Monday, February 8, 2016

Musical Monday - Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie


We live in an age of wonders.

Jenny Lind, also called the Swedish Nightingale, was one of the most popular opera singers of the nineteenth century. After a successful career in Europe, P.T. Barnum brought her to the United States for a series of concerts, where her performances earner her several hundred thousand dollars. Lind is believed to have been the inspiration for at least three of Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tales. Despite her fame, some critics of her day were critical of her abilities, comparing her unfavorably to some of her less celebrated peers. That said, the fact that she was one of the most famous celebrities of her day is undeniable.

But here is the tragedy: We have no idea what she sounded like. She may have recorded a primitive phonographs disc for Thomas Edison, but if she did, it was lost, and in any event would have been too crude and too long after she retired to actually provide any useful information about her talents. Like so many other performing artists of her era and before, she has been lost to us. There are literally thousands of years of singers, musicians, and actors whose contributions to the culture of their day have been lost to the mists of time. For most of human history, once a singer stopped singing, once a musician stopped playing, and once an actor stopped acting, their artistic voice went silent forever. As with Jenny Lind, we have records of the existence of many such artists, but we cannot reach across the gulf of time and see the work that made them famous. If you were an author, we can read your stories hundreds of years after you died. If you were a historian, we can still read your academic works. If you were a newspaper reporter in the nineteenth century, we still can read your articles. But if you were one of the most celebrated singers of the 1850s, your voice has been forever silenced.

But that era of human history is now over. Freddie Mercury died in 1991. David Bowie died in 2016. They didn't actually appear together in the video provided. And yet we can not only hear their performances in their famous duet, we can see them take the stage. Well, a virtual stage constructed out of disparate clips anyway. The salient point is, short of the collapse of human civilization, we will always have performances by Freddie Mercury and David Bowie that are accessible to us. The artists may be dead, but their art will live forever.

Previous Musical Monday: Shore Leave by Five Year Mission
Subsequent Musical Monday: Tomorrow Belongs to Me by Mark Lambert

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