Song 102: David Byrne & Fatboy Slim (feat. Florence Welch), “Here Lies Love”

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I’ve been writing songs about women who knew Richard Nixon, and one challenge I’ve been facing is this: what responsibility do I have, if any, to be accurate? What ideas can I stretch or distort for my own purposes? I’d imagine David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, in composing their recent musical about Imelda Marcos, ran into the same questions.

Of course, far fewer people will ever hear my songs than the ones from Here Lies Love, which is currently at the Public Theater in New York. The idea for the musical stems from Marcos’s comment that her gravestone should read “here lies love.” As Byrne put it in a statement, “The story I am interested in is about asking what drives a powerful person—what makes them tick? How do they make and then remake themselves? I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great if—as this piece would be principally composed of clubby dance music—one could experience it in a club setting?”

I haven’t heard all of Here Lies Love, but if the rest of it is like the title track, I think the duo has achieved not only bringing a complicated story to a club setting, but portraying a complicated character honestly and respectfully. I have no idea if they achieved accuracy, but I don’t think it really matters. They took Marcos’s comment, extrapolated, and came up with this celebration of her beliefs. You don’t have to agree with the sentiment for this song to work, you just have to believe that it was genuine. That’s what I think they achieved.

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