Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, Women Of Rock Edition, where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!
Wendy Orlean Williams (May 28, 1949 – April 6, 1998) was an American singer, songwriter, and actress. Born in Webster, New York, she came to prominence as the lead singer of the punk rock band Plasmatics. Her onstage theatrics included partial nudity, exploding equipment, firing a shotgun, and chainsawing guitars. Dubbed the “Queen of Shock Rock” and the “Metal Priestess”, Williams was considered the most controversial and radical female singer of her time. Performing her own stunts in videos, she often sported a mohawk hairstyle. In 1985, during the height of her popularity as a solo artist, she was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.
Williams first attempted suicide in 1993 by hammering a knife into her chest where it lodged in her sternum. However, she changed her mind and called Rod Swenson to take her to the hospital. She attempted suicide again in 1997 with an overdose of ephedrine.
Williams died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on April 6, 1998, when she was 48. Swenson, her partner for more than 20 years, returned to their home in the area where they had lived since moving to Connecticut from New York City. He found a package she left for him that contained some noodles he liked, a packet of seeds for growing garden greens, some Oriental massage balm, and sealed letters from her.
The suicide letters, which included a “living will” denying life support, a love letter to Swenson and various lists of things to do, caused Swenson to begin searching the woods for her. After about an hour, as dusk fell, he found her body in a wooded area with a pistol lying on the ground nearby. She had apparently been feeding wild squirrels moments before her suicide, as well as putting a bag over her head before shooting herself to spare her partner the horrible sight. “Wendy’s act was not an irrational in-the-moment act,” he said; for four years she had contemplated suicide. Swenson reportedly described her as “despondent” at the time of her death. This is what she reportedly wrote in a suicide note regarding her decision:
I don’t believe that people should take their own lives without deep and thoughtful reflection over a considerable period of time. I do believe strongly, however, that the right to do so is one of the most fundamental rights that anyone in a free society should have. For me, much of the world makes no sense, but my feelings about what I am doing ring loud and clear to an inner ear and a place where there is no self, only calm.
Joey Ramone and many others issued statements at the time of her death. On Motörhead’s 1999 live album Everything Louder Than Everyone Else, before the song “No Class,” Motörhead vocalist Lemmy said that he wanted to dedicate the song to her.
A memorial was held at CBGB on May 18. Several of Wendy’s former Plasmatics co-members (Chosei Funahara, Richie Stotts, Wes Beech, Stu Deutsch, Jean Beauvoir and TC Tolliver) played a six-song set with four of them handling the vocals.