David Byrne Biography

Singer, Songwriter (1952–)
David Byrne is a Scottish singer/songwriter best known as the frontman of the art-rock musical group the Talking Heads.


Born in Dumbarton, Scotland, on May 14, 1952, David Byrne co-founded the new wave band the Talking Heads in the 1970s. With releases like Remain in Light, Byrne's work with the group and as a solo artist has reflected his interest in experimental pop and African rhythms. He founded his own musical label Luaka Bop and has worked with a wide range of artists, including Brian Eno and St. Vincent.

Early Life

Singer, songwriter, composer and guitarist David Byrne was born in Dumbarton, Scotland, on May 14, 1952. When he was two, his family moved to Canada, and then six years later to a suburb outside of Baltimore, Maryland. In September 1970, while attending the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, he met future bandmates Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, and there they formed the five-member band the Artistics.

Forming the Talking Heads

In early 1974, Byrne moved to New York to pursue his songwriting career. Frantz and Weymouth soon followed. They played their first performance as the Talking Heads—a name that Byrne said a friend saw in a TV Guide advertisement for a science-fiction movie—on June 20, 1975, when they opened for the Ramones at the new Bowery club CBGB. The Talking Heads quickly gained popularity and eventually signed with the New York independent label Sire in 1977.

Often called one of the most creative and versatile groups of the 1970s new-wave movement, Talking Heads members Byrne, Frantz, Weymouth and eventually Harvard grad Jerry Harrison had a style that was funky and edgy, combining punk rock, funk, pop and world music. While other groups strived for wild and unique looks, the Talking Heads often dressed in suits.

Albums and Film Work

The group released their first single, "Love -> Building on Fire," in February 1977, and their debut album was released soon after. Subsequent releases included More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978), Fear of Music (1979) and Remain in Light (1980), with the latter album featuring "Once in a Lifetime."

During the band’s success into the ‘80s, Byrne ventured into film, a move that culminated in his co-writing the full-length feature film True Stories (1986) in which he also starred and directed. He composed scores for other stage and screen projects as well.

The Talking Heads officially announced their dissolution in 1991. In 2002, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

A Solo Career

After the Talking Heads broke up, Byrne continued to pursue his interest in global music, especially rhythms from Brazil, and launched his own label, Luaka Bop, in 1988. His first solo release was 1989’s Rei Momo.

During the 1990s Byrne extended his range of activity even further, exhibiting his photographic and design work internationally with art shows and on billboards and subway posters. The first of his published works, the notebook-styled art book Strange Ritual, was published by Chronicle Books in 1995.

In the early 2000s, Byrne continued recording with the releases Look Into the Eyeball (2001) and Grown Backwards (2004), as well as adding to his list of score credits with Lead Us Not Into Temptation (2003), a soundtrack created for the David MacKenzie film Young Adam.

Dance Musical and Bonnaroo

Byrne later collaborated with dance music artist Fatboy Slim to produce 2010’s Here Lies Love, an album revolving around the story of Filipino First Lady Imelda Marcos and featuring a range of women artists, including Tori Amos, Cyndi Lauper and Florence Welch. The work was transformed into a dance musical staged at New York City’s Public Theater, debuting in April of 2013.

Byrne also met singer Annie Clark (her stage name is St. Vincent) in 2009, a partnership which resulted in their first album Love This Giant three years later. The pair performed at the four-day Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee in June 2013. They also planned a 2013 tour of the U.S., Australia and Europe.

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