«Donald Trump reminds me of Beyoncé»

Greil Marcus, pop critic and cultural analyst, discusses the Dadaism of Donald Trump, why modern stars like Beyoncé don’t move him and why he hates Leonard Cohen.

Wohin will Donald Trump sein Land führen? Greil Marcus ist überzeugt, dass seine Wähler «die lustvolle Zerstörung herbeisehnen». Foto: (Agentur)

Wohin will Donald Trump sein Land führen? Greil Marcus ist überzeugt, dass seine Wähler «die lustvolle Zerstörung herbeisehnen». Foto: (Agentur)

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When we first met, that was 1997 in Zurich, you told me that you had written «Lipstick Traces» (his book about Dada, Punk and the Situationists) because you were so disgusted with America under Ronald Reagan. Now you are coming to Zurich to talk about Dada while Donald Trump is being nominated as the presidential candidate for the Republican Party. How does Dada relate to Donald?
Well, you know, people have often said that one version of Dada before Dada is Alfred Jarry’s «Ubu roi». And there has never been, in the history of American politics – and they have been some close calls –, there has never been a political candidate more like Ubu, more taking Jarry’s dramatization past itself than Donald Trump. It’s almost as if he read the play and said, «This will work! People will go for this!» There’s a way in which the Dadaists’ mockery of the world, their way of pushing things to the point where even they might get afraid of their own creation is absolutely exploding today. Nobody has ever seen anything like this where it’s pure Id and pure Ego: You’re the only person that exists. Nothing else is of modest importance. Everything you say is a work of genius. Anyone who questions anything you say is not human. And every time you feel the last line has been crossed this genius of malevolence and absurdity manages to shock you again. And people keep saying, «Well he’s going to blow up. He’s going to go to far.» And there are a large number of people in the United States today who would be recognized by the original Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich and in the Berlin Dada club. Because they were entranced by the society blowing itself up. And taking its own premises as far as they possibly could be taken and then farther still – to a point when destruction becomes an end in itself, becomes a pleasure.

What does that say about his followers?
And I really do believe that a lot of the support for Donald Trump, that the people who come to his rallies and cheer everything he says, who beat people up, who scream with delight when someone is being beaten up at one of his rallies – that for these people destruction itself is a pleasure that they are seeking and a pleasure that they believe they are going to get. So you are seeing something that with Dada took place on stages within a frame of art turning into something that is not.

The people’s reaction also has an element of revenge against the system, I think this is a strong motive for supporting Trump – as if he wasn’t part of the system himself.
I think that is completely true. There are people who have been given permission to speak publicly about their deepest resentments, their deepest and most irrational hatred. If you follow Trump’s supporter on the internet, you will be getting the most vile and profound expressions of anti-semitism, of racism, of intolerance toward any religion other than Christianity. There is a guy who is posting anti-semitic messages under the name «Trump God Emperor». I take this stuff completely as face value. This is someone who believes that Donald Trump is God and should be the emperor of the world – and is hoping that will happen.

Then there’s these white people’s fear that they are going to be minoritysed by the minorities. Trump is also playing to that, isn’t he? Subliminally and overtly.
Oh, I think overtly. There is nothing subliminal in his messages. And there certainly aren’t any double messages in his speech. There is no irony, either. And yet there is also something really… What you think is so mean and so hateful both coming from Trump and coming back to him from his fans, from his supporters – the pleasure principle may be driving a lot of this – you didn’t get from someone like Huey Long, a great American demagogue, somebody of whom you could have said, «That’s Ubu roi right here on stage – and enjoying himself.» Donald Trump is not enjoying himself. This is a small, angry, resentful person who has got enough money to make people beg and scrape before him. And that’s all there is. This is someone very empty we are talking about.

Basically he’s addressing a lynch-mob.
Let’s say he’s trying to create one.

