John Hinckley, the man who infamously tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan to impress Jodie Foster, has just signed a deal with Asbestos Records to release the vinyl version of his debut folk album, appropriately titled "Redemption."
Hinckley spent 35 years in a mental institution after a jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity for shooting and wounding Ronald Reagan and three of his staffers; one of those staffers, then-White House Press Secretary James Brady, was permanently disabled, and become an outspoken gun control advocate. He ultimately died three decades later from complications relating to the bullet wound left by Hinckley. Two years after that, in 2016, Hinckley was released to the full-time custody of his mother, after a court decided that he was no longer a threat to himself or others. After several years of living under varying degrees of probation, he was released from all court restrictions last summer.
Since 2021, Hinckley has been gradually releasing songs through Spotify. But this vinyl album release represents the first curated collection of songs in an album format (as I understand it, these songs, or at least these versions of them, have not been previously released). In Summer 2022 — just after all of his court restrictions were lifted — Hinckley scheduled a string of concert dates that he was similarly calling the Redemption Tour, but though the events were ultimately cancelled over security concerns. Hinckley had a remarkable conversation with Eve6 frontman Max Collins about the situation, expressing both his disappointment, and the fact that he understood the very valid concerns. He told CBS News at the time that he felt great remorse for his actions back in 1981, but also understood and accepted that others might not be so willing to accept his apology. He even expressed his support for gun control.
Asbestos Records typically specializes in vinyl re-releases of ska and punk albums. Earlier this month, the label signed another folk artist, Black Guy Fawkes (who is a great songwriter with an incredible name). But even so, Hinckley represents a bit of a departure for the small indie label. I've known Asbestos Records' founder Matt Flood since I was 14, and here's what he had to say:
There has been very few more polarizing figures in America during my lifetime than the author of our next release. While the controversial nature is unavoidable, we are choosing to focus on a man who took responsibility for his actions, served his time, and fully embraced therapy for decades to atone, and become a better person. The following album is a collection of beautifully lo-fi folk recordings very remiscent of Daniel Johnston or Neutral Milk Hotel detailing the life of man and his struggle to improve himself, and ultimately choose love. We believe everyone deserves a shot a redemption if they're willing to work for it, and this record is this mans.
John Hinckley's Redemption album is available on red and blue vinyl.