“The Books That Changed David Bowie’s Life” (2020)

john-oconnell-bowies-books-2020

“David Bowie was a voracious reader and made a list, three years before he died, of the 100 books that had changed his life. These had fuelled his creativity, shaped who he was, and they provide a new way of understanding him. For each book, John O’Connell provides a short, insightful essay and pairs it with a Bowie song. Perhaps surprisingly, only eight books are concerned directly with musical subjects, while 12 relate to various aspects of the visual arts. Some are about mental illness; his half-brother Terry had schizophrenia and died by suicide and Bowie battled depression. There are some interesting poetry choices such as Dante’s Inferno and Homer’s Iliad. Of the eclectic novel collection, some are predictable but many are certainly not, and black people’s and outsiders’ experiences characterise the non-fiction.” [. . .]    —Brian Maye, The Irish Times, March 7, 2020.

Radiohead, “Pyramid Song,” Amnesiac (2001)

“According to Colin Greenwood, it was the image of ‘people being ferried across the river of death’ that most affected Yorke. This is reflected in the song’s many references to Dante’s imaginary journey through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, Divine Comedy. These include the black-eyed angels, a moon full of stars and jumping into the river.”    –Anonymous user on songfacts.com

Contributed by Justin Meckes

For an academic take on Radiohead’s Dantesque influences, see the discussion of “Pyramid Song” in Brad Osborn, Everything in its Right Place: Analyzing Radiohead (Oxford UP, 2017), p. 192 [log-in required]:

“In addition to depicting images directly correlating to the song’s lyrics, the song’s music video suggests further allusions to this scene—Dante’s fifth circle of Hell—not directly found in those lyrics (‘let us descend now unto greater woe; already sinks each star that was ascending’).19 The greater woe of the music video is the environmental fallout of a warming planet—precisely what Yorke identifies as Dante’s ‘lukewarm’ (both literally in terms of global temperature, and figuratively regarding humankind’s collective inertia for change). Global warming reappears continually in Radiohead’s multimedia output. Take for example the short Kid A promotional video—affectionately refereed to by fans as ‘blips’—that promoted ‘Motion Picture Soundtrack’ (2000–10). In this video the iconic ‘minotaur’ that accompanies nearly all of the Kid A and Amnesiac artwork is reimagined as a polar bear stranded on a sinking floe of ice. What immediately follows cements the link between global warming and Dante. As the polar bear slowly sinks to the tune of ‘I will see you in the next life,’ a sinister, red-eyed, black-cloaked minotaur sails across the river—now blood-red—in a tiny row boat brandishing a sickle.”

See also Giulio Carlo Pantalei, “The Middle Ages of Postmodernism: Dante, Thom Yorke, and Radiohead,” Dante e l’arte 6 (2019): 127-142.

“9 Times Marilyn Manson Was the Greatest Rockstar in Any Circle of Hell”

“Marilyn Manson, the man and his eponymous band, brought darkness back into the spotlight in the early ‘90s. Achieving popularity without a scalp scraped by butterfly clips or an official Pog line, Manson became the new face of fear. Fear of violence, sex, vulgarity, drugs, and most crucially Satanism. He was hailed by fans of alternative music, and reviled by the mainstream, as the self-styled Antichrist Superstar. Just like mythical depictions of the Anti-Christ, Manson has a silver (forked) tongue and an intelligence that few can comprehend. He is a cause for parents to fear their teenager’s headphones, coiled around their babies like the snake in Eden.

[. . .]

In Manson, no creative force has brought such a vivid and lyrical depiction of Hell since Dante’s Inferno, the first part of the fourteenth-century epic poem Divine Comedy. The band’s back catalogue gives as nuanced and sprawling a Hell as Dante, taking listeners through all nine circles. Whereas Dante’s guide was Roman Poet Virgil, ours is the icon formally known as Brian Warner.”    –Daniel Wylie, What Culture, August 10, 2020

Hell O’Dante

Hell o’ Dante è uno spettacolo di narrazione che affronta l’Inferno in 34 serate ognuna dedicata a un canto.

Attraverso una rigorosa ricerca e il commento di brani pop-rock suonati dal vivo, Saulo Lucci sviscera le terzine e i personaggi in esse racchiusi, la situazione storica e le pene tanto mirabilmente dipinte così come il pensiero dell’autore dando nuova vita a tutto ciò, per riconsegnare agli spettatori la bellezza di una commedia che merita più di ogni altra mai scritta l’attributo di Divina.”    —Cine Teatro Baretti, July 17, 2020

“The Convalescent” by Manic Street Preachers (2001)

Alberto Juanterino unique in his field
These are the things that, that make you feel
Klaus Kinski with love of Werner Herzog
Scream until the war is over[x2]
Srebrenica cousin of Treblinka
Scream until the war is over
War is over
And Dante’s Inferno slides into dysmorphia
So scream until the war is over” [. . .]