Huey Long was this completely corrupt governor from Louisiana, right?
He wasn’t bought and sold, he was a demagogue who believed in absolute power, and he ran Louisiana first as a governor, then as a senator. He was an absolute ruler of the state of Louisiana and had a very well thought out plan about how he was going to become president. He was a left-wing demagogue who was assassinated by political enemies.

Now Trump is also strong because his opponent is weak. There are surveys indicating that Bernie Sanders might have a better chance than Hillary Clinton.
That is complete bullshit.

Explain.
That is utter nonsense, and I tell you why. All the polls show – either state by state or nationwide – that Bernie Sanders runs more strongly against Trump than Hillary Clinton does. The reason for this is two-fold. One is that he hasn’t been subjected to any negative attention at all from anyone. He has not been attacked by Hillary Clinton, he has not been attacked by any of the Republicans, he has gotten an absolute free pass through the whole primary season. No-one has said that this man’s ideas are crazy, that he has no idea what he is talking about, he doesn’t even care.

Really?
No one has brought up incidents from his past. So he has yet to be subjected to any negative attention. And were he the nominee that would start right away – and you would see him begin to crumble right away. The other thing that nobody wants to talk about is that Bernie Sanders is Jewish. And were he to be the nominee, he would be attacked as a Jew on two levels. On the overt, public level he would be attacked by Republicans and by Donald Trump as not really a Jew, a self-hating Jew, someone who doesn’t support Israel, someone who would betray Israel. That would be on the surface. Below the surface he would be attacked with a whispering campaign: «He’s a Jew». And that, too, would have a tremendous effect. Not the same effect as being subjected to the kind of negative attack that Hillary Clinton has been subjected to for 25 years.

There is nothing she has done that was not being criticized.
And it will get worse. Bernie Sanders has never run a race where he has been attacked. He's had opponents, and he has defeated those. But he would crumble like sand.

Yet Sanders has talked about subjects that Clinton avoided, like students having to take on loans they have to pay for a long time.
First of all that is not really true. Hillary Clinton has a plan to relieve students in debt. Which is not an absolute plan like when you say: All public colleges will be free. And therefore there will be no more students in debt. Recent studies have shown that many students are attending public colleges with no tuition. They are either on scholarships from public foundations or don't pay any tuition at all. However, some of these people are homeless, some of them are still working two or three jobs including all-night shifts, because they have to pay for food, textbooks, a place to live - and they can't do it. So what Bernie Sanders is saying is: «'Let's make all public colleges free. That would take care of the problem.» But no, it won't take care of the problem. When I went to college at the University of California in Berkeley, it probably was one of the best universities in the world. And I paid no tuition. I paid 161 dollars a year.

Really?
But I knew plenty of people who struggled terribly to stay in school. So Bernie Sanders is not a serious candidate because his policies aren't serious: They don't work. And they haven't been thought through.

Hillary Clinton hoped that she would be able to run against Donald Trump. And now Trump has a credible chance of being elected president. Bernie Sanders is hurting her from the left. What is her problem? She should be leading the polls. She's so competent, she's obviously going to be a sound, intelligent president, so why is she struggling against these two extremists?
Well, I agree with what you are saying. There are a number of reasons for this. It's true that lots and lots of people including lots and lots of people who will end up voting for her don't like her. She seems inauthentic. People don't trust her. And not because of this scandal or that scandal. I have seen Hillary Clinton give speeches for years. I have seen her in the flesh and on television. And most of the time there is something canned. Somebody reciting lines. But when she is in a position where she has to think on her feet, when she has to answer a specific charge, and she doesn't have a pre-tested, focus group, committee-drafted response she is kind, human, and whole.

And she can be funny, too.
Yes, and you think, this is really happening. This is somebody I want to hear more from. Some politicians have the ability to deliver a canned line as if it's fresh and new, as if they just thought of it. And she can't do that. So she's not a good candidate, but I think she would be a very good president.

