Boy George (George Alan O’Dowd, 1961- )
In the 1980′s this lead vocalist from the pop group Culture Club followed David Bowie‘s lead by cross-dressing and generally combining big business with political statement.
The single “Karma Chameleon” touched on spiritual themes, as did his less commercially successful later work.
In the 21st century he remains an outspoken critic of figures like Madonna, although he’s virtually gone from an 80s big shot to a new millennium dark horse. In 2008 he served four months in prison for the assault and false imprisonment of Audun Carlsen.¹
I only mention George here because, in his day, he did have something to say.
- Boy George Is The Dharma Queen (noise11.com)
- What do Boy George and Mississippi in 1870 have in common? (southinpopculture.com)
- Boy George: My shock diet saved me from self-destruction (metro.co.uk)
- Boy George Takes On “I Wanna Be Your Dog” By The Stooges [Listen] (wxrt.cbslocal.com)
- Karma karma karma karma karma chameleon (blackmarketbabyblog.wordpress.com)
- Two Drawings of Boy George (expertspages.com)
- Boy George: lean, completely clean and ready for classy Meltdown (standard.co.uk)
David Bowie (1947 -) is a British musician, record producer, arranger, actor and visual artist. Originally David Jones, apparently he changed his surname to avoid confusion with the popular Monkee of the time, Davey Jones.
Most would agree that Bowie is in a rare league of iconic rockers, including the likes of Elvis Presley, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, Madonna and Elton John.
His best music synthesizes existing idioms to create something fresh and often exploratory. And because of his considerable talent, his musical explorations rarely go off the grid.
Bowie the philosopher, if you like, also takes us to new dimensions often passed over by status quo thinkers. His song “Starman” (1972) ponders the idea of extraterrestrial life and its potential impact on humanity.
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’s told us not to blow it
Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile
And in “Loving the Alien” (1984) he sings:
Believing the strangest things
loving the alien…
Meanwhile, Black Tie White Noise (1993) looks to the meeting of spirit and the body, a topic that sometimes scares away so-called intellectuals who think they’re smart but really are quite narrow-minded:
Where the flesh meets
the spirit world
Where the traffic is thin…
You’ve been around
but you’ve changed me
In Bowie’s heyday the press often depicted him as “going away” from this world into some kind of creative journey and then “returning” whenever he produced a hit single.
There might be some psychological truth to this, as found in “Little Wonder” (1997):
Enter Galactic, see me to be you
It’s all in the tablets, Sneezy Bhutan
Little wonder then, little wonder
You little wonder, little wonder you…
Sending me so far away,
so far away…
Not unlike the Hindu Shiva-Shakti dyad, Bowie plunged into cross-dressing before this was considered chic in the music industry.
But there’s more to Bowie than meets the eye. Connecting him to religion and spirituality is far from spurious, considering his interest in parapsychology, as found in “Sound and Vision” (1977):
Don’t you wonder sometimes
‘Bout sound and vision…
I will sit right down,
Waiting for the gift of sound and vision
Within Asian systems paranormal abilities are known as siddhis, and in Catholic mysticism those which come from God are called called interior locutions, insights, perceptions and private revelations.
Bowie himself, however, is often critical of organized religion, as expressed in this chant from The Buddha of Suburbia (1993), released several years before the Catholic sex-abuse lawsuits hit the media:
Sex and the church
Sex and the church
Sex and the church
And the church
And the church
Bowie might someday be regarded not just as a musician but as a visionary or futurist. Considering the looming global water crisis the following scenario from “Looking for Water” (2003) doesn’t seem too far off:
Silver leaves are spinning round
Take my hand as we
go down and down
Looking for water…
I’m looking for water
Looking for water
I’m looking for water
Looking for water…
Pythagoras linked musical harmony to cosmic order, while Orpheus used his lyre to wrest his wife Eurydice from the underworld lord of death, Cerberus. But like Lot’s wife, and against a dire warning not to look back while escaping, Orpheus foolishly cast a glance backward, losing Eurydice forever.
This story speaks to the wisdom of accepting and trusting in the future, an idea summed up in Bowie’s tune, “Changes” (1971):
Turn and face the strange
ch ch changes…
time may change me
but I can’t trace time
Bowie has also ventured into acting and composing soundtracks for film and video games. For some time he hosted a lively, free internet forum called “Discourse” at davidbowie.com, which now charges membership fees.
