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Saturday, October 3, 2009

1984/David Bowie, and More

Today Classics Rock! concludes Banned Books Week 2009 (September 26-October 3), during which we've been featuring songs based on frequently challenged books, by revisiting our post from June 8th--the 60th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Sixty years ago today George Orwell's classic Nineteen Eighty-Four was published. References to the novel abound in popular music, but for this anniversary we'll consider a number of songs by David Bowie that relate to Orwell's book. In the early '70s, Bowie began working on a musical adaptation of the novel that never came to fruition. Instead Bowie featured much of that work on his 1974 album Diamond Dogs, including the songs 1984; We Are The Dead (a line from the novel spoken by the main character, Winston Smith); Big Brother, after the dictator of the totalitarian state depicted in the book (with the repeated line We want you Big Brother); and Chant Of The Ever Circling Skeletal Family, inspired by the novel's "Two-Minute Hate," a daily ritual required of those faithful to The Party (the ruling political class) in which they must express their hatred for the Party's enemies. The album ends with the first syllable of the word brother (as in Big Brother) heard over and over. [For another musical take on Orwell's novel, see our previous post about Anaïs Mitchell's song 1984.]

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