Carl Bernstein, one of the Watergate reporters of the «Washington Post», once said that Hillary Clinton was not a politician. She doesn't understand how politicians try to please audiences.
I think that is probably true. But it may also be that she doesn't like people the way a politician has to like people. I am not saying that as a criticism of her. There are some of us who genuinely love to be around people, who love to meet people and there are some of us who don't. Usually, those of us who don't won't usually get into politics.

Her husband was brilliant at that.
Of course. People said the same thing about Bill Clinton as they said about Elvis Presley. And they would say it from the beginning of Elvis's career to the end. They would be sitting in an auditorium with 20'000 people, and they would say: «I thought he was be singing just to me.» And people would go to Bill Clinton's rallies ant to speeches, and he would be up there talking, and they’d say the same thing. That’s a rare gift. And you cannot just decide, I am going to be that way.

Which brings us to the phenomenon of charisma. I have this idea that the people in the crowd themselves want to love this person who has charisma, and you want to show your love for this person. So charisma comes not only from the person emanating it but also from the adoring crowd.
I’m sure that’s true. But there also is something that comes from the person. And that is why truly charismatic people are real. The only time I met Bill Clinton was at a restaurant in Berkeley. And I went up to his table, and I simply said, «Keep fighting.» And left. It was in a restaurant where I’ve worked as part of the board of directors for forty years. It just so happened my wife and I were eating dinner there that same night, and one of the waitress said, «Clinton’s coming». That was when he was president. So I went up to him, and the secret service stopped me, and I said, «I’m a co-owner of the restaurant», and they said, «Oh, ok» – which they really shouldn’t have. So I went to him, and what struck me was how big he seemed. He just radiated. That may have been a projection as you are saying. But I think there is more to it than that.

I agree. Now let’s talk about Barack Obama for a moment. What I found interesting is that Paul Krugman who has been criticizing him for six years wrote in «Rolling Stone» that he had been wrong, and that Barack Obama had been a great president because he didn’t do this.
Paul Krugman is really great when he’s not writing the same column over and over. And I think he is getting better when he’s actually surprised by something and has to figure it out.

What is your take on Barack Obama’s presidency?
It’s very difficult to say. (He sighs). I don’t think his presidency will really take shape for me for a long time. I can tell you one thing: After eight years of George W. Bush, after having someone who self-evidently cannot think or talk, who can’t put together a coherent sentence and doesn’t want to, doesn’t care to – because he never had to. Because he and his father come from a world of such privilege that they were always deferred to. Anything they did was right. And no-one would even dare to tell them that something didn’t make sense or wasn’t even English. And to have George W. Bush replaced by somebody who could speak clearly and plainly and directly in real English: That was a thrill. I saw Obama last night on the Jimmy Kimmel show, a late night talk-show.

And I was struck by two things. By how pleasing it was to listen to him. He didn’t say anything profound or even that interesting. But you were listening to someone who was absolutely in his own skin. And is comfortable talking to somebody else. The other thing I was struck by: Here he is, almost eight years into his presidency, he’s got a lot of gray hair, he looks older. But I was struck by how remarkable handsome he looks. This is a guy who has not been worn down by the presidency, he hasn’t been broken. He is more of a person today than he was when he took office. So many people leave a presidency diminished.

Yes. Because they absolutely have failed to realize – not just other people’s hopes –, but especially their own. Abraham Lincoln said that he sought glory, and that he found only ashes and blood.

What a phrase.
Yes. Right after Obama was elected I wrote that there was no way to know what a president he would be. And that it was awful if like Lincoln he would only find ashes and blood. And I said that might be enough. Because Lincoln didn’t mean just ruins. He could see the cost of action. He was a thinking person, he saw through it. And what I meant when I wrote that Obama might find the same was that he would be thinking through everything that he had to do, everything he succeeded in, everything he failed in. And if you leave with ashes in your mouth, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It means you’ve done something.

When we compare someone like Donald Trump with someone like Barack Obama it makes me think of a line Leonard Cohen sings: «America is the cradle for the best and the worst.»
Yeah, well, I’m not going to let a Canadian pass judgement.

