called “We Have Got That Chemistry” (listen below).

Like a lot of your favorite Texas country artists, Hinkley attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock, and in 1975, took a trip to Los Angeles in an attempt to become a songwriter. This was all before his fascination with firearms, and his obsession with actress Jodie Foster. But through the years, John Hinkley Jr. has been using music and songwriting in his rehabilitation process, and to deal with his underlying mental health issues.

Last month, on September 27th, a judge ruled that as long as Hinkley continues to behave, he will be granted an unconditional release in June of 2022. Music has been been cited specifically in the progress of his rehabilitation, and in his recovery.

When I first heard that John Hinkley Jr. was making country music, the first instinct was to either be shocked by it, or mock it humorously. But after watching his YouTube videos, reading through the surprisingly supportive comments, there appears to be a much deeper lesson here.

John Hinkley Jr. hurt a lot of people and will never live his past down, just like many of the country music heroes of yesteryear. And let’s be honest, a 66-year-old man whose been institutionalized for the last 35 years is not going to become your next favorite country music star, especially after the unusual effect they placed on his vocals in his first proper single.

But country was there as a way out of a troubled past for Merle Haggard, David Allan Coe, and so many other country greats. If country music and songwriting is how John Hinkley Jr. has found his peace and equilibrium through life, I’m not sure we shouldn’t support it, regardless of how you feel about the music itself. Because it speaks once again to the power, and the importance of music to the soul.

…and as we love to say, it better than 90% of the crap they play on country radio these days.

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