Five Must Hear David Byrne Collaborations

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Now that everybody’s gotten an earful of Love This Giant, the David Byrne and St. Vincent collaborative album, Love This Giant, one might begin to wonder – who else has this Byrne guy worked with? Well, besides being the big wheel who steered some band called Talking Heads to alt-rock icon status back in the ‘80s, the ever-eclectic, always-gregarious David Byrne has sidled up to plenty of other artists from all corners of the music world for an intriguing array of collaborations over the years. Some of these pairings are of a relatively recent vintage, while others occurred so long ago Byrne’s hair hadn’t even turned white yet. Here’s the pick of the litter.

1. David Byrne/Brian Eno, “Regiment”

Whether it’s an unspoken artistic kinship or simply their shared status as the most cerebral characters ever to fall even loosely under the “rock star” umbrella, Byrne and Eno have worked closely for decades. Eno started producing the Heads in the ‘70s, and was practically a band member by the time of 1980’s Remain in Light. Byrne and Eno cut an album together as recently as 2008, but their 1981 release, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, is a mind-blowing milestone whose found-sound collages, art-funk grooves, and global gestalt presaged an enormous amount of the innovations to come in electronic/dance music.

2. David Byrne/Richard Thompson, “Psycho Killer”

In 1992, Byrne’s search to find a white guy more uptight than Brian Eno hit paydirt in the personage of British folk-rock guitar hero Richard Thompson. The pair played a one-off acoustic gig together at the Church of St. Ann in Brooklyn, plowing through tunes from their respective songbags alongside cool covers of ‘60s garage rockers like the Sir Douglas Quintet and ? & the Mysterians. But this take on an early Talking Heads gem finds Thompson – whose most recent album at the time coincidentally included a track called “Psycho Street” – contributing the lion’s share of the psychosis via his fiery fretwork.

3. David Byrne/Marisa Monte, “Aguas De Marco”

The landmark 1996 AIDS awareness benefit album Red Hot & Rio included a raft of musical giants from all over the globe, and world-music junkie Byrne took the opportunity to pair up with modern Tropicalia queen Marisa Monte for a cover of Antonio Carlos Jobim & Elis Regina’s classic duet. In this clip’s intro, Byrne hails the song as one of Jobim’s most surreal, so it made for a perfect fit with the king of quirk.

4. David Byrne/Dirty Projectors, “Knotty Pine”

In their pursuit of the arty, the intellectual, and the esoteric within a pop-savvy, college-rock format, Dirty Projectors occupy a place roughly akin to that of early-‘80s Talking Heads, so in retrospect it was probably just a matter of time before Byrne got around to jumping into a studio with them. The opportunity presented itself on 2009’s Dark Was the Night, another all-star Red Hot benefit album. The resulting “Knotty Pine” kicked off the record and probably found its way into the footnotes of an untold amount of term papers before the dust had settled.

5. David Byrne/Fatboy Slim/Santigold, “Please Don’t”

In 2010, Byrne, with his eyes seemingly set on a new plateau of idiosyncrasy, joined with Fatboy Slim to craft a pop opera/concept album about Imelda Marcos. Santigold was just one of several celebrated singers who somehow didn’t find the project too kooky to take part in.