I didn’t see that one coming. Come on, Greil, it’s Leonard Cohen!
I’ve always hated Leonard Cohen.

Really?
Really.

Why?
I think he’s pretentious, I think he has this position of moral superiority, of someone who knows all the answers. There’s no doubt in Leonard Cohen.

That’s not true.
Well, I don’t hear it.

Fair enough. But let’s talk music now. You mentioned Elvis earlier on. I’ve been reading your «Real Life Rock Top Ten» book that came out and your book «The History of Rock’n’Roll in Ten Songs» (Greil Marcus: The History of Rock’n’Roll in Ten Songs. Yale University Press, New Haven 2014. 320 Seiten, ca 20 Fr.). Click here to buy it for £12.99). Reading these books I realized that there is a narrative on rock’n’roll. And my question is: Is this narrative disappearing in the age of Youtube?

When you say narrative, what do you mean?
There is this great line by Lester Bangs in his obituary of Elvis Presley when he writes: «We will never agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis.» Reading your «Real Life» column, I will always meet records or books or films I know. But is this kind of cohesion disappearing in the fragmentation of the internet.
I don’t know. I don’t know how to answer that question. I’ve thought about it a lot. Confronted it over and over – or it confronted me. There certainly have been moments with Madonna during her Blond Ambition tour – whether or not everybody agreed with Madonna, she had made a cultural moment where everybody had to take a stand for or against her. «We will never agree on anyone as we agreed on Elvis» - I think that’s what it comes down to. You had to take a stand, and there was a «we» and there was a «them». Now if you take the biggest star in the world today – which is Beyoncé, she has been for quite some time and only seems to get bigger – there is a hollowness there, an emptiness. What does she actually fight for, stand for? Nothing. Therefore you cannot take a stand for or against her. You can think she’s great or not, but nothing’s at stake. It’s not a big deal. But I don’t know the answer to your question. I never try to predict the future.

It’s funny you should mention Beyoncé because I just read your comment today on her performance in «Cadillac Records». I agree with you that it is a mediocre film, but also that Beyoncé is wonderful as Etta James. She seems to know where she comes from, but she’s somehow lost.
What she does in that not very good movie is bring it to life. Sure, she’s an actress, there’s a director and all of that. But the way she says «fuck you» to the producer, my God, this is a real person. And you just want more of that. It’s funny that someone who is playing somebody else in a movie role is more real than the person who is playing herself. I guess you could put it that way. You know, there is a way in which Donald Trump reminds me of Beyoncé.

You have to explain that.
I’m not criticizing her. But her fans, her followers, the people who think she understands them, that she cares about them, and that includes middle-aged and older people, academics, professional people and not just 12 year old girls by any means: They are in love with her apparent power. She seems to own the stage she walks on, she seems to own the air she breathes. And we breathe that same air at her dispensation. The aura that surrounds here and that she’s created around herself and other people have created around her is very similar to the aura that has been created around Donald Trump. This sense of authority, of absolute power, a sense that one has reached a point where he or she can do absolutely anything and be beyond criticism, alone face any consequences. I don’t want this to be misconstrued. Donald Trump is a racist, Beyoncé is not. Donald Trump wants to destroy people, and I don’t think Beyoncé does. They’re entirely different, but the linkage between the two is that they worship power and the appearance of power.

Plus there is this racial ambiguity about Beyoncé that is so well captured in this «Saturday Night Live» spoof when white people realize that Beyoncé is black.
Oh, that is so fantastic. It is almost as good as the Beyoncé police sketch. Anybody who doesn’t like Beyoncé is hunted down and thrown into prison. Anybody who likes her new album but not the seventh track loses his job and is attacked by the FBI. It is fantastic. And you take those two things – white people realizing that Beyoncé is black, and the Beygency hunting anyone that doesn’t bow to her - this sketch actually gets to the question: What if Beyoncé was Donald Trump? And Donald Trump was a dictator? And to criticize him became a crime? And that you forfeited your life if you said anything against him? I doubt that the people who wrote that sketch were thinking about Donald Trump, it probably was instinctive. But if they would be running it for the first time we would all be thinking about him.

