Strauss, William 1947-2007 (Bill Strauss, William Arthur Strauss)

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Strauss, William 1947-2007 (Bill Strauss, William Arthur Strauss)


See index for CA sketch: Born February 5, 1947, in Chicago, IL; died of pancreatic cancer, December 18, 2007, in McLean, VA. Performer, satirist, social critic, and author. Strauss's greatest success came to him almost by accident. As counsel and aide to a Republican senator in Washington, DC, in 1981, he was casting about for an idea to enliven an office party when he discovered a hidden talent within himself: a gift for political parody. When he and a few colleagues dared to burst into song with musical parodies set to popular tunes like their "tribute" to newly elected President Ronald Reagan ("Workin' 9 to 10"), they woke up the next morning wondering if they still had jobs. Instead they became overnight sensations and formed the group Capitol Steps. Parody had not cost Strauss his job; it soon became his job, and even the subjects of his musical barbs seemed amused to be included in the group's repertoire. By 2007, under his leadership, Capitol Steps was a multimillion-dollar enterprise with dozens of employees. They performed all across the United States and released several albums, featuring catchy songs like "Sixteen Scandals," "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Korea?," and "Do You Fear What I Fear?" Fans of Capitol Steps might have been surprised to learn that Strauss also had a serious career as a consultant with his company, LifeCourse Associates, and as an author (with business partner Neil Howe) of several provocative social and cultural commentaries. Their premise, in brief, was that American history could be divided into eighteen generations of people, based on four collective and cyclical personality types, and they used this model to predict how future generations (thirteen being the current one when they began) would behave. Their history books were highly regarded by some, but also criticized as over-simplified, lacking in specifics, and containing well-intentioned but less than rigorous analyses. Yet, as Strauss's supporters hastened to point out, a surprising number of his prophecies have come to pass. Strauss and Howe's books include Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069 (1991), Thirteenth Generation: Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail? (1993), The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy; What Cycles of History Tell Us about America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny (1997), Millennials Rising: The Next Generation (2000), and Millennials and the Pop Culture: Strategies for a New Generation of Consumers in Music, Movies, Television, the Internet, and Video Games (2005).



Chicago Tribune, December 23, 2007, sec. 4, p. 6.

Los Angeles Times, December 26, 2007, p. B9.

New York Times, December 21, 2007, p. C10.

Washington Post, December 19, 2007, p. B5.

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Strauss, William 1947-2007 (Bill Strauss, William Arthur Strauss)

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