Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Happy Birthday, David Byrne

Happy Birthday to David Byrne.  Writer, musician and artist.

Today, David Byrne is 61.

Byrne is best known for his tenure with The Talking Heads, the art-punk band that was part of the late-70's, early-80's scene out of CBGB's.  He has written a few books, from The Bicycle Diaries to Strange Ritual.  His lyrics are rarely about the usual topics of newfound love, love gone wrong or partying all night.  Even in his most recent collaboration with St. Vincent, he's still singing about his relationship with television and mass media.

His musical stylings have constantly changed over the years, from the plunky sounds of early Talking Heads to the Latin rhythms of the final Heads album, Naked, to experiments in electronic rhythms, and now he's employing a small marching band on his current tour.  In between, he's mixed dance beats with strings (live) and written brilliantly subversive pop tunes.   It's also worth checking out his albums The Forest and The Catherine Wheel for something completely different, as well as the Brian Eno collaboration My Life in the Bush of Ghosts for a shockingly forward looking concept album that used tape loops and effects to presage what others would soon do with samplers and as computers entered the music industry.

The concert film, Stop Making Sense, is an art house darling for both the performance and art direction - he and other members of the band attended the Rhode Island Institute of Design.  I also find the movie True Stories a lovely outsider's view of Texas in the 1980's.

I've seen Byrne play about five times, and every time the show is worth the cost of admission.  Seriously, the man knows how to put on a great show.

He's prolific enough that I have a hard time keeping up with his output in books, movie scores and other work.  His concert DVDs are always a blast (Jason often gifts me with them at Christmas or birthdays).

In an era when of celebrity becoming an artform, Byrne has remembered that art comes first - as music, film, words or otherwise.  Byrne appreciates pop music, and I can't recommend his cover of "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" enough, but he's clearly not wired to be a part of any particular trend or concept of popular music.  He's just doing his own thing, and if we show up to see him do it, great!

The last show I saw him at was a packed house that normally shows travelling Broadway plays.  Lots of seats, and people were dancing a good portion of the show.  With the age of his crowd, that's a pretty darn good sign.

Here he is with Annie Clark (aka: St. Vincent)

and if he gets back to it, Byrne's blog is actually very interesting stuff.

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