Who is Joseph Merrick?
Oct 14th 2012 Patrick Saad Miscellaneous

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There are plenty of topics worth researching in Metal lyrics and artwork, especially when it comes to intriguing characters, whether imaginary like Jekyll & Hyde or real like Elizabeth Báthory.

This is evident with American band Mastodon, who constantly feature strange creatures in their lyrics and artwork; simply check out their “Remission”, “Leviathan”, “Blood Mountain” and “The Hunter” album covers. Aside from artwork, several of their songs actually talk about creatures like octopuses, birchmen, mastodons, giants, wolves and many others.

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There’s one reference that caught my attention however, it’s the title of the final track from their “Leviathan” album, “Joseph Merrick”. The only other reference to a human being in the album is the song “I Am Ahab” – Ahab being the captain who wants to kill the whale Moby Dick in the famous Herman Melville novel. However, Joseph Merrick has nothing to do with the novel, hence the question: Who is Joseph Merrick?

Well the band stayed true to their choices of odd creatures and beings, because Joseph is in fact a human curiosity, a man with severe physical deformities who’s also known as the “Elephant Man” (which happens to be the title of another instrumental from the band’s debut album “Remission”!). Joseph was feared and rejected by society back in the late 19th century due to his abnormal appearance.

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His facial deformities obstructed his speech so he wasn’t able to communicate with others, and when one day he couldn’t earn a living as a member of a freak show, Joseph resorted to the help of a surgeon named Frederick Treves. Frederick took Merrick to the London Hospital where he received medical care for several years. When Joseph’s oral communication improved after a mouth surgery, he began engaging in long talks with Frederick who then stated that the Elephant Man was in fact not mentally ill in any way.

Here’s a poem which Joseph used to end his letters with:

Tis true my form is something odd,
But blaming me is blaming God;
Could I create myself anew
I would not fail in pleasing you.

If I could reach from pole to pole
Or grasp the ocean with a span,
I would be measured by the soul;
The mind’s the standard of the man.

  • Links

Joseph Merrick’s article on Wikipedia

Now you know the story behind the name! Remember to keep researching lyrical topics and references from your favorite bands!

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