Talking Heads built a reputation as one of the most interesting acts of the ’70s/’80s New Wave movement. “Psycho Killer,” their first hit, was a clever but raw piece of rock ’n’ roll.
With each album, they inched ever funkward… first with the fake Afrojam “I Zimbra” (click here to hear the 12-inch version), then with most of the “Remain In Light” album. (Click here to hear “Crosseyed and Painless.”)
“Once In a Lifetime” has been sampled with some success by rappers... but not as much as “Genius of Love” by the spinoff group Tom Tom Club.
By adding P-Funk founding funkfather Bernie Worrell and other (mostly black) bumpin’ musicians to their lineup, Talking Heads became a funk band for real.
Bandleader David Byrne had the anthropological instincts of a lot of white rockers of the ’80s, like Paul Simon and Sting. All of them were accused of being yet another set of cultural imperialists rummaging through native grooves for inspiration when they ran out of their own ideas.
This argument is a slippery slope. On one hand, black folks want recognition for our artistic achievements. But we don’t want anyone biting our style… especially if others make more money off of it. While no one wants to be exploited, inspiration and “borrowing” are time-honored aspects of any art form.
At least the Heads hired and prominently featured black musicians, acknowledged where their cultural inspiration came from, and actually made good music.
– Reginald Hudlin