How Joe Exotic Faked His Music Career

Where to begin with Joe Exotic and the legit masterpiece that is Netflix's Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness? It was basically made for a period of global self-quarantining because, seriously, how do you look away?

While the series offers endless nuggets worth pursuing, there's one aspect of the docu-series that we simply have to discuss: Joe Exotic's music career. If you take a look at just one of his music video (oh yes, there's more than one), you will truly be left speechless. Did those sweetly sung lyrics really come out of the same mouth that threatened a small Waco if his cats were taken? While the music videos are quite something, the vocals are, honestly, lovely. So was that really Joe Exotic singing?

You might be disappointed (but you probably won't be surprised) to find out that no, Joe did not actually sing (or write) his songs. According to Vanity Fair, the musicians responsible for gems like "Here Kitty Kitty" and "I Saw a Tiger" are "Vince Johnson and vocalist Danny Clinton." While the two musicians are technically listed in the credits of Joe's music videos, Joe kept the fact that he was not the singer/songwriter of his bops super under wraps. According to TMZ, the Clinton Johnson band sent as many as 20 songs to Joe. 

The lie of Joe Exotic's musical career

According to Rick Kirkham, a producer who filmed for Joe Exotic, it was laughable to see just how determined Joe was to have people believe that he had a music career. "Joe got a little bit drunk and high, and we actually coaxed him into singing part of one of the songs," Kirkham told Vanity Fair. "He couldn't even hold a tune. It was just so ludicrous. It was a big joke within the crew and staff that it wasn't him." 

Joe managed to track down the Clinton Johnson band and persuade them that he was on the cusp of landing something huge. According to Vanity Fair, Joe told them that he needed music for his "reality show that was the subject of a bidding war between Animal Planet, Discovery, and National Geographic." Obviously, the musicians agreed and wrote some tiger-themed tunes. 

Vince Johnson said he went "on YouTube one night and just happened to look up Joe Exotic" when he found his band's song claimed by the audacious zoo owner. "I had no idea he was going to Milli Vanilli the songs," Johnson told Vanity Fair in an e-mail. To do this, Joe simply "sang softly over the top of the vocal track," Robert Moor, host of the Joe Exotic: Tiger King podcast, explained on Twitter

Johnson said when he confronted Joe about the music, Joe promised that "he would make everything right as rain," which was fine by Johnson because all he wanted was "proper credit," per Vanity Fair

Personal vendettas in Joe Exotic's music videos

In addition to using his music videos to show his "talent," Joe Exotic also used the videos for personal vendettas. Perhaps the most notable example is his music video, "Here Kitty Kitty." For the video, he found a doppelgänger for arch nemesis Carole Baskin and portrayed Baskin feeding tigers pieces of meat from a tray with a fake human head, referencing the allegations that Carole killed her husband, Don Lewis.

The music video for "My First Love" is honestly just lovely as it captures Joe and his then-husband, John Finlay, playing in the snow, accompanied by several shots of Joe contemplating life from the front seat of a red pickup. What could be better?

Amazingly, musician Vince Johnson actually had positive things to say about Joe, according to Vanity Fair: "We all get what's coming to us in the end, be it good or bad. Joe, all in all, was likable. Most people just bore the hell out of me. They have the personality of a lobster. He's a seedy shyster, but he's got personality."

Johnson told TMZ that, thanks to the Netflix docu-series, he's getting a lot of media attention now, and he hopes a music label will capitalize on his popularity. Sadly, vocalist Danny Clinton passed away "from a heart-related issue" in October 2019. However, the band recorded "3 albums worth of songs" before he passed. 

At the time of this writing, the "seedy shyster" is in prison, but at least Johnson and Clinton are getting the recognition they deserve!