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Byrne, David

David Byrne

Singer, songwriter, composer

More than almost any other popular musician, the multitalented David Byrne is at home in many worlds: rock music, "art" music, ballet, film music, photography, and filmmaking. His solo musical work, begun while he was still guitarist and lead vocalist for Talking Heads—a defunct new wave band formed in New York City in 1974—reflects his wide-ranging interests. Byrne has also experimented extensively with world beat music, implementing African and Latin rhythms. The Talking Heads albums of the 1980s—including Remain in Light, Naked, and Speaking in Tongues—show a substantial blending of international styles. By the end of his time with the band, Byrne's work with them and on his own was deeply influenced by world beat, featured cerebral, angst-ridden lyrics, and was heralded in the music world as eclectic and original.

Acknowledged as an intellectual rock star, Byrne, as frontman of Talking Heads, was an innovator in the emerging new wave rock scene of the late 1970s. A native of Scotland, Byrne immigrated to the United States and during his teens and early twenties played in small rock bands. Seeking the company of art students, he enrolled in several classes at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he eventually met up with his future Talking Heads bandmates Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz.

"[I was] fascinated by conceptual art," Byrne told Jerome Davis, author of Talking Heads. "In particular, there was some that just used language. They'd just write a statement on the wall." He called such work "the ultimate in refining and eliminating all the superfluous stuff in art and being left with nothing but the idea." Friends grew familiar with the young Byrne's quirky concepts, including his song "Psycho Killer," a notorious ballad that later became one of the Heads' first recordings.

Made a Statement With Talking Heads

For the Talking Heads, whose members included Weymouth, Frantz, and Jerry Harrison who joined in 1976, Byrne wrote songs in praise of gainful employment, buildings, and television, but his words and his voice conveyed such underlying hysteria that the result verged on satire. But if Byrne criticized society, he did so indirectly, for his lyrics were characterized by their strange wording and absurdist humor. As Christopher Connelly observed in Rolling Stone, the songwriter "took cultural cliches—on everything from true love to civic pride—out of their customary contexts" and mixed them into dreamlike, ominous new statements, "whose odd juxtapositions and things left unspoken were rich with wit and insight."

Byrne's first major solo endeavor—which appeared after the release of four Talking Heads albums by Sire Records—was a collaboration with longtime Talking Heads producer Brian Eno on a 1981 album entitled My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Demonstrating Byrne's growing interest in music of other cultures, the LP includes rhythms of Africa and the Middle East. Some critics found fault with such cross-cultural musical borrowings. John Pareles of Rolling Stone, for example, wrote that My Life in the Bush of Ghosts "raises stubborn questions about context, manipulation and cultural imperialism."

Also in the early 1980s, Byrne was becoming a popular figure among New York's avant-garde artists, sometimes joining them on projects outside the band. He provided music and lyrics for The Catherine Wheel, a dance production by choreographer Twyla Tharp, and later wrote music and texts for The Knee Plays, interludes in an epic opera by experimental dramatist Robert Wilson, with whom he later wrote the 1988 stage performance piece The Forest. In 1999 Byrne collaborated with Belgian choreographer Wim Vandekeybus to write the score for the full-length dance piece In Spite of Wishing and Wanting, which explores the difficulties of expressing one's innermost thoughts and desires.

Explored Rhythms of African Music

Byrne's intellectual approach to popular music and his desire to do more than play with sounds comes up again and again in interviews. When asked by Rolling Stone why he was interested in African music, Byrne stated that at first he just liked the music. Then, "later on, when I started breaking the beats down and putting them back together again, I saw how African and Afro-American songs were put together in similar ways. I saw there were social parallels to the music and a kind of sensibility and philosophy and even metaphysics that's inherent in the way the music's constructed and the attitude in which it's played."

Byrne's interest in African and Caribbean music has led him to a study of those areas' religions, but he never loses sight of the music. He commented in Rolling Stone, "Artistically, you notice that this is the route where a lot of music and sensibility and attitude finds its way into popular music and popular culture. So it's a pretty natural thing to want to find out where all this came from: Let's get back to whatever it is."

For the Record …

Born on May 14, 1952, in Dumbarton, Scotland; immigrated to United States, 1958; British citizen; son of Thomas (an electrical engineer) and Emily Anderson (a teacher and activist; maiden name, Brown) Byrne; married Adelle Lutz (a designer and actress), 1987; children: Malu Abeni Valentine. Education: Attended Rhode Island School of Design, 1970-71, and Maryland Institute, College of Art, 1971-72.

Vocalist and guitarist with Talking Heads, 1974-88; solo artist, 1981–; conceived stage performance for film Stop Making Sense, 1984; co-wrote and directed film True Stories, 1986; producer of rock videos and recordings; actor appearing in television programs, including Surviving a Family Tree, c. 1985; formed own label, Luaka Bop, at Warner Bros. Records; illustrator, including art for Talking Heads albums and cover of Time, October 27, 1986; composer of scores, including The Catherine Wheel, 1982, The Forest, 1986, The Last Emperor, 1987, In Spite of Wishing and Wanting, 1999, Young Adam, 2002; photographer; cult artist; author, including books Strange Ritual, 1995, Your Action World, 1999, The New Sins, 2003, Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information, 2003; inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 2002.

Awards: Film Critics Award, Best Documentary, for Stop Making Sense, and Video Vanguard Award from MTV, both 1985; Academy Award, Grammy Award, Golden Globe Award, and Hollywood Foreign Press Association Award, all for Best Original Score for The Last Emperor (with co-composers Ryuichi Sakamoto and Cong Su), all 1987; Music Video Producers Association, Best Special Effects, for She's Mad, 1992; Ivors Dance Award for "Lazy," (with co-writers Ashley Beedle, Darren House, and Darren Rock), 2002.

