Talking Heads’ David Byrne inducts David Bowie into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you a special moment as David Byrne inducts David Bowie into the the Rock Hall back in 1996.
The enigmatic persona of David Byrne is not matched by many artists. However, even he will be happy to concede that the late great David Bowie is still his superior in terms of pure rock and roll and creative energy. In this speech inducting Bowie into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Talking Heads’ Byrne delivers a fitting ode to the iconic Starman.
Held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class of 1996 was an illustrious one. Featuring counter-culture royals Jefferson Airplane, Little Willie John, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Bowie’s prog-rock friends Pink Floyd, ’60s stars the Shirelles, the iconic the Velvet Underground, Pete Seeger, Tom Donahue, and of course David Bowie.
Usually, Rock Hall invites a member of the current rock and roll elite to induct one of the legends into the institution. There could be only one man capable to introduce the iconic chameleon of rock and roll, David Bowie, and that man was David Byrne.
Introduced with all the polished glitz of Rock Hall’s sordid $10,000 tables, Byrne takes to the stage with his unconventional gait and knowing smile, brimming with possibility and poetic power. Naturally, as befits Byrne, he begins quickly and doesn’t slow down for breath, like a Beat poet spitting his coffee-stained love letter, the singer rattles through the difference Bowie made to the music industry and to Byrne personally. His adoring eyes bulging with excitement and passion at every following line.
“Hello!” he begins, “When David Bowie came along, rock and roll needed a shot in the arm, and when I first saw him it was a shock and very familiar, it was very necessary, it was something that was needed,” passionately delivering his heartfelt words.
Byrne continues to deliver a plethora of words and ideas, attributing them to Bowie: “It was visionary, it was tasteless, it was glamorous, it was perverse,” he said. “It was liberation, it was genocide, it was a dream and it was a nightmare, it was about sex and drugs,” And on and on. It showed off the giant influence Bowie had on Byrne and countless like him across the globe.
So much so that he actually has to shake off the intensity of the words mid-way through the speech. It’s obviously a moment of pride for Byrne, the enigmatic singer ‘Psycho Killer’ singer was heavily inspired by Bowie—he would later go on to perform a special cover of ‘Heroes’ with a full choir—and at this moment he pours out his heart with authenticity.
The ideas that Byrne was conjuring are clearly deeply personal, though many would find room to disagree with his sign off: “He was both a shrink, a priest, a sex object and a prophet of doom, he was a kind of welcome to the brave new world, I’d like to thank him for what he did,” it’s a sentiment shared here at the Far Out offices.
Watch below as we go back to 1996 to revisit David Byrne inducting David Bowie to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.