Now, Greil, you’ve obviously read Simon Reynold’s book «Retromania» about the past of Rock’n’Roll destroying the present and the future. It must be enormously difficult for a young band today having to live up to the fragmented interest Youtube creates. What is your take on that?
I don't think that even has any meaning. When a song is new, when a song goes on the air, comes off a record, and it's real, and it's good, and it catches the spirit, the past is ours, there is no past, and it says: This is what it's all for - that's what I felt with «Bad Romance» by Lady Gaga. Especially the last minute when she kind of goes into overdrive. Anything that was vaguely specific or had shape falls into pieces. Everything is fragmenting into ever direction like a big bang. Then the past becomes irrelevant, and all that matters is, you know, «Oh my God, I want to hear this again.»

Have you seen «The Biggest Splash» where Tilda Swinton plays a rock star and unusual Stones tracks like «Heaven» or «Emotional Rescue» become comments on what happens between the characters?

I have seen it and really liked it. But here they are obsessing over «Emotional Rescue» - this terrible song. They picked the wrong song. I just didn't believe these people were wrapped up in that song as they said they were. I liked the guy's previous movie, and I like this even more. Because the pieces don't fit together in any predictable way. The relationships didn't quite make sense, there was a malevolence all through the movie that was believable. None of these people were likable. You don't want to be any of these people. And yet they were not boring.

Even the landscape looked flat, uninteresting. But there was an honesty to this emptiness.
It's kind of watching that and saying, I don't want to be that rich.

What I like was the scene where «Heaven» was playing, one of my favorite Stones songs. They could have used «Jumpin' Jack Flash» or «Love in Vain«», but they chose difficult songs. «Emotional Rescue» is an awkward song, not obvious.
Maybe you're right, it might have been a much poorer movie with a much better song. That makes sense.

When I read your column, when I read your books, there always is this passion expressed about music. Do you still feel that when you hear today's music?
I spent the last 45 minutes before you called listening to different versions of «Gimmie Shelter». And I was thinking today that when I last saw the New Pornographers, there was no band I've seen in the last twenty years when I was absolutely shocked at how wonderful these people are. After the last show I saw I wrote that they restored my faith in humanity. I couldn’t in any way say what I was feeling without being that blunt and pretentious. I couldn't find an ironic, joking, self-protecting way to say that. But when I walked out of that show three, four years ago I said: People can be really good, they can do good things. This restores my faith in humanity. Which I hadn't said about anything else for ages.

As you said in an early interview: «If music isn't about passion, it doesn't mean anything.» Right? So does that still hold true?
It is not an intellectual concept made to establish a point.

It's visceral.
Yeah. Well, it is the intellectual creation of a visceral response. Let's put it that way.

Simon Reynolds talks about the past, John Seabrook from the «New Yorker» analyzes the present: How hits are generated since the computer revolution: on a virtual assembly line. His book «The Song Machine» explains that the so-called stars, at least many of them, are just making the work of hidden hit experts public. Mr. Seabrook calls the result «Robopop». Does it bother you that hits today are manufactured in the extreme?
Let's talk about Taylor Swift's «Shake it Off».

Or maybe Max Martin and Shellback's «Shake it Off». It's a terrific record. You only have to hear it once, or maybe the point is you only have to hear about ten seconds of it, to know what a huge it will be and deserves to be. But like Madonna's «Lived to Tell», which you knew almost from the label was a world-stopping hit, after not to many plays you begin to hear something else: not a person, not a moment, not emotion, not thought, but process.