Addresses: Record company—Nonesuch Records, 1290 Ave. of the Americas, New York, NY 10104, website: http://www.nonesuch.com. Website—David Byrne Official Website: http://www.davidbyrne.com.

Since his interest in African music, Byrne's world musical tastes have moved closer to home: On 1989's Rei Momo he collaborated with Latin musicians and songwriters. Critics seemed to like the music, but only after they imagined Byrne out of it. A Down Beat correspondent wrote that Byrne just didn't understand the musical style he was using and that his effort was merely a pastiche. In a review that was even less forgiving, a Melody Maker critic accused Byrne of voyeurism on another culture and its music, of hiring authenticity rather than being true to himself. Byrne finds such criticism difficult to understand; he remarked in Musician, "Musically, you can't really ask musicians to sit still and not try to work with music that they enjoy. Most of the time, I work with the people, I'm friends with them. It's not like I just hear something on a record and go, oh, I'll cop that. But I don't see the press jumping all over Rod Stewart 'cause he stole Jorge Ben's song for 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?'"

Critics have continued to find fault with Byrne's enduring interest with non-Western music over the years. In 1999 Byrne turned the tables on such criticism in a New York Times commentary titled "I Hate World Music." "In my experience," Byrne opined, "the use of the term world music is a way of dismissing artists or their music as irrelevant to one's own life.... It would be strange to imagine, as many multinational corporations seem to, that Western pop holds the copyright on musical creativity." He further maintained that "This interest in music not like that made in our own little villages (Dumbarton, Scotland, and Arbutus, Maryland, in my own case) is not, as it's often claimed, cultural tourism, because once you've let something in, let it grab hold of you, you're forever changed.... That's what art does; it communicates the vibe, the feeling, the attitude toward our lives, in a way that is personal and universal at the same time."

Formed Luaka Bop Records

In 1989 Byrne produced Brazil Classics 1: Beleza Tropical, a compilation disc featuring highly acclaimed Brazilian pop artists. The success of this first compilation led to Byrne's formation of the Luaka Bop record label, which has from its inception promoted global music not readily available. Byrne's interest in Latin music wasn't a passing fad. He compiled several albums featuring Brazilian musicians and has been a participant in the constant definition and redefinition, appropriation and re-appropriation of African music that Latin musicians have been engaged in for centuries. Byrne's infatuation for Latin music eventually shifted to the rhythms of Cuba. In the early 1990s Byrne and Luaka Bop label president Yale Evelev gained permission to tour Cuba, where they listened to contemporary Cuban music as well as perused the files of EGREM, the official record label of the Cuban government. Byrne released two anthologies of Cuban music: Cuba Classics and Cuba Classics 2: Dancing with the Enemy.

Byrne's second solo album, Uh-Oh, appeared after the breakup of the Talking Heads in 1991. Uh-Oh, released by Luaka Bop/Sire Records in 1992, features some of the Latin musicians who appeared on Rei Momo and again displays Byrne's wide musical interests as well as his themes of alienation and social injustice. Well received by critics, Uh-Oh is a collection of mostly up-tempo songs with an undercurrent of sarcasm and irony. "Twistin' in the Wind," for example, "is a chipper diatribe about dirty dealings in Washington, D.C., and Everytown, U.S.A.," according to Josef Woodard in Rolling Stone. Rating the record an A-, Entertainment Weekly's Stephanie Zacharek noted that "Byrne integrates musical genres with still more confidence.... And nearly every arrangement has been burnished to a luster."

Feelings, Byrne's solo work released in 1997, garnered attention both for its arresting cover—a Ken doll image of Byrne's head—and its stylistically broad arrangements. Collaborating with a number of other artists—including the British trio Morcheeba, Black Cat Orchestra, Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale of Devo, and deejay Hahn Rowe—Byrne draws upon a slew of such contrasting influences as drum 'n' bass, bossa nova, country, rap, rock, calypso, and technopop, yet the album somehow remains cohesive. Robert Levine of Rolling Stone dubbed the album "a marvel of musical collage," and further noted that "lyrical and musical juxtapositions could be a recipe for disaster, but on Feelings, Byrne manages to make them sound catchy rather than convoluted."

Although Byrne's solo endeavors did not achieve the commercial success of his work with Talking Heads, and critics were sometimes lukewarm toward his solo recordings, he continued to release albums that satisfied his own interests. In an interview with Chicago Tribune rock critic Greg Kot, Byrne stated, "I keep making records for the same reason I jump up on stage and do something foolish: I have to. Even though I am not in the center of the commercial tornado, I do feel like some kind of survivor. I've been able to make the kind of music I want to make. I've been able to do side projects and quirky things, and to make pop music the way I want to make and not cater to whatever the flavor of the month is."

The flavor of his 2001 CD Looking into the Eyeball seemed to please most listeners, and even prompted Guardian critic Ian Gittins to declare Looking into the Eyeball "is undoubtedly the warmest and most humane record [Byrne has] made." Songs on this album explore the oddities of modern life, blending Afro-Latin rhythms and string orchestrations with Byrne's own idiosyncratic pop melodies. From the perspective of several critics, Byrne's trademark edgy persona seemed to have been replaced by a more serene presence. New York Times reviewer Ann Powers observed that in his live show "New songs like 'The Great Intoxication' and 'U.B. Jesus' employed a seductive brew of intense rhythms and balmy strings to mellow Mr. Byrne's nonlinear perspective."

