I came late to Laurie Anderson, but I started listening to her, I listened with a vengeance.
I chilled to the ha-ha-ha-ha of ‘O Superman’, smirked at the line Put your hands on your head/Put your hands on your hips, chanted along with her chants, stretched my neck out and sighed at her serious absurdities. I used lyrics from three of her songs to head up chapters to my dissertation.
Un-hip-ily, my favorite cd is her most accessible, Strange Angels, mainly because of two songs: ‘The Dream Before’ and ‘Ramon’. The first introduced me to Walter Benjamin’s angel of history:
She said, What is History?
He said, History is an angel
Being blown backwards the future
She sung this lightly, sadly. The image isn’t her’s—it’s Benjamin’s—but in this song, it’s her’s, all the same.
Lyrics from ‘Ramon’ made it into my dissertation, a song so odd and, yes, sad and right to the point of it all:
So when you see a man who’s broken
Pick him up and carry him
And when you see a woman who’s broken
Put her all into your arms
Cause we don’t know where we come from
We don’t know what we are
I used this for the last chapter, trying to come up with some way to make sense of what I had just done in trying to make sense of our biology and our technology and our existence, and this lyric, in all its uncertain and unknowing wisdom, seemed to make more sense than everything else.
I don’t always live up to this—I almost never live up to this—but this still seems to make more sense than almost everything else.
10. Laurie Anderson, Big Science
11. Laurie Anderson, Strange Angels
12. Laurie Anderson, Bright Red