I know I’ve brought up most of these people before on this blog. Still, it’s good to pay tribute once in a while to those who have helped shape your life. I know the title is a bit awkward but I didn’t want to necessarily say that this is a “hero” list for two reasons. For one thing, I’m not so sure that the following people would fall into that category. For another, I want to be fair—I’m leaving a lot of people out. This is by no means a complete list. That way I don’t feel bad about forgetting somebody. Also, it’s uncomfortable for me to publicly pay tribute to people I know privately. That may be a weird thing going on in my own head but as such would be a separate topic at some point, if I ever wanted to explore it.
So, here’s five famous people that have in some way affected me throughout my life.
- Frank Zappa. I’ve already said that Zappa’s album Sheik Yerbouti is one of the most important albums in my collection. Likewise, Zappa has had a role to play in how I perceive music and pop culture as a whole. Before then I had only an immature concept of “weird for weird’s sake.” When I started listening to Zappa I developed a sense that what I used to think was weird now had some meaning to it. I also realized that there is a lot more variety out there and “weird” started to lose its meaning. I may not agree with everything that Zappa said but I love the way he said it. That, and his guitar solos were out of this world.
- Anton Szandor LaVey. When I started developing my love for metal about a decade ago I came across the idea of Satanism more and more. I decided to look into it more partly so I could know what people were talking about and partly because it had that dark imagery mixed and confrontational nature that appeals to me. The fact that I could still be an atheist and still consider myself a Satanist (in LaVeyan terms) made it easy to take.
I found such power in The Satanic Bible that I was nearly ready to consider myself a Satanist. I still haven’t gotten around to taking part in any of the magic rituals or group activities to really call myself one. Besides that, I’m not so sure that I agree with every aspect of the philosophy. But I found much of myself in that book. I was glad that I wasn’t the only one that felt the way that I did. A book that came out more than twenty years before I was born made me realize that my ideas weren’t new. As much as I value originality that somehow pleased me. Even the views that I don’t initially agree with are presented in such a way that I’m forced to examine my own.
- Neil deGrasse Tyson. I’ve only really become aware of Tyson in recent years. That means that he’s a fairly recent addition to my life. I may not be good at math nor do I have an interest in pursuing a scientific field for a career. But Tyson presents science in such a clear and entertaining way that I finally have an appreciation for it. Star Talk Radio is now a staple of my regular podcast listening.
- “Weird Al” Yankovic. I’ve become more intrigued by Yankovic as a personality in recent years than the albums he releases. They primarily represent the popular music of their time. As such, my interest in his discography is waning as the quality of pop music is declining. Still, I can’t deny the affect he has had on me growing up. I remember hearing once that UHF should be required viewing when one turns thirteen. I couldn’t agree more.
- David Byrne. This one should come as no surprise. He’s one of the musicians that I think of as artist first. The man had art installations in which he played buildings as musical instruments, for crying out loud. He’s a deep thinker and that has reflected in everything that he has done. I only got to meet him once and very briefly. But his autograph still sits in a frame on my stereo all these years later.
I end this post with some recommended listening and viewing: Sheik Yerbouti by Frank Zappa, The Satanic Bible by Anton Szandor LaVey, any episode of Star Talk Radio, UHF, and the film Stop Making Sense.