Although criticized for being cheap when it comes to charity, Bowie replies
I can never make my mind up, I’m so f***ing flippy floppy. I can see both sides of everything and it’s really awful. Source » “DAVID BOWIE – BOWIE’S CHARITY STRUGGLES” at contactmusic.com
Cheap or not, for his considerable import as an artist he was awarded the 2008 Andromeda Award at earthpages.org.
Around 2004 Bowie suffered a heart attack and underwent emergency surgery. Since then he’s understandably kept a low profile, appearing here and there, and endorsing his son’s 2009 “Moon” movie.
All that changed when on his 66th birthday he released a new album, The Next Day (2013). Keeping true to form, one of his videos for the record upset the Catholic League. And so far it’s the fastest-selling album of 2013.
Other interesting things about Bowie:
- he was offered but declined a knighthood
- his actual religious views remain somewhat mysterious
- he just wants to make records now (and not give concerts)
- he’s apparently vowed never to do public interviews again
Earthpages.org’s Very First 2008 Andromeda Award!
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- David Bowie – Five Years, BBC Two, review (telegraph.co.uk)
- Bowie’s back – 8 January 2013 (paulsmith.co.uk)
- David Bowie’s TV appearances: a history (guardian.co.uk)
- David Bowie talks like a chimney sweep from Mars (telegraph.co.uk)
- Ricky Gervais on David Bowie: ‘We chat about music and comedy’ (digitalspy.co.uk)
- The Multiple Readings of David Bowie (loveandlifeproject.com)
- David Bowie Swipes The Catholic Church In The Next Day Video (noise11.com)
Chuck Berry (1926-) is one of the first great American Rock and Roll performers. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, as Charles Edward Anderson Berry, in his early life he sang Baptist hymns, swing and the blues. He later adapted these styles to songwriting.
In 1962 Berry was sentenced to three years in prison for transporting a young 14 year-old native American woman, Janice Escalanti, across state lines. He was freed on bail by his friend and record producer, Guy Stevens, who then introduced Berry to the UK.
Berry’s 50s hit “Roll over Beethoven” was recorded less successfully by the Beatles. But his “Sweet Little Sixteen” was a runaway hit with the Beach Boys. His songs “Maybelline,” “School Days,” “Nadine,” “Rock and Roll Music” and “Johnny B. Goode” were also crucial to the development of early Rock, as was his oft copied style of playing the electric guitar.
Little Richard often claimed to be the originator of Rock and Roll. But Berry’s equally important role in the formation of this pervasive musical genre is rarely contested.
- Chuck Berry on Grooveshark (grooveshark.com)
- The Great Lost Rock Memoir: The Autobiography by Chuck Berry (litkicks.com)
- Chuck Berry Kinda Sorta Liked Punk Rock (buzzfeed.com)
- March 31 – Johnny B. Goode, Luna 10 tune, Expensive guitar! (drelectromix.wordpress.com)
- The Blues (lolachuckles.wordpress.com)
- Hopes for Compromise Fade, Congress Leaves for the Weekend! It’s Like How it Was for Poor Chuck Berry as He Chased the Elusive Nadine. (Another 420 Character Poem in 9 Lines, with Chuck Berry Substituting as My Muse Instead of the Birds) (wordswewomenwrite.wordpress.com)
- Chuck Berry Begins Jail Sentence Over Sex With 14-year-old Girl (raresoul.com)
Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827) was a German composer born in Bonn. Generally regarded as one of the greatest classical composers of all time, Beethoven bridged the tight classical form he was born into with the emergent and wildly emotional romanticism that would follow.
Beethoven slowly became deaf and conducted his final performance while entirely deaf. He hoped to study under Mozart in Vienna in 1787 but it’s unclear whether or not this connection was ever made. While Mozart wrote symphonies relatively quickly, Beethoven worked on several belabored drafts before finding the best combination of notes. Although we don’t know if the two musical giants ever met, it’s clear that Mozart had a profound influence on Beethoven.
The opening of Beethoven’s 5th symphony, “da da da da”, is one of the most familiar, if not the most familiar of classical passages known to mankind. Beethoven wrote it while mostly deaf.
The fourth movement of his 9th symphony, “Ode to Joy,” was featured in the Stanley Kubrick film, A Clockwork Orange and was played during an official birthday celebration for Adolf Hitler. It’s also become something of a cult classic in Japan.