Classical Leanings

Byrne's orchestral music to The Forest, a theatrical piece by the avant-garde performance artist Robert Wilson, continues many of Byrne's earlier concerns with identity and disaffection. In the liner notes accompanying the 1991 album, Byrne wrote that "The Forest is less a piece than a process. A process of discovering what it is we are made of. What kinds of ideas, what prejudices, what propaganda fills us up, what we think is beautiful and what we think is ugly, what we consider Nature and what we think is God." The Forest, like most of Byrne's work, tackles the musician's interest in life's larger questions as well as the enduring aspects of the industrial age. Set in the mid-1880s, the piece features probably the most classical of all musical styles Byrne had yet employed. Byrne's interest in classical music forms led him to incorporate opera into Grown Backwards, his 2004 solo work released on Nonesuch Records. Included along with eleven original songs that evoke loneliness and isolation and a cover of indie rock band Lambchop's "The Man Who Loved Beer," Byrne adds Verdi's aria "Un Di Felice, Eterea" from La Traviata and Bizet's aria duet "Au Fond du Temple Saint" from The Pearl Fishers. Critics and fans greeted this latest foray into the classical with appreciation for Byrne's efforts to keep pushing the limits of musical boundaries.

Byrne has also composed music for films, most notably for True Stories of 1986—a motion picture he also co-authored and directed—and 1987's The Last Emperor, a Steven Spielberg creation. Despite the fact that The Last Emperor score, co-written with Rhuichi Sakamoto and Cong Su, garnered Byrne an Academy Award, it is his least discussed endeavor. True Stories, on the other hand, was Byrne's project and displayed many of his familiar concerns—about truth, identity, and post-modern alienation. The film and music were criticized by some as voyeuristic and exploitative, while others praised their quirkiness and humor. Years later Byrne's approach took a different track with the score Lead Us Not into Temptation that accompanied the 2003 Scottish film Young Adam. Departing from Afro-Latin and Caribbean influences, Byrne created, according to All Music Guide reviewer Sean Westergaard, music that "often echoes the gloom and dankness of the Scottish climate."

Byrne's artistic activities are myriad, as displayed by his musical interests. His own albums and those he produced for the Luaka Bop label offer bold amalgamations of African, Latin, Middle Eastern, East Indian, Japanese, rock, and classical music. Maybe Byrne's goal is not, as former bandmate Tina Weymouth once said of the Talking Heads, to change the face of music; his aim is perhaps to change the face of contemporary American culture.

Selected discography

Solo albums

(With Brian Eno) My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Sire, 1981. The Complete Score from "The Catherine Wheel," Sire, 1982.

Songs from the Broadway Production of "The Catherine Wheel," Sire, 1982.

Music for The Knee Plays, ECM, 1982.

Score for Something Wild, MCA, 1986.

(With Rhuichi Sakamoto and Cong Su) Music for The Last Emperor, Virgin, 1987.

Score to Married to the Mob, Reprise, 1988.

Rei Momo, Luaka Bop/Sire, 1989.

The Forest, Luaka Bop/Sire, 1991.

(With Jack Dangers and Rudy Tambala) Forestry, Luaka Bop, 1992.

Uh-Oh, Luaka Bop/Sire, 1992.

David Byrne, Luaka Bop/Sire, 1994.

Feelings, Luaka Bop/Warner Alliance, 1997.

Visible Man, Luaka Bop/Import, 1998.

Score for Wim Vandekeybus's In Spite of Wishing and Wanting, Luaka Bop, 1999.

Look into the Eyeball, Virgin, 2001.

(With X-Press 2) "Lazy" (lyrics and vocals) on Muzikizum, Skint/Columbia, 2002.

Score for film Young Adam, Lead Us Not into Temptation, Thrill Jockey, 2003.

Grown Backwards, Nonesuch, 2004.

With Talking Heads

Talking Heads: 77, Sire, 1977.

More Songs About Buildings and Food, Sire, 1978.

Fear of Music, Sire, 1979.

Remain in Light, Sire, 1980.

The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads, Sire, 1982.

Speaking in Tongues, Sire, 1983.

Stop Making Sense, Sire, 1984.

Little Creatures, Sire, 1985.

True Stories, Sire, 1986.

Naked, Sire, 1988.

Popular Favorites: Sand in the Vaseline, Sire, 1992.

Stop Making Sense: Special New Edition, Warner Bros., 1999.

Once in a Lifetime, Rhino, 2003.

Selected writings

(With Robert Wilson) The Knee Plays (play comprised of interludes in Wilson's epic opera The CIVIL WarS), 1984.

The Tourist Way of Knowledge (performance art), 1985.

"Liquid Days" and "Open the Kingdom" (lyrics, with music by Phillip Glass), CBS, 1986.

(With Beth Henley and Stephen Tobolowsky) True Stories (screenplay), released by Warner Bros., 1986.

(With others) What the Songs Look Like: The Illustrated Talking Heads (lyrics), illustrations by Byrne and others, Harper, 1987.

Stay up Late (lyrics; for young people), illustrations by Maria Kalman, Viking, 1987.

(With Robert Wilson) The Forest (stage performance), 1988.

Sources

Books

Davis, Jerome, Talking Heads, Vintage, 1985.

Rockwell, John, All American Music: Composition in the Late Twentieth Century, Knopf, 1983.

Tamm, Eric, Brian Eno: His Music and the Vertical Color of Sound, Faber and Faber, 1989.

Periodicals

Boston Globe, August 8, 1997; May 7, 2001; May 22, 2004.

Chicago Tribune, April 29, 2001; May 22, 2001; June 20, 2004.

Down Beat, January 1990.

