23 January 2017 - DAVID BYRNE


G'day folks,

Welcome to some facts about a successful composer.

David Byrne is the thinking man’s rocker. The idiosyncratic singer, songwriter, and ambient composer may well be the single greatest influence coursing through today’s rock radio consciousness. While groups like R.E.M., the Pixies, and the Cure all deserve mention in this category, The Talking Heads best represent the nervy arthouse ethos of new wave, the lyrical obscurity of alternative, and the addictive hookiness of today’s beardly hipster bands. All owe a debt to David Byrne for their right to be weird and successful all at once.

Born in Dumbarton, Scotland, Byrne’s family relocated several times during his youth before ultimately settling in Baltimore when he was nine. By this time, Byrne was already adept at the guitar, accordion, harmonica, and violin. 

Studying music first at the Rhode Island School of Design and thereafter the Maryland Institute College of Art, Byrne ultimately dropped out of school to pursue music in New York. His arrival there could not have come at a better time. His off-kilter vocals, quirky songwriting, and staccato time signatures were perfectly at home in the burgeoning punk scene.

Forming the Talking Heads in 1975, Byrne rose to recognition as part of the wild CBGB scene that give birth to punk legends like the Ramones, Television, and Blondie. Among them, the Talking Heads stood out for their intelligence and conscious artiness. In 1977, their breakthrough hit, “Psycho Killer,” burned up the charts while the Son of Sam terrorized New York.

Over the course of eight albums, David Byrne was responsible for the lion’s share of writing, as well as for his band’s musical eclecticism. Albums like Fear of Music (1979) and Speaking in Tongues (1985) produced substantial charting hits while incorporating elements of Brazilian music, African polyrhythms, and the synthesizers that would define new wave. As to the latter, the Talking Heads were the most essential trailblazer in a genre that shot the Police, Duran Duran, and the Cars to megastardom. Byrne’s contributions to the MTV era may best be captured in the band’s groundbreaking Stop Making Sense (1984), an ingenious concert documentary (not to mention album) directed by Jonathan Demme. Its imagery and performance aesthetics make it a template-setting document in the music video medium.

Though the Talking Heads disbanded at the end of the ‘80s, Byrne’s solo career continues to distinguish him. Starting with 1981’s highly influential ambient record, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981), Byrne has lent his name to a series of solo works that touch on all manner of world, electronic, and even dance music. David Byrne was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the Talking Heads in 2002 and is the owner of a Grammy, Oscar, and Golden Globe.

Clancy's comment: Mm ... Another very successful life.

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