Music historians are quick to point out that Beethoven could not have foreseen the many contradictory uses and abuses of his work, as outlined here: “‘Ode to Joy,’ Followed by Chaos and Despair” by Slavoj Zizek in The New York Times, December 24, 2007.
Beethoven’s piano sonatas display a complexity and range of emotion rarely found in that genre, the “Moonlight Sonata” perhaps being the most moving and memorable. He also penned and arranged many other types of music, from folk songs, opera, chamber music, choral, and, of course, symphonic music.
His life and death are dramatized in the film, Immortal Beloved (1994).
- ++>> Want The Piano Vol. 1: Complete Classical Music Library (High Definition Classics) (9781600770487): Frederic Chopin, Robert Schumann, Sergey Rachmaninov, Edvard Grieg, Franz Liszt, Ludwig van Beethoven, Claude Debussy: Books as date March 17, 2013 06 (stupendousvlppq.wordpress.com)
- Biography-Ludwig Van Beethoven (ranveerk.wordpress.com)
- Beethoven and the Quality of Courage (nybooks.com)
- Thank You Beethoven. (pensaleas.wordpress.com)
- Sexy sonata and concerto forms (vetanda.wordpress.com)
- Faculty of Music, Orchestra London unite in Ode to Joy (lfpress.com)
Leonard Cohen (1934- ) is a Montreal-born writer, poet and musician. Around the time of the release of his record, The Future (1992), Cohen was likened to an Old Testament prophet by a Canadian reviewer. And this might not be too far off. Cohen’s lyrics and retrospective asides seem to dance around the idea that he’s a mouthpiece for the Divine as well as a humble guy, just like anyone else.¹
Along these lines, Cohen seems content with his combination of Jewish and Buddhist beliefs.
Cohen lost his father when he was nine years old. But he was left with a modest trust fund so didn’t have to worry about money in his younger days.
He bought a house and spent his formative years in Greece, this influence discernible in much of his music. A former ladies man, he openly tells of forays into drink, religion and whatever else might have sustained him. He once held the unconventional notion that the Nazis were defeated by music. And he speaks of a creative spark that apparently those “who are there” know about and those “who are not there” do not.
The following lyrics from “Bird on the Wire” (1969) speak for themselves:
Like bird on the wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way
To be free.
And from Susanne (1967):
And Jesus was a sailor… Only drowning men could see him.
In “The Tower of Song” (1988) he sings:
Now you can say that I’ve grown bitter but of this you may be sure
The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor.
And in The Future (1992) he takes an even darker route:
I’ve seen the future, brother:
it is murder.
However, The Future also contains some humorous and hopeful elements.
Apparently bilked out of his fortune in 2005 by former manager, Kelley Lynch, Cohen filed a suit and was also sued. Still standing, his comeback tour, cds and verse have proved that he’s a survivor. His latest album, Old Ideas, has received 4 and 5 star reviews from critics and fans around the world. Not bad for a guy nearing 80 yrs.
¹ See for example, “Going Home” from his latest cd, Old Ideas » http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/poetry/2012/01/23/120123po_poem_cohen
- Canada: Leonard Cohen: The Future (jobblog2011.wordpress.com)
- Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah (towriteistowrite.wordpress.com)
- Review: Leonard Cohen (mercurynews.com)
- Sasha Frere-Jones: Leonard Cohen, at Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center. (newyorker.com)
- Famous Blue Raincoat and Black Hat (brandsandfilms.com)
- Leonard Cohen: Paying rent in the tower of song sounds divine (theglobeandmail.com)
- storyboard: On the Road with Leonard Cohen Once “the proverbial… (shortformblog.com)
- Leonard Cohen Returns To Nokia Theatre (thescenestar.typepad.com)
- Leonard Cohen Concert All Access Pass New Beacon Theatre 2009 (ephemera.typepad.com)
- How Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ Became Everybody’s ‘Hallelujah’ (theatlantic.com)
Bruce Cockburn (1945 – ) is a Canadian, Ottawa-born folk and rock musician. He sang about Christianity through natural metaphors well before it was considered cool to do so. Despite this, Cockburn managed to survive and even thrive in the Canadian record industry.
In one interview¹, he said that it’s fine to sing about God, but if the music’s not happening, then the message doesn’t really connect. This was probably an oblique reference to the contemporary Christian pop of the time, so much of it being formulaic and arguably not too original, musically speaking.
At cockburnproject.net he’s quoted as saying:
I am a Christian songwriter. I just don’t fit the Christian music scene.
