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Singer-songwriter Wesley Willis, a 300-pound diagnosed schizophrenic who went from street performer in Chicago to cult hero during the 1990s, died Thursday after a long battle with chronic myelogenous leukemia. He was 40.

Willis wrote his own songs, primarily about his favorite rock ‘n’ roll artists, which ranged from Elvis Presley to Jets to Brazil. He also sold his accomplished pen drawings of cityscapes, often on Chicago buses.

An outsider artist who self-released many albums, Willis, who played on a portable keyboard, was embraced by the city’s rock community, including the Smashing Pumpkins, and he landed a contract with Rick Rubin’s American Recordings in 1996.

The two albums he released for the label deviated little, if at all, from formula: three chords, a chorus with the subject’s name repeated over and over, and an outtro featuring the slogan, “Rock over London, rock over Chicago.” In performance, Willis had a tendency to battle with audience members and was known to challenge strangers to fights or, on occasion, leave the stage before finishing a show.

Willis’ “Greatest Hits Vol. 1” was released in 1995 by Alternative Tentacles, the label run by former Dead Kennedys front man Jello Biafra. A second volume followed in 1999, and a third will be released Oct. 7. It will feature video footage of Willis as well as downloads and an art and photo gallery.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.