Entertainment Weekly, March 13, 1992.

Fader, August 2004.

The Guardian, September 7, 1999; April 27, 2001.

Los Angeles Times, June 14, 1997; April 25, 2004.

Melody Maker, October 14,1989.

Musician, April 1992.

The Nation, May 20, 1990.

The New York Times, October 3, 1999; May 15, 2001.

Pulse!, February 1992; June 1992.

Rolling Stone, November 3, 1977; October 19, 1978; November 15, 1979; November 29, 1979; October 16, 1980; October 30, 1980; June 9, 1983; October 27, 1983; October 25, 1984; November 6, 1986; April 2, 1981; April 21, 1988; March 19, 1992; January 29, 2004; April 29, 2004.

Spin, March 1992.

Time, October 27, 1986.

Online

"David Byrne," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (August 18, 2004).

"David Byrne," VH1.com, http://www.vh1.com (August 18, 2004).

David Byrne Official Website, http://www.davidbyrne.com (August 18, 2004).

Luaka Bop Official Website, http://www.luakabop.com (August 18, 2004).

—Tim Taylor andElizabeth Henry

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Byrne, David

David Byrne

Singer, songwriter, composer, filmmaker

For the Record

Popular Among the Avant-Garde

Solo Work

Music for Plays and Films

Selected writings

Selected discography

Sources

More than almost any other popular musician, the multitalented David Byrne is at home in many worlds: rock music, art music, ballet, film music, photography, and filmmaking. His solo musical work, begun while he was still guitarist and lead vocalist for Talking Headsa defunct new wave band formed in New York City in 1974reflects his wide-ranging interests. Byrne has also experimented extensively with world beat music, implementing African and Latin rhythms. The Talking Heads albums of the 1980sincluding Remain in Light, Naked, and Speaking in Tongues show a substantial blending of international styles. By the end of his time with the band, Byrnes work with them and on his own was deeply influenced by world beat, featured cerebral, angst-ridden lyrics, and was heralded in the music world as eclectic and original.

Acknowledged as an intellectual rock star, Byrne, as frontman of Talking Heads, was an innovator in the emerging new wave rock scene of the late 1970s. A native of Scotland, Byrne immigrated to the United States and during his teens and early twenties played in small rock bands. Seeking the company of art students, he enrolled in several classes at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he eventually met up with his future Talking Heads bandmates.

[I was] fascinated by conceptual art, Byrne told Jerome Davis, author of Talking Heads. In particular, there was some that just used language. Theyd just write a statement on the wall. He called such work the ultimate in refining and eliminating all the superfluous stuff in art and being left with nothing but the idea. Friends grew familiar with the young Byrnes quirky concepts, including his song Psycho Killer, a notorious ballad that later became one of the Heads first recordings.

For the Heads, whose members included Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz, and Jerry Harrison, Byrne wrote songs in praise of gainful employment, buildings, and television, but his words and his voice conveyed such underlying hysteria that the result verged on satire. But if Byrne criticized society, he did so indirectly, for his lyrics were characterized by their strange wording and absurdist humor. As Christopher Connelly observed in Rolling Stone, the songwriter took cultural clicheson everything from true love to civic prideout of their customary contexts and mixed them into dreamlike, ominous new statements, whose odd juxtapositions and things left unspoken were rich with wit and insight.

For the Record

Born May 14, 1952, in Dumbarton, Scotland; immigrated to United States, 1958; British citizen; son of Thomas (an electrical engineer) and Emily Anderson (a teacher and activist; maiden name, Brown) Byrne; married Adelle Lutz (a designer and actress), 1987; children: Malu Abeni Valentine. Education: Attended Rhode Island School of Design, 1970-71, and Maryland Institute, College of Art, 1971-72.

Vocalist and guitarist with Talking Heads, 1974-88; solo artist, 1981; conceived stage performance for film Stop Making Sense, 1984; co-wrote and directed film True Stories, 1986; producer of rock videos and recordings; actor appearing in television programs, including Surviving a Family Tree, c. 1985; formed own label, Luaka Bop, at Warner Bros. Records; illustrator, including art for Talking Heads albums and cover of Time, October 27, 1986; composer; photographer. Charter member of the Texas Accordion Association, 1987.

Member: Musicians Union, Screen Actors Guild.

Selected awards: Film Critics Award for best documentary, for Stop Making Sense, and Video Vanguard Award from MTV, both 1985; Academy Award, Grammy Award, Golden Globe Award, and Hollywood Foreign Press Association Award, all for best original score, 1987, for The Last Emperor.

Addresses: Agent Steve Davis, William Morris Agency, Inc., 1350 Sixth Ave., New York, NY 10019. Record company Luaka Bop/Sire, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.

Popular Among the Avant-Garde

Byrnes first major solo endeavorwhich appeared after the release of four Talking Heads albums by Sire Recordswas a collaboration with longtime Talking Heads producer Brian Eno on a 1981 album entitled My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Demonstrating Byrnes growing interest in music of other cultures, the LP includes rhythms of Africa and the Middle East. Some critics found fault with such cross-cultural musical borrowings. John Pareles of Rolling Stone, for example, wrote that My Life in the Bush of Ghosts raises stubborn questions about context, manipulation and cultural imperialism.

Also in the early 1980s, Byrne was becoming a popular figure among New Yorks avant-garde artists, sometimes joining them on projects outside the band. He provided music and lyrics for The Catherine Wheel, a dance production by choreographer Twyla Tharp, and later wrote music and texts for The Knee Plays, interludes in an epic opera by experimental dramatist Robert Wilson, with whom he later wrote the 1988 stage performance piece The Forest.

