Tiger King music: Does Joe Exotic really sing on his albums?

7 April 2020, 15:55

Joe Exotic and his tiger
Joe Exotic and his tiger. Picture: Netflix

By Tom Eames

Tiger King has become the breakout TV hit of 2020 so far, with millions of people flocking to Netflix to watch the fascinating exploits of big cat owners in the States.

The Netflix series mainly focuses on the bizarre escapades of Joe Exotic, a former zoo-owner who ended up with a 22-year prison sentence for an attempted murder-for-hire plot against a rival, and for breaking various wildlife regulations.

One of the (many) elements of the show that fascinated so many, was Joe's array of albums and music videos, full of odes to owning tigers and living on a zoo.

The videos were clearly lip-synced, but did Joe actually sing on the songs? And can you hear any of them today?

  1. Does Joe Exotic actually sing?

    In a word, no.

    The musicians behind all of Joe’s tracks are actually Vince Johnson and singer Danny Clinton, both of whom appear in Tiger King’s credits.

    However, Joe kept this secret for as long as he could.

    “It was absolutely ridiculous,” producer Rick Kirkham told Vanity Fair.

    “One time, Joe got a little bit drunk and high, and we actually coaxed him into singing part of one of the songs. He couldn’t even hold a tune. It was just so ludicrous.

    "It was a big joke within the crew and staff that it wasn’t him [singing in the videos]—but he was damned insistent to anyone and everyone, including us and my studio crew, that that was him.”

  2. The real singers weren't happy

    Joe had found Johnson and Clinton, and convinced them to produce several customized cat songs for free.

    The musicians had already recorded personalized lyrics to their clients’ needs. Joe told them that he was a large-cat owner with a private zoo in Oklahoma, and that he needed music for a reality show.

    Johnson agreed to work for free in exchange for large exposure when his music featured on TV.

    Their first song was 'I Saw a Tiger'. Joe would give Johnson a subject, and the duo would record a track within two weeks.

    “I had no idea he was going to Milli Vanilli the songs,” Johnson told Vanity Fair. “It was a couple of months and two or three songs [into the collaboration] when I was on YouTube one night and just happened to look up Joe Exotic.

    "And there he was, lip-syncing and acting like the ghost of Elvis [in these music videos]. I called him up, I was hot…And he bamboozled me about his reality show—that it was coming soon and he would make everything right as rain. I just wanted the proper credit.”

  3. Can I hear the songs?

    There are a couple of songs - 'I Saw a Tiger' and 'Here Kitty Kitty' available on Spotify.

    A singalong video version of 'I Saw a Tiger' is also available on YouTube - watch above.