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David Byrne Biography

Home > Music > B > Byrne, David > Biography

Born: 1952/05/14
Birth Place: Dumbarton, Scotland
Years Active: 1974–present
Genres: New Wave, Experimental Pop Music, Worldbeat, Alternative Rock

David Byrne (born May 14, 1952) is a musician and artist, best known as a founding member and principal songwriter of the American new wave band Talking Heads, which was active between 1975 and 1991. Since then, Byrne has released his own solo recordings and worked with various media including film, photography, opera, and non-fiction. He has received Grammy, Academy and Golden Globe awards and been inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Byrne was born in Dumbarton, Scotland. Two years later, his parents moved to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and then to Arbutus, Maryland when Byrne was a child. He graduated from Lansdowne High School in southwest Baltimore County. Byrne started his musical career in a high school duo named Bizadi with Mark Kehoe. Their repertoire consisted mostly of songs such as “April Showers,” “96 Tears,” “Dancing On The Ceiling” and Frank Sinatra songs.

Byrne then attended the Rhode Island School of Design in 1970-71 and the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1971before dropping out and forming a band called “The Artistics” with fellow RISD student Chris Frantz. The band dissolved within a year, and the two moved to New York City together with Frantz's girlfriend Tina Weymouth. Unable to find a bass player in New York City, Frantz and Byrne persuaded Weymouth to learn to play the bass guitar.

After some practice and playing together they founded the group Talking Heads which had its first gig in 1975Multi-instrumentalist Jerry Harrison joined the group in 1977. The band released eight studio albums before going into hiatus in 1988. Byrne desired to go solo, but it took three years to announce that the band had broken up in 1991. A brief reunion for a single “Sax and Violins” in 1991 occurred before again dissolving. The band was inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, when they reunited to play a four song set.

During his time in Talking Heads, Byrne took on outside projects, collaborating with Brian Eno during 1979 and 1981 on the album “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts,” which attracted considerable critical acclaim due to its early use of analogue sampling and found sounds. Following this record, Byrne took his attention on Talking Heads. “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” was re-released for its 25th anniversary in early 2006, with new bonus tracks. In keeping with the spirit of the original album, two of the songs' component tracks were released under Creative Commons licenses and a remix contest site was launched.

“Rei Momo,” released in 1989, was the first solo album by Byrne, after leaving Talking Heads, that featured mainly Afro-Cuban, Afro-Hispanic, and Brazilian song styles including popular dances including merengue, Cuban Son, samba, mambo, cumbia, cha-cha-chá, bomba, and charanga. His second solo album, 1992’s “Uh-Oh,” followed featuring a brass-section and was driven by catchy tracks such as “Girls on My Mind” and “The Cowboy Mambo (Hey Lookit Me Now).”

Byrne founded the world music record label Luaka Bop in 1990. It was originally created to release Latin American compilations, but it has grown to include music from Cuba, Africa, the Far East and beyond, releasing the work of artists such as Cornershop, Os Mutantes, Los De Abajo, Jim White, Zap Mama, Tom Zé, Los Amigos Invisibles and King Chango

His third solo album, titled “davidenryb,” was issued in 1994 and was a more proper rock record, with Byrne playing most of the instruments, leaving percussion for session musicians. “Angels” and “Back in the Box” were the two singles released from the album. “Angels” entered the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart, reaching #24.

In 1997 For his fourth studio effort the emotional, “Feelings,” Byrne employed a brass orchestra called Black Cat Orchestra. His fifth solo album, 2001’s “Look into the Eyeball,” continued the same musical exploration of “Feelings,” but was compiled of more upbeat tracks, akin to those found on “Uh-Oh.”

“Grown Backwards,” released by Nonesuch Records in 2004, used orchestral string arrangements, and included two operatic arias as well as a rework of X-Press 2 collaboration “Lazy.” Byrne also launched a North American and Australian tour with the Tosca Strings.

Byrne and Eno reunited for his next album, 2008’s “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.” He assembled a band to tour worldwide for the album for a six-month period from late 2008 through early 2009 on the Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno Tour.