Byrnes intellectual approach to popular music and his desire to do more than play with sounds comes up again and again in interviews. When asked by Rolling Stone why he was interested in African music, Byrne stated that at first he just liked the music. Then, later on, when I started breaking the beats down and putting them back together again, I saw how African and Afro-American songs were put together in similar ways. I saw there were social parallels to the music and a kind of sensibility and philosophy and even metaphysics thats inherent in the way the musics constructed and the attitude in which its played.

Byrnes interest in African and Caribbean music has led him to a study of those areas religions, but he never loses sight of the music. He commented in Rolling Stone, Artistically, you notice that this is the route where a lot of music and sensibility and attitude finds its way into popular music and popular culture. So its a pretty natural thing to want to find out where all this came from: Lets get back to whatever it is.

Solo Work

Since his interest in African music, Byrnes world musical tastes have moved closer to home: On 1989s Rei Momo he collaborated with Latin musicians and songwriters. Critics seemed to like the music, but only after they imagined Byrne out of it. A Down Beat correspondent wrote that Byrne just didnt understand the musical style he was using and that his effort was merely a pastiche. In a review that was even less forgiving, a Melody Maker critic accused Byrne of voyeurism on another culture and its music, of hiring authenticity rather than being true to himself. Byrne finds such criticism difficult to understand; he remarked in Musician, Musically, you cant really ask musicians to sit still and not try to work with music that they enjoy. Most of the time, I work with the people, Im friends with them. Its not like I just hear something on a record and go, oh, Ill cop that. But I dont see the press jumping all over Rod Stewart cause he stole Jorge Bens song for Da Ya Think Im Sexy?

Byrnes interest in Latin music wasnt a passing fad, or at least it hasnt passed yet. He compiled some albums featuring Brazilian musicians and seems to want to be a participant in the constant definition and redefinition, appropriation and re-appropriation of African music that Latin musicians have been engaged in for centuries. Byrnes infatuation for Latin music eventually shifted to the rhythms of Cuba, and he has released two anthologies of Cuban music: Cuba Classics and Cuba Classics 2: Dancing With the Enemy.

Byrnes second solo album, Uh-Oh, released in 1992 by Luaka Bop/Sire Records, features some of the Latin musicians who appeared on Rei Momo and again displays Byrnes wide musical interests as well as his themes of alienation and social injustice. Well received by critics, Uh-Oh is a collection of mostly up-tempo songs with an undercurrent of sarcasm and irony. Twistin in the Wind, for example, is a chipper diatribe about dirty dealings in Washington, D.C., and Everytown, U.S.A., according to Josef Woodard in Rolling Stone. Rating the record an A-, Entertainment Weeklys Stephanie Zacharek noted that Byrne integrates musical genres with still more confidence. And nearly every arrangement has been burnished to a luster.

Music for Plays and Films

Byrnes orchestral music to The Forest, a theatrical piece by the avant-garde performance artist Robert Wilson, continues many of Byrnes earlier concerns with identity and disaffection. In the liner notes accompanying the 1991 album, Byrne wrote that The Forest is less a piece than a process. A process of discovering what it is we are made of. What kinds of ideas, what prejudices, what propaganda fills us up, what we think is beautiful and what we think is ugly, what we consider Nature and what we think is God. The Forest, like most of Byrnes work, tackles the musicians interest in lifes larger questions as well as the enduring aspects of the industrial age. Set in the mid-1880s, the piece features probably the most classical of all musical styles Byrne has ever employed.

Byrne has also composed music for films, most notably for True Stories of 1986a motion picture he also co-authored and directedand 1987s The Last Emperor a Stephen Spielberg creation. Despite the fact that The Last Emperor score, co-written with Rhuichi Sakamoto and Cong Su, garnered Byrne an Academy Award, it is his least discussed endeavor. True Stories, on the other hand, was Byrnes project and displayed many of his familiar concernsabout truth, identity, and post-modern alienation. The film and music were criticized by some as voyeuristic and exploitative, while others praised their quirkiness and humor.

Byrnes artistic activities are myriad, as displayed by his musical interests. His albums offer bold amalgamations of African, Latin, Middle Eastern, rock, and classical music, and he indicated in the early 1990s that he is planning to release LPs featuring Japanese and Indian music. Maybe Byrnes goal is not, as former bandmate Tina Weymouth once said of the Talking Heads, to change the face of music; his aim is perhaps to change the face of contemporary American culture.

Selected writings

(With Robert Wilson) The Knee Plays (play comprised of interludes in Wilsons epic opera The CIVIL WarS), 1984.

The Tourist Way of Knowledge (performance art), 1985.

(With Beth Henley and Stephen Tobolowsky) True Stories (screenplay), released by Warner Bros., 1986.

(With others) What the Songs Look Like: The Illustrated Talking Heads (lyrics), illustrations by Byrne and others, Harper, 1987.

Stay up Late (lyrics; for young people), illustrations by Maria Kalman, Viking, 1987.

(With Robert Wilson) The Forest (stage performance), 1988.

Selected discography

Solo albums

(With Brian Eno) My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Sire, 1981.

The Complete Score From The Catherine Wheel, Sire, 1982.

Songs From the Broadway Production of The Catherine Wheel, Sire, 1982.

Music for The Knee Plays, ECM, 1982.

Score for Something Wild, MCA, 1986.

(With Rhuichi Sakamoto and Cong Su) Music for The Last Emperor, Virgin, 1987.

Score to Married to the Mob, Reprise, 1988.

Rei Momo, Luaka Bop/Sire, 1989.

The Forest, Luaka Bop/Sire, 1991.

