Back in 2015, John Darnielle released Beat the Champ, a sonically understated Mountain Goats album about death, darkness, and defiance told through a childhood obsession with professional wrestling. Darnielle's debut novel, Wolf in White Van, had just been nominated for the National Book Award, and Beat the Champ was further proof that he was a uniquely empathetic and dynamic storyteller. The album's second song, "The Legend of Chavo Guerrero," even got some love from its real-life protagonist. But one wrestler wanted more.
Sasha Banks, then the holder of the NXT Women's Championship belt, wanted her own song. And Darnielle seemed happy to oblige.
The tour came and went, and Banks's song never showed up. Until today. Darnielle wrote "Song for Sasha Banks" last week, apparently made Banks very happy by giving her an advance listen, then put it up on Bandcamp this morning.
It's bright and lively, Darnielle's acoustic guitar backed by Jon Wurster on drums and Chris Stamey on bass. It even has a catchy organ hook. And because it was written by Darnielle, the lyrics probe past the details: "Head up to camp in Boston / Come up through the independents / Those who would stand between me and my final destination get torched inside the fire of my transcendence."
Darnielle wrote a note on Bandcamp to accompany the song, and even that has a poetic richness to it:
When Beat the Champ came out, a wrestler named Sasha Banks tweeted at me: "Where's my song, @mountain_goats?" As a territories guy I had to learn her story. I said I'd finish the song by the end of the tour; it took a little longer than that.
Last night Sasha Banks wrestled for the Money in the Bank title, and while she didn't take it home this time, I've learned enough about where she came from and how she got to where she is now to say with confidence: the sky is the limit for you. Your walk is just beginning and the day will come when all your setbacks look like steps on a ladder.
[...] Dedicated of course to Sasha and to everybody who's even had a hint of what it looks like when your dreams start pushing their elbows through the gauze into the real world of blood & sweat & bone.
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This article originally appeared on Noisey US.