David Byrne and Fatboy Slim Immortalize Imelda Marcos
By Isis Madrid
14 December 2009
Talking Heads alum David Byrne and dance beat guru Fatboy Slim are finally releasing Here Lies Love, their disco-influenced concept album based on the life of ex-Philippine first lady/shoe-hoarding diva Imelda Marcos and her life-long servant, Estrella Cumpas. If your first reaction is to rub your eyeballs and re-read that last sentence, we felt the same way.
Though, after some thought, we realized that this is just what we’ve come to expect from the awesomely eccentric Byrne. The new-wave hero played a rough draft of the project in a New York City showcase at Carnegie Hall in 2007, receiving decent reviews (it was a rough draft, after all). The original goal was to stage the songs as a musical, and while there have been a couple of theatrical performances with a few different ladies at the helm, the official album release features vocals by 23 artists.
The story of the 80-year-old “Steel Butterfly,” as she has been famously referred to in the media, is interpreted by vocalists such as Florence Welch (of Florence + The Machine), St. Vincent, Martha Wainwright, Cyndi Lauper, Sharon Jones (of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings), Sia, Santigold, Tori Amos, Byrne himself, and more.
The widow of former President Ferdinand Marcos (a brutal dictator-type) rose to notoriety when she was crowned the “Rose of Tacloban” at the age of 18. She then went about collecting crowns and even protested her loss in the Miss Manila pageant one year (eye roll). The young beaut eventually married Marcos, who reigned as president for 21 years before fleeing to Hawaii after his regime was toppled by the four-day People Power Revolution in 1986.
Imelda was somewhat of a cultural dictator herself, and deported the Beatles once for refusing to play at her residence. A Studio 54-frequenter in the ’70s, she was famously revealed to be a closet closet-stuffer after opposition forces raided her abandoned mansion, discovering 2,700 pairs of designer shoes. Many were appalled by the luxuries afforded by the first lady while the majority of her country was struggling in poverty.
After her husband’s passing, Marcos returned to the Philippines and was somehow elected legislative representative in her native district of Leyte. She has since made significant contributions to her homeland including the building of many schools.
With this story of rags to riches that bursts with dubious morality, no wonder Byrne was intrigued. The two-disc album set, named after what Marcos reportedly wants engraved on her tombstone, will be released on February 23 along with a book detailing the project and a DVD.