Uh-Oh, Luaka Bop/Sire, 1992.

With Talking Heads; on Sire Records

Talking Heads: 77, 1977.

More Songs About Buildings and Food, 1978.

Fear of Music, 1979.

Remain in Light, 1980.

The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads, 1982.

Speaking in Tongues, 1983.

Stop Making Sense, 1984.

Little Creatures, 1985.

True Stories, 1986.

Naked, 1988.

Popular Favorites, 1992.

Sources

Books

Davis, Jerome, Talking Heads, Vintage Books, 1985.

Rockwell, John, All American Music: Composition in the Late Twentieth Century, Knopf, 1983.

Tamm, Eric, Brian Eno: His Music and the Vertical Color of Sound, Faber and Faber, 1989.

Periodicals

Down Beat, January 1990.

Entertainment Weekly, March 13, 1992.

Melody Maker, October 14, 1989.

Musician, April 1992.

The Nation, May 20, 1990.

Pulse!, February 1992; June 1992.

Rolling Stone, November 3, 1977; October 19, 1978; November 15, 1979; November 29, 1979; October 16, 1980; October 30, 1980; June 9, 1983; October 27, 1983; October 25, 1984; November 6, 1986; April 2, 1981; April 21, 1988; March 19, 1992.

Spin, March 1992.

Time, October 27, 1986.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from a Luaka Bop/Sire Records press release on The Forest, 1991.

Tim Taylor

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"Byrne, David." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Byrne, David." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/byrne-david

"Byrne, David." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/byrne-david

Byrne, David 1952–

BYRNE, David 1952


PERSONAL


Born May 14, 1952, in Dumbarton, Scotland; immigrated to the United States, 1958; British citizen; son of Thomas (an electrical engineer) and Emily Anderson (a special education teacher; maiden name, Brown) Byrne; married Adelle Ann Lutz (a costume designer and actress), July 8, 1987; children: Malu Abeni Valentine. Education: Attended Rhode Island School of Design, 197071, and Maryland Institute College of Art, 197172.


Addresses: Contact c/o Luaka Bop, Warner Brothers Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY, 100196908; 110 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.


Career: Actor, musician, composer, producer, director, and screenwriter. Talking Heads (a rock group), song-writer, singer, and guitarist, 197592; Index Video, director and producer, 1983; Luaka Bop (a record label), founder, c. 1988. Designer for the concert stage, lighting, album covers, and posters, 1977; producer of record albums, 1980; producer and director of music videos, with several in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York City; photographer, with work exhibited in solo shows in Belgium, The Netherlands, and New York City, 1994; illustrator, including art for Talking Heads albums.


Member: Screen Actors Guild, Writers Guild of America East, Musicians Union, Texas Accordion Association (charter member, 1987).


Awards, Honors: National Society of Film Critics Award, best documentary, 1984, for Stop Making Sense; Video Vanguard Award, MTV, 1985, for directing Talking Heads rock videos; New York Dance and Performance (Bessie) Award, best choreographer or creator, Dance Theatre Workshop, 1987, for The Knee Plays; Independent Spirit Award nomination, best first feature, 1987, for True Stories; MTV Music Video Award (with Talking Heads), group video, and MTV Music Video Award, video from a film, 1987, both for "Wild Wild Life" from True Stories; Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award (with Ryuichi Sakamoto and Cong Su), best music, 1987, Academy Award (with Sakamoto and Su) and Golden Globe Award (with Sakamoto and Su), best original score, both 1988, Film Award nomination, best score, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Grammy Award, best album, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1989, all for The Last Emperor; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (as a member of the Talking Heads), inductee, 2002.

CREDITS


Film Appearances:

The True Story of Eskimo Nell (also known as Dick Down Under ), Filmways, 1975.

The Blank Generation, 1976.

Felix, Victor Frankenstein (also known as Terror of Frankenstein ), 1977.

Performer with Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense (concert film), Cinecom International, 1983.

Narrator, True Stories, Warner Bros., 1986.

The Kitchen Presents Two Moon July (also known as Two Moon July ), 1986.

Performer, Dead End Kids, Ikon, 1986.

Completely Pogued, 1988.

Heavy Petting, 1988.

Bartender, Checking Out, Warner Bros., 1989.

(Uncredited) Bis ans Ende der Welt (also known as Jusqu'au bout du monde and Until the End of the World ), 1991.

Between the Teeth (concert film), Todo Mundo, 1994.

'Laughing Man' escort, Lulu on the Bridge, 1998.

Introduction, The Art of Amalia (also known as A arte de Amalia ), Avatar, 1999.

In the Bathtub of the World, 2001.

Film Director:

True Stories, Warner Bros., 1986.

(With David Wild) April 16, 1989 (short film), 1988.

(With Wild) Between the Teeth (concert film), Todo Mundo, 1994.

Film Executive Producer:

Umbabarauma, 1989.

Film Work:

Stage lighting designer, Stop Making Sense (concert film), Cinecom International, 1983.

Song producer, Airheads, 1994.

Executive music producer, Blue in the Face, 1995.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Rolling Stone Magazine's 20 Years of Rock and Roll (also known as Rolling Stone Magazine's 20th Anniversary Special and Rolling Stone Presents 20 Years of Rock 'n' Roll ), ABC, 1987.

Decade (also known as MTV's Decade ), syndicated, 1989.

Red, Hot, and Blue, ABC, 1990.

Racism: Points of View, syndicated, 1991.

An Astronaut's View of Earth, PBS, 1992.

Dancing Barefoot, 1995.

Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart, PBS, 1998.

Interviewee, Video Killed the Radio Star (documentary), VH1, 2000.

