John Sidney Linnell (born June 12, 1959, New York City, New York) is an American musician, is known primarily as one half of Brooklyn, New York alternative rock duo They Might Be Giants. In addition to singing and songwriting, he plays accordion, baritone and bass saxophone, clarinet, and keyboards for the group.
Linnell's lyrics are perhaps most well-known for their inclusion of strange subject matter and wordplay. Persistent themes include aging, delusional behavior, bad relationships, death, and the personification of inanimate objects. Conversely, the accompanying melodies are usually cascading and upbeat.
He is married and has a son, Henry. Henry appeared as a performer on They Might Be Giants' children's albums Here Come the ABCs and Here Come the 123s.
They Might Be Giants
Linnell co-founded They Might Be Giants in 1982 with high school friend John Flansburgh. While the two split singing and songwriting duties roughly in half, Linnell's songs enjoyed the most commercial success in their early years: singles like "Don't Let's Start" and "Ana Ng" introduced the band to college radio, and they made waves on the Billboard charts in 1990 with "Birdhouse in Your Soul".
Linnell described his role in the group during an interview for Splatter Effect in 1994:
In December 2005, the band began to produce a twice-monthly podcast. Early on, Linnell frequently contributed humorous spoken-word pieces to the program.
Since 1994, Linnell has done some solo work: in that year he released the State Songs EP, which he expanded to a full-length album in 1999. The EP and album's concept is intentionally misleading: U.S. states feature prominently in the title and chorus of each song, but have very little to do with their actual narratives: "Montana", for instance, is about the insane ramblings of somebody who is about to die; "Idaho" explores a famous rock story in which John Lennon, having consumed hallucinogenic drugs, believed he could drive his house; "South Carolina" is about getting rich off of a bicycle accident.
Other side-projects include the limited-release House of Mayors EP in 1996, the 1997 Olive, the Other Reindeer single released under pseudonym Johnny Hart, and playing the accordion on David Byrne's 2004 effort, Grown Backwards. In 2009 he sang "Other Father Song" in the movie, Coraline.
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