"Classics Rock! is the best of both worlds--music and books."
-- CNBC.com "Bullish on Books" blog

Monday, January 11, 2016

In Memory of David Bowie

Rock music innovator David Bowie died yesterday, just two days after his sixty-ninth birthday and the release of his final album, Blackstar. Bowie inhabited many personas and experimented with many musical forms in the course of his decades-long career, but here we will touch on his musical connection to George Orwell's dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

References to George Orwell's classic Nineteen Eighty-Four abound in popular music, but David Bowie created a number of songs that relate to Orwell's book. In the early '70s, Bowie began working on a musical adaptation of the novel that never came to fruition. Instead Bowie featured much of that work on his 1974 album Diamond Dogs, including the songs 1984; We Are The Dead (a line from the novel spoken by the main character, Winston Smith); Big Brother, after the dictator of the totalitarian state depicted in the book (with the repeated line We want you Big Brother); and Chant Of The Ever Circling Skeletal Family, inspired by the novel's "Two-Minute Hate," a daily ritual required of those faithful to The Party (the ruling political class) in which they must express their hatred for the Party's enemies. The album ends with the first syllable of the word brother (as in Big Brother) heard over and over.

Bowie's final album, Blackstar, also features at least one literary reference: The track "'Tis a Pity She Was a Whore" (originally released as a single in 2014) takes its title from the play "'Tis a Pity She's a Whore" by British dramatist John Ford, first published in 1633.