On their 2001 album Know Your Enemy, Manic Street Preachers‘ song “The Convalescent” contains the lyric “And Dante’s Inferno slides into dysmorphia” in verse three. (Manic Street Preachers, Epic, March 19, 2001)

Contributed Victoria Nicholls (The Bolles School, ’22)

The Swoon, Neverland/ben son ben son Beatrice (1990 album)

Christian rock band The Swoon released an EP in 1990 titled Neverland/ben son ben son Beatrice. Click the image of the album cover to listen to one of the tracks, “Via Dolorosa,” on YouTube. An image of the track list, as printed on the CD, is below (image from Amazon.com).

Read a 1991 review of the album in Hope College’s student newspaper The anchor, here.

Dante HH

Dante HH is a “psychobilly blues, hard rock” band from L.A. —Dread Central

The motto, Dosis facit venenum, implies “The dose makes the poison.”

Os Mutantes, A Divina Comédia (ou Ando Meio Desligado) (Polydor, 1970)

os-mutantes-a-divina-comedia-ou-ando-meio-desligado“Along with the fascinating cover art — which finds the middle ground between the lurid, low-budget, exploitation cinema of filmmakers like Jean Rollin or Mario Bava, with the higher aspirations of gothic literature, à la Edgar Allen Poe — the literal English translation of the title suggests further hints towards the notions behind the album, with A Divina Comédia (ou Ando Meio Desligado) interpreted as The Divine Comedy (or I Walk a Bit Disconnected), with the reference to walking disconnected pointing towards 1960’s stoner culture and the various preoccupations with the living dead (once again, check out the Gustave Doré referencing cover art for more…). It sums up the spirit of the album perfectly, with continual references to Dante’s eponymous collection, religious cults, black mass, Satanism and the teachings of Aleister Crowley. It’s all a bit more tongue-in-cheek than the influences would suggest, with the band famously making loving pastiche and parody of the California rock scene, as well as including a straight-as-straight-can-get version of a doo-wop song that ties in nicely with similar tracks that Frank Zappa was creating for the first Mothers of Invention album, Freak Out! (1966), in particular the likes ‘Go Cry on Somebody Else’s Shoulder’ and ‘How Could I Be Such a Fool’?” — Robin Tripp, Review for Head Heritage, June 19, 2007

Contributed by Pearl Nelson-Greene (University of Kansas, 2020)

Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs’s album Gates of Hell (2014)

Gates of Hell” is an album released on July 31, 2014 by Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs. The band hails from Toronto, Canada, and are a self-described “6 piece rock n’ roll band from hell.” — cited from Bandcamp.com

The album features 10 songs:sam-coffey-iron-lungs-gates-of-hell

  1. Gates of Hell – 3:31
  2. Hold Me Close – 2:32
  3. Birthday! – 1:31
  4. Communication – 4:04
  5. Get Pumped Up – 1:32
  6. Season of the Witch – 2:46
  7. Heavy on Queen St. – 3:16
  8. Calgary Hill – 3:13
  9. Seventeen – 2:58
  10. Brides of Satan – 3:31

Watch the music video for the song “Gates of Hell” below:

Learn more about Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs on their website, and follow them on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Soundcloud.

Pia come la canto io, Album by Gianna Nannini (2007)

“Dolente Pia, dolente Pia,
Gianna-Nannini-Pia-come-la-canto-io-Dantedolente Pia innocente è prigioniera.
Col capo chino, la fronte al seno,
pensa a quei giorni del passato ricordi in fior.

“Torna, sento già la tua luce nell’anima.
Sei qui con me, sono le braccia tue che stringo.
Per quanti mesi e notti e giorni,
non saprei dire, non lo so ma questo è certo:
ci fu l’inverno, poi primavera,
la vita torna nel castello ma non per me.
Guarda se ne va questo sogno di te.
Là batte l’onda e un cavallo galoppa.
Ma l’amore, il nostro amore, marcisce dietro a questa porta.

“Ma l’amore, questo amore, marcisce dietro a quella porta.
Fa sempre freddo, in quelle mura,
il cielo è chiaro ma la terra resta scura.
Poi il primo verde, la lunga luce,
pensa a quei giorni del passato ricordi in fior.
Dolente Pia, dolente Pia,
Dolente Pia innocente è prigioniera.
Col capo chino, la fronte al seno,
pensa a quei giorni del passato ricordi in fior.”

–“Dolente Pia,” from the 2007 album Pia come la canto io by Gianna Nannini

Listen to the song here.

For a comparative analysis of Dante’s Pia with Nannini’s, see the blog laletteraturaenoi.it.

Contributed by Anna Lisa Somma (University of Birmingham)