AUSTIN, Tex. - On its newest album, "The Stage Names," alterna-rock group Okkervil River serves up a track called "Savannah Smiles" about the life and death of Shannon Wilsey, a.k.a. '90s porn phenomenon Savannah, who committed suicide after becoming disfigured in a horrific auto accident.
In an interview with music website Pitchfork, Okkervil River frontman Will Sheff said he was drawn to Savannah's story because, "I guess I could relate, or something like that. I'm really interested in pornography, because there's all this meaning that gets attached to pornography that has nothing to do with what pornography is. Because pornography is pretty much the simplest art form there is — there's not a whole lot to it. There's not a lot of meaning there. But there is so much meaning that floats around it.
"I'm really interested in the way that people talk about actresses and actors — but more with actresses — in adult films," Sheff went on. "They are extremely condescending. Often times you either get that this person is some sort of worthless whore, or you get this, 'poor girl, she must have been abused' kind of thing."
On this particular page out of porn history, Sheff noted, "The case of Savannah is interesting because, while not particularly special, her parents blamed the adult film industry, while the adult film industry blamed her parents, and nobody really knows what the hell happened. And that's sort of the point of 'Savannah Smiles' — you don't know. There's sadness about her story that you cannot boil down to a TV movie-style explanation."
Okkervil River is not the first rock band to record an ode to Savannah. Canadian band Sheavy paid homage to the late starlet in "Savannah: Flights of Ecstasy," a track from their excellent "Electric Sleep" album.
"The Stage Names" is available now. For more on Okkervil River, go to www.okkervilriver.com.