Interviewee, Rock and Roll Moments: Super Star Artists and Groups (documentary), The Learning Channel, 2001.

25 Years of Punk, VH1, 2001.

(Uncredited) Hollywood Rocks the Movies: The 1970s, 2002.

Television Appearances; Series:

Host, Sessions at West 54th, PBS, 19981999.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

(With Talking Heads) Saturday Night Live, 1979.

Byron, "A Family Tree," Trying Times, PBS, 1987.

Alive from OffCenter, PBS, 1987.

Survival Guides, PBS, 1987.

Himself, "Fire Drill," Space Ghost Coast to Coast, 1995.

Sen kvaell med Luuk, 1997.

Voice, "Dude, Where's My Ranch?," The Simpsons (animated), Fox, 2003.

Also appeared in Austin City Limits, PBS; Rock & Roll.

Television Work; Specials:

Segment director, Red, Hot, and Blue, ABC, 1990.

Television Director; Episodic:

"Ile Aiye/The House of Life," Alive from Off Center, PBS, 1989.

RECORDINGS


Albums; with Talking Heads:

Talking Heads: 77, Sire, 1977.

More Songs about Buildings and Food, Sire, 1978.

Fear of Music, Sire, 1979.

Remain in Light, Sire, 1980.

The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads, Sire, 1982.

Speaking in Tongues, Sire, 1983.

Stop Making Sense (soundtrack album), Sire, 1984.

Little Creatures, Sire, 1985.

True Stories, Sire, 1986.

Naked, Sire, 1988.

Popular Favorites 19761991/Sand in the Vaseline, 1992.

Albums:

(With Brian Eno) My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Sire, 1981.

David Byrne: Songs from the Broadway Production of "The Catherine Wheel, " Sire, 1982.

Music for the Knee Plays, Sire, 1985.

The Making of The Last Emperor, Virgin, 1988.

Rei Momo, Luaka Bop/Sire, 1989.

The Forest, Sire, 1991.

UhOh, Warner Bros. Records, 1992.

David Byrne, 1994.

Feelings, Luaka Bop/Warner Bros., 1997.

Look into the Eyeball, 2001.

Album Producer:

O Samba, Luaka Bop/Sire, 1989.

Beleza Tropical: Brazil Classics I, Sire/Fly, 1989.

Canciones urgentes, 1991.

Visible Mas, Imprint, 1999.

Videos:

Producer, director, and performer, Storytelling Giant, 1988.

Music Videos:

(With Toni Basil) Director, "Once in a Lifetime" by Talking Heads, 1980.

Director, "Burning Down the House" by Talking Heads, 1982.

Director, "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)" by Talking Heads, 1982.

(With Steven Johnson) Director, "Road to Nowhere" by Talking Heads, 1985.

Executive producer, "Blind" by Talking Heads, 1988.

Executive producer, "Nothing But Flowers" by Talking Heads, 1988.

WRITINGS


Screenplays:

(With Beth Henley and Stephan Tobolowsky) True Stories, Warner Bros., 1986, published by Penguin with photographs by Byrne, 1986.

Television Episodes:

"Ile Aiye/The House of Life," Alive from Off Center, PBS, 1989.

Film Composer:

(With Talking Heads) Stop Making Sense, Cinecom International, 1983.

(With Talking Heads) True Stories, Warner Bros., 1986.

(With Ryuichi Sakamoto and Cong Su) The Last Emperor, Columbia, 1987.

Songs by Byrne and Talking Heads have appeared in numerous films, including "Burning Down the House," Revenge of the Nerds; "And She Was," Look Who's Talking; "Heaven," Philadelphia; "Road to Nowhere," Reality Bites; "Burning Down the House," Someone Like You (also known as Animal Attraction ); "Once in a Lifetime," Down and Out in Beverly Hills; "Burning Down the House," The Banger Sisters; Dead End Kids (also known as Dead End Kids: A Story of Nuclear Power ); Something Wild; Married to the Mob; and Until the End of the World.

Television Composer; Movies:

Magicians of the Earth: The Giant Woman and the Lightning Man, 1989.

Magicians of the Earth: A Young Man's Dream and a Woman's Secret, 1990.

The Catherine Wheel, 1992.

Television Composer; Specials:

An Astronaut's View of Earth, PBS, 1992.

Other Television Writing:

Lyricist, Songs from Liquid Days, CBS, 1987.

Stage Plays:

The Tourist Way of Knowledge (performance art), produced at Public Theatre, New York City, 1985.

(With Robert Wilson) The Forest, produced at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Opera House, Brooklyn, NY, then Berlin, Germany, both 1988.

Stage Plays; Composer:

(With Johnny Pacheco) The Catherine Wheel (dance piece), produced in New York City, 1981.

(With Robert Wilson) The Knee Plays (interludes from Wilson's epic opera The Civil Wars ), produced at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, 1984, then Alice Tully Hall, New York City, 1986, published by Walker Art Center, 1984.

The Forest, produced at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Opera House, then Berlin, Germany, both 1988.

Music of the Spirits (concert), produced at Town Hall, New York City, 1989.

Nonfiction:

(Coauthor and illustrator) What the Songs Look Like: The Illustrated Talking Heads (lyrics), Harper, 1987.

(With David Mellor and William A. Ewing) Occupied Territory (edited by Lynne Cohen), Aperture Foundation, 1987.

High Life for Nine Instruments, Argo, 1992.

Strange Ritual: Pictures and Words, Chronicle Books, 1995.

Your Action World: Winners and Losers with a New Attitude, Chronicle Books, 1999.

The New Sins, McSweeney's, 2001.

