Sufjan Stevens Shares New Song “Tonya Harding” About the 1990s Figure Skater

Single Not Connected to New Movie on Harding, Is Out Now on Cassette

Dec 06, 2017 Bookmark and Share


Sufjan Stevens has shared a new song, "Tonya Harding." It's about the 1990s figure skater that was banned from professional skating in 1994 due to an attack on rival skater Nancy Kerrigan by Shane Stant (who was hired by Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and her bodyguard, Shawn Eckhardt). She is also known for a sex tape she sold to Penthouse and for her boxing and auto racing careers. The song is not connected to the new biopic film on Harding, I, Tonya, which is out this Friday and stars Margot Robbie as Harding, although Stevens said he offered the song to the film's director, Craig Gillespie. Stevens has written an essay about the song and Harding, which is here. Below is the song and part of the essay. 

Helado Negro and Doveman helped out on production and the song is available on cassette now, with a vinyl release coming soon. The single's cover art is by Stephen Halker.

Stevens' essay begins: "I've been trying to write a Tonya Harding song since I first saw her skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 1991. She's a complicated subject for a song partly because the hard facts of her life are so strange, disputable, heroic, unprecedented, and indelibly American." 

Then Stevens goes on to detail Harding's life, accomplishments, and her failings. He ends the essay on a positive: "I admit, early drafts of this song contained more than a few puns, punch lines and light-hearted jabs-sex tapes and celebrity boxing make for an entertaining narrative arc. But the more I edited, and the more I meditated, and the more I considered the wholeness of the person of Tonya Harding, I began to feel a conviction to write something with dignity and grace, to pull back the ridiculous tabloid fodder and take stock of the real story of this strange and magnificent America hero. At the end of the day, Tonya Harding was just an ordinary woman with extraordinary talent and a tireless work ethic who set out to do her very best. She did that and more. I hope the same can be said of us all."

Stevens released his acclaimed album Carrie & Lowell in 2015 and earlier this year he released a corresponding live album and concert film, Carrie & Lowell Live. Last month Stevens released a Carrie & Lowell mixtape entitled The Greatest Gift, via Asthmatic Kitty.

Stevens also recently teamed up with Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner (of The National), and James McAlister for a new collaborative album about space, Planetarium, which came out back in June via 4AD.

Stevens also has two new songs in Call Me By Your Name, a new gay romance film directed by Luca Guadagnino that stars Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet and just came out.

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