Photo by James Winnie
In Africa, somewhere near 29.4 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, and 3.5 million new infections occurred in sub-Saharan Africa in 2002. Ten million African youths from 15 to 24 years old and approximately three million children under 15 have HIV. And almost eleven million children have been orphaned by AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.
Umm…Cass McCombs is a guy who lives in Baltimore who wrote a song we really like called “AIDS in Africa,” but none of the above stats are in it, so whatever. Cass sounds like Ricky Nelson, and his tunes are haunting and simple, but not corny. Cass sings that he wants to be famous for falling in love, and hearing that and hearing the AIDS song, you’d figure he’s bummed out at least 92 percent of the time. We’re not sure why. He only pays $150 in rent.
VICE: What’s been the bottom of the barrel for you?
Cass: I got real depressed when I got mugged once in San Francisco. A guy on a bike rode up and took all my money. A hundred dollars. That was everything I had and I had just got it. It was two years ago. My friend Jason let me stay at his house and I borrowed some food from him. How long did it take you to recover?
Oh, he didn’t rough me up too bad—just enough. Then he told me it could get worse if I said anything. When was the next time you smiled after that?
Probably that night. I figured the guy needed it worse than I did. Have you ever been so poor that a small bag of Cheetos seemed like an amazing gift?
Yeah. I think for the last couple of years—ever since I got mugged—that $80 is the steady amount of money that I’ve had. I’ve never really had more than $80 at any given time. I thought this was going to be about “AIDS in Africa.” Oh yeah. JEFF JOHNSON