As the years went by, Cockburn became increasingly critical of what he saw as hypocritical political and religious practices. In “The Gospel of Bondage” (1988) he denounces the selective use of Biblical quotations to justify questionable acts:
God won’t be reduced to an ideology…God must be on the side of right, not the side that justifies itself in terms of might.
Perhaps due to music’s unique ability to move the body and arouse passion, his “Rocket Launcher” (1984) single was sharply criticized:
If I had a rocket launcher… Some son of a bitch would die.
Cockburn responded to his critics by saying there’s a difference between (a) the artistic representation of anger and (b) advocating angry practices (see sublimation).
With regard to “Rocket Launcher” he claimed to merely represent his outrage in response to the bloodshed of innocents in South America.
Signing with the SONY label, Cockburn’s sound became bigger but he never really cracked the American market as, perhaps, anticipated.
Back with his former True North label, however, his electronically enhanced acoustic sound has returned, along with some noteworthy retro-style experimentation.
Like Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Bryan Adams, Alanis Morisette, Celine Dione, Glenn Gould and Justin Bieber, Cockburn is something of a culture hero in a country that is finally growing out of its national identify crisis.²
The following tune, “Wondering Where the Lions Are” is a reference to the Old Testament story of Daniel in the Lions Den and, according to Wikipedia, is his most popular single to date on the US but not the Canadian charts.³
¹ From a magazine article. Source cannot be located. Probably somewhere between the late 80s and the new millennium. In recent decades, Christian pop has undergone a serious reboot, some of which is arguably just as “cool” or “good” as anything else out there.
² This was especially prevalent in the 1980s, when entire university departments in the Humanities spent countless hours (and taxpayers dollars) looking at how Canada differed from the US and beyond.
- Michael Buble, Deadmau5 And Bruce Cockburn Honoured For Songwriting (contactmusic.com)
- Ottawa’s Bruce Cockburn to receive SOCAN lifetime achievement award (o.canada.com)
- Bruce Cockburn…a creativity to help us see (thewearypilgrim.typepad.com)
- Ottawa’s Bruce Cockburn to receive SOCAN lifetime achievement award (vancouversun.com)
- Mary Had A Baby by Bruce Cockburn – Christmas Songs 2012 Day 21 (garyware.me)
- Bruce Cockburn, deadmau5 feted at SOCAN gala (cbc.ca)
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The Eurythmics are a British pop duo formed in 1980, consisting of Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart. Although the pair has formally disbanded, they have occasionally reunited.
Eurythmics’ pulsating electronic rhythms and haunting melodies helped to set a standard for 1980s synth pop. The lyrics depict themes of alienation and the spiritual quest, often from a much needed woman’s perspective. Because the music relies heavily on synthesizers, Eurythmics took some criticism from old school musicians preferring ‘real instruments.’
Today that type of criticism doesn’t hold up. Computer processors are just as much a part of ‘real instruments’ as any other kind of man-made component, be it the pickups of an electric guitar or the mechanisms within a Renaissance harpsichord.
Eurythmics used “real instruments” to great effect however later in their career, with such hits as Thorn in my side, and Missionary Man, our drummer Pete Phipps toured with them, and they could kick some a** with the best rock bands. » See in context
Lennox continued with a successful solo career in the 1990s, including the exceptional CD, Diva. The duo of Lennox and Stewart have periodically reunited in the new millennium for benefit concerts and albums but Eurythmics’ creative genius arguably peaked in the 80s.
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Brian Eno (Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle, 1948 – ) is a musician, composer, producer who’s generally regarded as the grandaddy of ambient music.
Born in Woodbridge, Suffolk, Eno started off as an art student but quickly got involved in the London music scene as a producer.
On his own records he’s best known for exploring ambient music. In the 1970s, before the New Age transformed ambient music into a highly marketable commodity, Eno released so-called environmental music with works such as Music for Films and Music for Airports. A series of ambient and experimental works followed, some solo and some in collaboration with others interested in the genre.
In the 1980s he recorded the haunting and ethereal Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks, a soundtrack for the space documentary, For All Mankind. Eno also recorded solo rock and roll LP’s such as Here Come the Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain and King’s Lead Hat. Less commercially successful than his ambient work, these are nonetheless admired by his more serious fans.
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Genesis (Hebrew Bereshit = “In the beginning”) is the first book of the Bible, containing the two different versions of the Jewish and Christian the creation story. Among other things, Genesis tells the tale of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah’s Ark, and God’s involvement with the apparently chosen people, the Israelites.