So there is coldness in the machine?
It may be some or even many people's idea of a good time to enjoy a record by attending to how carefully and completely it is made – to experience and be moved not by event but by process –, but it's not mine. And it wasn't after more than five times of «Shake it Off» that I could no longer hear the song as a message from one person, or position, to another, or hear it as sung by a person, as opposed to hearing how calculated, how mechanical, how programmed, how formulaic, the whole thing is. It never lets a listener relax into the song, to ignore it, to be moved by it – it's a product to be admired. It seems to me the goal of the musical equivalent of an entire movie made by means of computer generated imagery ought to be to hide the special effects, not to put them in front of anything else. It's like when you see poor back projection in an early James Bond movie – it takes you right out of the movie. And here, whatever music might have been, or been for, over the years, or centuries, now it's about something else. It's design. And the emotional connection is dissolved.

So you agree with Seabrook's analysis on the modern, industrial way of making of music?
I think his argument is overstated. He's an extraordinarily thorough and lucid business writer, but he's a business writer, and while in «Song Machine» he also writes as a fan, and falls into the mindset of the people he's following, it's worth paying attention to who he spoke to and who he didn't. He spoke in the main and most usefully to producers and writers – in the old term, record men. Like movie directors or screenwriters or producers, they have every reason to inflate their roles, to make it seem as if they saw all around the production before it even happened, or for that matter that no one else really had anything to do with it at all. But the soul, and the personality, in Rihanna's records is not reducible to process, or someone else's directions. It's also interesting that while Seabrook's book seems to cover the world of hits over the last ten or more years, certain people don't really come up at all: Beyoncé most pointedly, but also Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey. And none of them would remotely fit into Seabrook's or anyone's schema. And what about Outkast’s «Hey Ya», the most overwhelmingly ubiquitous hit of the last fifteen years – a hit of the same, «Shake it Off», hear-ten-seconds-and-you-know-it-owns-the-world way, but a hit that did not dry up, that did not go stale, that did not call attention to its own smartness, which is not the same as intelligence, which appears in a thousand forms? As Lou Reed said, when he first heard it, he thought, «I could listen to this forever – and then you pretty much had to.» But it still sounded glorious, open, with emotional room in it. «Shake it Off», which is a great record, is a closed system. But I don't believe Taylor Swift is. And I think she might have very different story to tell than Max Martin.

Today, we are told that people like Kendrick Lamar and Kayne West that these are the musical geniuses of our time.
I love Kayne West, I always have. He says what he thinks, and what he thinks often makes a lot of sense. When he had the nerve to go on TV in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina and say, Bush doesn't care about black people, it was like the emperor's new clothes.

He was right that he doesn't care about black people. And what nerve it took to say that. Which is what the Dixie Chicks did in their own way. And what kind of shit did they have to take. Kayne West has a sense of humor, a sense of grandeur. The music he's been making the last year is spooky and strange. It isn't obvious. I don't know where it comes from, what it's about. Anybody who can go on stage and sing A-ha's «Take on Me» is ok by me. It's fabulous.

I didn't know that. A-ha is the whitest band save Abba.
They’re beyond white. They're effeminate and wonderful. I've always loved that record. And anybody who says that George W. Bush doesn't care about black people, and I love A-ha is ok with me.

So what about Kendrick Lamar then?He's great, but he doesn't move me in the same way. But that's my problem.

Let's wrap up the interview with a few last questions. I read your remark about Barney Hoskyn’s book about Woodstock, the town of course, not the festival. You wrote that this was the most depressing music book you had ever read.
It’s really depressing to read about the wasted lives of people that I cared about. My life was wrapped up with their music. And some of them I knew. And it's just awful, the waste, the smallness. It's terrible. You walk down the street, you see someone maybe 18, maybe 45, and they're still alive, but they died a long time ago, and it's awful to see. And you're reading that story, page after page.