Contributor of cover illustrations to Time. Contributor to periodicals, including New York Times.

ADAPTATIONS


Byrne's song "Stay Up Late" was adapted for a children's book by Maira Kalman, published by Viking Kestrel, 1987.

OTHER SOURCES


Books:

Howell, John, David Byrne, Thunder's Mouth Press (New York City), 1992.

Periodicals:

Artforum International, January, 2002, p. 35.

Billboard, September 7, 1996, pp. 810; May 17, 1997, pp. 1415.

Interview, April, 2001, p. 74.

New York Times, May 15, 2001, pp. E1E2.

Rolling Stone, April 21, 1988, p. 42.

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"Byrne, David 1952–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Byrne, David

DAVID BYRNE

Born: Dumbarton, Scotland, 14 May 1952

Genre: Rock, World

Best-selling album since 1990: Look into the Eyeball (2001)

Hit songs since 1990: "She's Mad," "Angels"


As lead singer for the new wave rock band Talking Heads, David Byrne was a musical pioneer of the 1970s and 1980s, combining punk music's energy and bite with the polyrhythmic beats of world music. Emerging as a solo artist in the late 1980s, Byrne continued experimenting with musical pluralism, drawing together alternative rock, Latin music, worldbeat, and R&B with an off-kilter sensibility. Never losing his quirky diction and slightly goofy persona, Byrne brought a detached air of intellectualism to his work, often collaborating with celebrated avant-garde theater artists such as Robert Wilson. While critics sometimes perceived his songwriting as ponderous and trite, most celebrated Byrne's unique ability to create vivid, complex sonic landscapes. In contemporary pop, where eclecticism is often prized for its own sake, Byrne has made tasteful and adroit musical choices; his far-ranging explorations are unified through the strength and integrity of his vision.

Born in Scotland but raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Byrne played in various bands as a teenager before attending the Rhode Island School of Design. Feeling dissociated from the school's mostly upper-class student body, Byrne dropped out after one year but continued to live and perform in Rhode Island. In the early 1970s he joined forces with his fellow students Chris Frantz and Tina Wey-mouth to form the Artistics, later renamed Talking Heads after the band relocated to New York in 1974. Signing with Sire Records in 1977, Talking Heads initially recorded in an edgy, new wave rock style, in evidence on the minor 1978 hit, "Psycho Killer." But through the influence of their producer, the experimental rock artist Brian Eno, they soon began adding electronic instruments and African percussion. As early as 1981 Byrne began to pursue solo work, teaming with Eno for My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981), an album that, through its incorporation of sonic elements such as Muslim chanting and Lebanese mountain singing, anticipated the "world music" explosion of the late 1980s. Byrne also worked on collaborations with Wilson, acted in and directed the film True Stories (1986), and won an Academy Award for his work scoring The Last Emperor (1989), an acclaimed film by the Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci.

While critically acclaimed, Byrne's solo albumsperhaps overshadowed by his work with Talking Headshave never produced many hits. Leaving the group in 1988, Byrne released Rei Momo (1989), an engaging collection underscored with Latin rhythms, and Uh-Oh (1992), on which he explored styles as diverse as R&B/funk and Jamaican reggae. While critics were largely disappointed with David Byrne (1994), complaining that the album's stripped-down musical setting accentuated the puzzling obliqueness of Byrne's lyrics, they responded positively to Feelings (1997), featuring a prominent guest appearance by the electronic, "trip-hop" dance band Morcheeba. Sonically adventurous, Byrne's albums of this period resist critical analysis, demanding acceptance on their own idiosyncratic terms.

In 2001 Byrne released what many view as his finest solo album, Look into the Eyeball. While lyrics such as "Jesus is cool / Jesus is scared / Baby you're the only car I drive" (from the album's opener, "U.B. Jesus") evince Byrne's trademark opacity, the album as a whole succeeds by employing a muted, restrained style. Songs such as "The Accident" recall the sonorous work of modern classical composers such as Steve Reich, while "The Revolution" sports an affectingly spare arrangement of acoustic guitar and strings. Two highlights are "Like Humans Do" and "Neighborhood," arranged by the noted 1970s soul producer Thom Bell, who underscores Byrne's eccentric vocal style with a lush, rhythmic groove. In a move emphasizing his separation from mainstream pop music, Byrne spices "Walk on Water" with a biting critique of the shallowness of rock stardom: "He can walk on the water / But he can't stop fallin' in." The sting, however, is softened by the giddiness of the rest of the lyrics: "Get up, you men and women / Walk on, like fishes swimming."

Beginning his career with the influential rock band Talking Heads, Byrne in the 1980s and 1990s led forays into diverse music from many cultures. Esoteric, challenging, and sometimes frustrating, Byrne's solo work is striking in its refusal to abide by the strictures of any particular school of music. Like avant-garde artists such as Wilson and Laurie Anderson, Byrne commands a limited yet significant following among an artistically educated audience.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

The Catherine Wheel (Luaka Bop, 1981); Rei Momo (Luaka Bop/Sire, 1989); The Forest (Luaka Bop, 1991); Uh-Oh (Luaka Bop, 1992); David Byrne (Luaka Bop, 1994); Feelings (Luaka Bop, 1997); Look into the Eyeball (Virgin, 2001).With Talking Heads: Talking Heads: 77 (Sire, 1977); Remain in Light (Sire, 1980); Speaking in Tongues (Sire, 1983); Stop Making Sense (Sire, 1984). Soundtrack: The Last Emperor (Virgin, 1987).

WEBSITE:

www.davidbyrne.com.

david freeland

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"Byrne, David." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Byrne, David." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/byrne-david