The bizarre and outlandish events documented by reality TV have inspired all sorts of artistic works, from fan fiction to t-shirt designs to speculative films. But only a work of transcendent poetry like the Channel 4 special "My Monkey Baby" — which aired in the U.S. on TLC more than two years ago, but which still resonates with those of us who watched it — could inspire a song like "Jessy Marie." When Tracie Potochnik (who, full disclosure, has been a good friend of mine for years) entered a songwriting contest with a unique challenge: to craft a song around the theme "That's no gosh darn monkey," naturally her thoughts went straight to Jessy Marie, the titular Monkey Baby, whose "parents" took umbrage when anyone dared to suggest that their "daughter" was a monkey. And though it sounds like a funny premise (and...okay, it is), the song came out quite haunting — as Tracie puts it, "as if Gillian Welch had written an opera inspired by 'My Monkey Baby.'" Listen and enjoy.
If you somehow didn't catch "My Monkey Baby" when it first aired (and boy, do I feel sorry for you if you didn't), here's a taste of what you missed.