Although Genesis is the first book to appear in the Bible’s collection of different books, scholars say it’s not the oldest written biblical material. The following is a transcription of the first few verses of Genesis:
1:1 In the beginning God created heaven and earth.
Bereshit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve’et ha’arets.
1:2 The earth was without form and empty, with darkness on the face of the depths, but God’s spirit moved on the water’s surface.
Veha’arets hayetah tohu vavohu vechoshech al-peney tehom veruach Elohim merachefet al-peney hamayim.
1:3 God said, ‘There shall be light,’ and light came into existence.
Vayomer Elohim yehi-or vayehi-or.
1:4 God saw that the light was good, and God divided between the light and the darkness.
Vayar Elohim et-ha’or ki-tov vayavdel Elohim beyn ha’or uveyn hachoshech.¹
The author of Genesis was traditionally thought to be Moses. But modern scholarship looks to several different anonymous sources, and academic theories are always changing as to why and how this book came about.
Genesis is also the name of an English progressive rock group which recorded the notable album, Selling England by the Pound (1973), along with other, arguably less achieved albums like The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974).
The band’s mature sound was, for the most part, complex and introspective (some nicknamed the band “Genesnooze”) but they remain an important influence in the history of rock.
The band also spawned commercially successful solo careers for Peter Gabriel and drummer/vocalist Phil Collins. When Gabriel left the band in 1975, the remainder of Genesis (with Collins taking up lead vocals) began to produce more radio-friendly singles. But some hard core Genesis fans felt that the departure of Gabriel left behind a watered down, flimsy remnant of the “real” Genesis.
The Genesis space probe was launched by NASA in 2001 to study and collect samples of solar winds. It was the first spacecraft to return material to Earth since the Apollo missions.
Unfortunately the Genesis recovery parachute malfunctioned. So in 2004 the probe crash landed in Utah, resulting in the loss of some otherwise valuable data.
Genesis I is the name of an experimental space habitat launched by an American firm in 2006.
The habitat is inflatable, making launch easier due to its initial deflated diameter of 1.6 metres. Fully expanded, the Genesis I measures 4.4 by 2.54 metres.
¹ Source » http://bible.ort.org/books/torahd5.asp
- Peter Gabriel (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Genesis 10 (newwestminsterchapel.wordpress.com)
- The Genesis of Modern Psychology (dirteaters.wordpress.com)
- Genesis 1:16-19 (biblicaljournal.wordpress.com)
- Genesis 1-3: History or Allegory? (ldstalk.wordpress.com)
- Genesis 11 (newwestminsterchapel.wordpress.com)
Peter Gabriel is a highly respected pop musician, composer and vocalist who left the progressive rock group Genesis¹ in 1975 to pursue a solo career.
Gabriel’s first four solo albums were simply entitled Peter Gabriel, and sold reasonably well with sleeper hits like “Solisbury Hill” and “Games Without Frontiers.”
The remainder of Genesis (with drummer Phil Collins talking up lead vocals) began to produce singles that were more accessible. But these tunes were regarded by many Gabriel fans as inferior to those released when Gabriel was still at the helm of Genesis.
Gabriel continued his solo career through the 1980′s with increased commercial success, recording hits like “Shock the Monkey” and “Sledgehammer.”
Gabriel refused to title any of his first four solo albums, which were all labelled Peter Gabriel using the same typeface, but which featured different cover designs (by Hipgnosis); these designs are also notable for the fact that Gabriel’s face is wholly or partially obscured in some way. They are usually differentiated by number in order of release (I, II, III, IV), or by sleeve design, with the first three solo albums often referred to as Car, Scratch and Melt respectively, in reference to their cover artwork. His fourth solo album, also called Peter Gabriel, was titled Security in the U.S. at the behest of Geffen Records.²
In October 2011 he released a new album called New Blood, which is an orchestral remix of popular songs from his glory days.
He was added to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.
¹ The Hebrew word Genesis means “In the Beginning” and is the name of the first book of the Bible.
- Five Artists Influenced By Peter Gabriel (jack.radio.com)
- Review Revue: Peter Gabriel – So (kexp.org)
- Best Sellers From The ’80s: Peter Gabriel’s “So” (wncx.radio.com)
- Peter Gabriel And The New Blood Orchestra – Live Webcast, Watch Tonight! (929dave.radio.com)