Which brings me to the last subject I would like to raise. I've written half a dozen obituaries since the beginning of this year, David Bowie, Glenn Fry, George Martin, Prince and others. How do you feel about all these people who defined an era the dying?
It doesn't mean anything in that sense. People are dying because they're old. They reached an age where people die. I am that age, and I have to look around. When you get to be 70 years old you know a number of people in your life who have died, you know other people who are fading, and you know it could happen to anybody at any time. When death follows death follows death you just have to say, is there any satisfaction in this life? When Prince died, it so happened I was standing in line in San Francisco at the airport to board a flight to Minneapolis when the phone rang. It was Minnesota Public Radio saying they had a report that Prince had died. They didn't know if it was true. But if it were true and they were going on the air with it, could I say something? I was completely stunned, and I said, he had so much left to do. That's what I felt. And then I arrived in Minneapolis later that day, and over the next week-end, it was like there was only one social fact in Minneapolis-St. Paul where I am right now, and that was: Prince was here, and he's dead. And that was meaningful for everybody. Here was a world figure who never left town. He didn't go to New York or LA. He stayed here and lived his life. And all sorts of different people here, they knew him crossed paths with him. And there was nothing remarkable about that. He was 57 years old. And he died the same day Lonnie Mack died, the great guitarist. Who sang «Why?», the most unbearably painful soul ballad. And they died on the same day. And I put in my column: two Mid-Western guitar players died on the same day. But this is going to happen now. You cannot treat these events as if they are discreet tragedies. A lot of them aren't tragedies. It can be painful if somebody loses his life, it can be difficult and shocking.

My point is, and again I'm quoting Lester Bangs. When John Lennon died he wrote that ultimately, we were mourning for ourselves.
No, no, no. With Prince, if I mourn for him I feel a deep emotion for him losing his life. And with Lonnie Mack I hoped that he died satisfied. It wasn't about me, it was about them.

Absolutely. But my point is: When David Bowie died I felt an emotion I have never felt since John Lennon was shot. I'm not sentimental, but when Bowie died I thought, this guy meant something to me. How do you feel about him for that matter?
I was not upset when David Bowie died. Because he almost never reached me on an emotional level. «Life on Mars» is pretty much it. I can sing that song in my head all day long. But Bryan Ferry is my guy. When David Bowie died, I was amazed how many people I knew whom I never knew to care about him were just broken-up, destroyed. My daughters, my friends, all sorts of people. The way it was staged, it was curated, putting this album together that would come out two days before he died. I mean, you cannot make this stuff up. But the fact that his death was not an event in my life - it's my life, and that's not his fault. I don't really know how to talk about this, because my relation with death was formed when I was very young. Even before I was born.

Your father died.
And so I'm very stoic about it. There's a way in which it just happens.

Bowie was always thinking about the inability to feel. And I was struck about the intensity of the people’s reaction when he died.
Yeah. I guess I didn't believe that he had an inability to feel. The stuff by him that I really love is full of feelings, you know. «Young Americans», «Life on Mars», «Heroes». And he had a great sense of humor. You know, «The Bewlay Brothers». You want feelings?

I always felt he was a lad. He was a cockney from Brixton. And always down to earth. Maybe the greatest mystery about him was that there wasn't one.
I think that was an illusion. He suffered love and hated just like everybody else. But that was not his persona, not his heart, that was not what he was interested in.

My last question: What is the current music that makes you happy when you listen to it? Right now?
What makes me happy is Prince along with Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty playing «While My Guitar Gently Weeps». Prince stepping out after everybody replicated the song and being superhuman with glee and delight. I love the expression on Dhani Harrison's face, this look of such anticipation as Prince moves towards the centre of the stage, oh my God it's going to be so great - and it's greater than that. So that's it. I play that over and over again. There's nothing like it. It just makes you smile what people can do.

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Erstellt: 30.06.2016, 17:02 Uhr

Greil Marcus

Der 71-Jährige Kalifornier ist der berühmteste Rockkritiker der Welt. In seinen zahlreichen Büchern nimmt er unter anderem auch zu politischen Fragen Stellung. (jmb) (Bild: Ida Lødemel Tvedt )

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Affentheater: Ein Kapuzineraffe begutachtet das neue Primatengehege im Zoo Servion (VD). (13. Dezember 2017)
(Bild: Jean-Christophe Bott) Mehr...