The Stories Behind ‘Tiger King’ Joe Exotic’s Country Songs
Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic, had many career interests. As revealed in the Netflix series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness, Maldonado-Passage wanted to rule the exotic pet underworld, take down Carole Baskin, obtain a position in government, and become a successful country singer.
You might think no one can do realistically all of that, but the Netflix docuseries captured Maldonado-Passage doing all of it. One of the most intriguing aspects of Tiger King was Maldonado-Passage’s country music career. Here’s what inspired some of Joe Exotic’s country music.
What did Joe Exotic write country songs about?
Tiger King revealed some of Maldonado-Passage’s more popular, big cat-related songs like “Here Kitty Kitty,” the ominous ditty about Carole Baskin feeding her ex-husband to a tiger. Maldonado-Passage spared no detail in creating the music video for “Here Kitty Kitty,” even hiring a Baskin look-alike to feed raw meat to tigers.
The docuseries also featured the hit “I Saw a Tiger,” an ode to Maldonado-Passage’s passion for big cats, and a song he dedicated to then-husband John Finlay titled “My First Love.”
Country music by Joe Exotic not featured in ‘Tiger King’
Tiger King did discuss some of Maldonado-Passage’s songs, but they left out much of his country music library. Songs not featured in the docuseries include “Pretty Woman Lover,” a song that proves Maldonado-Passage’s excessive self-confidence with the lyrics:
Women wanna love me and they’re callin’ my name/ Ain’t no candle I’m a red hot flame/ I’m a pretty woman lover/ I’m an ugly woman’s dream/Baby you’re lucky have a man like me.Country Music Singer Joe Exotic, “Pretty Woman Lover”
Maldonado-Passage also has a soft-rock song about misdirected love called “How Was I to Know.” In the music video, Maldonado-Passage is seen staring at his often-shirtless John Finlay.
Yet another provocative tune not shown in Tiger King is “You Can’t Believe,” a song about Zanesville, Ohio big cat keeper Terry Thompson. While Thompson’s release of exotic animals and eventual suicide were discussed in the series, the creators neglected to mention Maldonado-Passage’s belief that Thompson was killed.
In “You Can’t Believe,” Maldonado-Passage alleges Thompson was murdered so as to discredit private ownership of exotic pets. Maldonado-Passage sings: “You can’t believe all you read, you can’t believe all you see/ I knew the man, I know the drill/There’s something wrong in Zanesville.”
Joe Exotic isn’t really a country singer
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Tiger King creators Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin mentioned a deleted scene that showed Maldonado-Passage saying: “Of course not every singer sings all his songs, that’s just how it’s done.” Instead, Maldonado-Passage enlisted the Clinton Johnson Band to create his music.
It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Maldonado-Passage coming up with the ideas for these songs. According to Vince Johnson, half of the musical duo that wrote and recorded the music, Maldonado-Passage would generate the subject matter for the songs, then leave Johnson to “do research.”
In an interview with Slate, Johnson discussed writing “You Can’t Believe:” “[Maldonado-Passage] told me about his friend Thompson and how he was being railroaded and he wanted a sympathetic song, so I gave him one.”
Maldonado-Passage hired the Clinton Johnson Band to write music for the reality series Rick Kirkham was filming. After being lied to and told the show was in a bidding war with networks like Animal Planet and Discovery, Clinton and Johnson believed working with Maldonado-Passage would help skyrocket them into the mainstream music world. It quickly became clear that wasn’t the case.
With the release of the Netflix docuseries, Johnson and Clinton were both credited for “Archival Footage.” Sadly, Clinton died from a heart-related issue, but Johnson is hopeful that Tiger King will help put the band’s music on the map.