Tag Archives: "(Nothing but) Flowers

Road to nowhere: David Byrne and the five stages of grief

29 Apr

This has been quite the week.

After more than twelve years of service – including the recent, relentless marathon of communications work in response to COVID-19 – I am out of a job. Following losses of tens of millions of dollars in just a few weeks, my health care organization cut a significant number of corporate positions to better ensure they will be able to get back to whatever “normal” will look like at some point in the future.

Now I and more than 26 million other Americans are attempting to forge a path into a future we can’t see and certainly don’t understand. For the type-A personalities and workaholics out there, it’s hell on earth.

In March, Harvard Business Review published an article that put a name to the disruption, uncertainty and fear we are collectively experiencing as we cope with life during the pandemic: it’s grief. And the musician who is helping me process this grief is, strangely, David Byrne.

David Byrne is not a warm guy. Especially in his younger days, he came across as Mr. Rogers on Adderal, with ball bearing eyes and a perpetual motion machine of a body. While his music is outright groovy, that’s in contrast to the intellectual detachment of the lyrics. In much of his work – from the Talking Heads to his collaboration with St. Vincent, his Imelda Marcos opera written with Fatboy Slim and his wide range of solo material – he describes an off-kilter world full of uneasy people. A 2018 interview in The Guardian put it well: “Even when he wasn’t singing in character – a psychopath, a televangelist, a domestic terrorist – he had a knack for making the familiar strange and unnerving. Animals, vehicles, buildings, TV, weather, haircuts… everything was seen with alien eyes.”

Who better to help us navigate strange and unnerving times than the guy who implored us to stop making sense?

So here are my five stages of David Byrne, which I hope will help you find your path forward.

DENIAL: “Once In a Lifetime” from Remain in Light
“And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!”

ANGER: “My Big Hands (Fall Through The Cracks)” from The Catherine Wheel
“Well it ain’t my fault, my fault things gone wrong”

BARGAINING: “(Nothing But) Flowers” from Naked
“I miss the honky tonks, Dairy Queens, and 7-Elevens”

DEPRESSION: “Heaven” from Fear of Music
“Heaven is a place
A place where nothing
Nothing ever happens”

ACCEPTANCE: “Found a Job” from More Songs about Buildings and Food
“So think about this little scene, apply it to your life
If your work isn’t what you love, then something isn’t right.”

And, as a bonus – the sixth stage of grief:
MEANING: “Road to Nowhere” from Little Creatures
“I’m feeling okay this morning
And you know
We’re on the road to paradise
Here we go, here we go”

See you on the flip side …

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