David Byrne is a highly popular musician who has been rocking the music world with his experimental music and rhythms since the 1970s. The versatile musician started performing as a teenager and has worked in a number of media like films, albums, opera and photography. During his early career he was known mainly as one of the co-founders of the new wave band Talking Heads which produced hit singles like ‘And She Was’ and ‘Burning Down the House’. The band was considered the most innovative and critically acclaimed bands of the new wave movement. Propelled by the success of his band Byrne went on to pursue an equally, if not more successful, career as a solo artist. Famous for his experimental ways, he featured a mix of Afro-Cuban, Afro-Hispanic and Brazilian music in his debut solo album. He has provided music for the soundtracks of various films including ‘The Last Emperor’ for which he won an Academy Award. The talented artist has also written musical scores for operas. Exploring another side of his creativity, he exhibited his photography and designs on international art shows. He founded his own record label Luaka Bop which was originally intended to release Latin American compositions; however the label has grown to represent music from all over the world.
Childhood & Early Life
David Byrne was born in Scotland to Tom, an electronics engineer, and Emma. He has one sibling.
His family moved to Canada when he was two, and then to Maryland , U.S., when he was nine years old.
He loved music from a young age and was already playing multiple instruments like guitar, accordion and violin by middle school. He went to Lansdowne High School in Baltimore County.
He attended the Rhode Island School of Design during the 1970-71 term and the Maryland Institute College of Art during the next term. He dropped out of college to pursue a career in music.
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He went to New York and formed a band called the Talking Heads with Chris Frantz, a fellow student from the Rhode Island School of Design, and Chris’s girlfriend Tina Weymouth. The band performed its first gig in 1975.
The band grew to include multi-instrumentalist Jerry Harrison in 1977. The very same year, their debut album ‘Talking Heads: 77’ was out. The single ‘Psycho Killer’ made it to the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.
Their second album ‘More Songs About Buildings and Food’ was released in 1978. It had a blend of funky bass, country, and punk music and became very popular.
The success of the album prompted the band to bring out two more albums in quick succession--‘Fear of Music’ (1979) and ‘Remain in Light’ (1980)—both of which went Gold in the U.S.
The band took a hiatus till 1983. Meanwhile Byrne brought out his debut solo album ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’ in 1981.
Talking Heads released the album ‘Speaking in Tongues’ in 1983. It was their first big commercial breakthrough. The album’s release was followed by a promotional tour.
Their next album ‘Little Creatures’ (1985) had elements of country music and featured the steel guitar. It became the best selling album of the band and went double Platinum in the U.S.
Byrne composed five songs for the score of the movie ‘The Last Emperor’ in 1987.
The band produced two more albums ‘True Stories’ (1986) and ‘Naked’ (1988) before breaking up.
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Byrne established a world music record label Luaka Bop in 1988 and released a solo album ‘Rei Momo’ in 1989. The album music consisted of a combination of meringue, samba, mambo, and cumbia song styles.
As an artist who is more concerned about expressing his creativity rather than achieving commercial success, Byrne is someone who releases albums at his own pace. He released just three albums during the 1990s including the self titled ‘David Byrne’ (1994).
He began the new millennium with the release of ‘Look into the Eyeball’ (2001) and brought out three more albums, the most recent one being ‘Love this Giant’ (2012).
His music has also been featured extensively on movie soundtracks and theatrical productions.
He co-founded the critically acclaimed new wave band Talking Heads which was greatly appreciated for its avant-garde style of music. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
He formed the record label Luaka Bop which releases music and compilations from all over the world, notably from Cuba, Africa, Latin America and the Far East. The label has introduced several artists like Los De Abajo, Jim White and Zap Mama to the world.
Awards & Achievements
Byrne along with Ryuichi Sakamoto and Cong Su won the Academy Award for the Best Original Score for the movie ‘The Last Emperor’ in 1987. They also won the Grammy Award for the Best Instrumental Composition Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television for the same movie in 1988.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married costume designer Adelle Lutz in 1987 and had a daughter with her. The couple divorced in 2004.
He was in a relationship with artist Cindy Sherman from 2007 to 2011.
He plays the guitar right handed even though he is left handed.
He uses a cycle as his main means of transport and does not own a car.