Bonnie "Prince" Billy

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About Bonnie "Prince" Billy

Indie-folk icon Joseph Will Oldham—aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy—was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1970, initially pursuing a career as a child actor and landing an acclaimed role as a teenage preacher in the 1987 John Sayles film Matewan. By the early 1990s, he had followed childhood friends (including members of the influential band Slint) into the punk scene and began making music under the Palace Brothers moniker, offering a post-punk take on Americana. He worked under various names—including Palace, Palace Music, and Palace Songs—before largely settling on the Bonnie “Prince” Billy alias in 1998, abandoning his often reticent performance style and developing into an accomplished songwriter. (Johnny Cash covered his track “I See a Darkness” in 2000.) Oldham’s increasingly complex and assured recordings throughout the 21st century have switched among honky-tonk, roots rock, and folk rock, with a sterling support cast that’s included guitarists Emmett Kelly and Matt Sweeney and singer Angel Olsen. He’s an eager collaborator, too, working with artists as disparate as Bill Callahan, Bitchin Bajas, and Susanna Wallumrød. And he even still acts on occasion, appearing in Kelly Reichardt’s acclaimed 2006 film Old Joy.

Louisville, KY, United States
December 24, 1970
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