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`Who, me? A Renaissance man?' Meet David Byrne, eclectic rock musician/filmmaker

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GOSH, you'd think the guy was, like, reinventing culture or something. Platinum records. A hit movie. Cover of Time. Talk about your wild, wild life. Rock's new Renaissance man is on a roll. But suggest this to David Byrne - founder of the break-the-mold band Talking Heads and creator of the equally irreverent new film ``True Stories'' - and this New Wave Wunderkind demurs with a bit of ``Who, me?'' befuddlement.

``Well, you don't wake up thinking, `Hey, what's the Renaissance man going to do this morning?''' says the lanky musician and filmmaker, sounding more than a little acquainted with his own quizzical lyrics: ``You may ask yourself, how did I get here?''

How, indeed?

The man who put punk rock on its ear a decade ago with lyrics embedded in equal parts anomie and off-the-wall humor underscored with African polyrhythms and a touch of gospel-inspired doo-wop is doing the same with film. Byrne's feature, ``True Stories,'' opened last month and has been earning critical hosannas coast to coast. Reviewers have called it the most original film of the year. Although some have criticized Byrne for taking potshots at easily caricatured eccentrics, others insist the director is remaking the definition of feature film.

Part rock-video, part ``Winesburg, Ohio,'' ``True Stories'' is only the latest and most ambitious achievement in Byrne's grab-bag career. In addition to founding the Heads, one of the decade's most talked-about bands, Byrne has created a dozen record albums and seven videos. He helped create the Talking Heads concert film, ``Stop Making Sense,'' and has collaborated with composer Brian Eno, choreographer Twyla Tharp, and theater director Robert Wilson.

Indeed, Byrne is comfortably at the apex of that current generation of artists who are mixing up American culture - melding music, dance, and performance and blurring the boundaries between high art and pop culture, between the avant-garde and the commercial. Byrne, proclaimed Time magazine, has ``the decade's dominant hip sensibility.''

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