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15 Songs About AIDS

We thought this would be a good time to look back at some of the music inspired by the crisis that (eventually) galvanized a generation into action.

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Lou Reed, Halloween Parade

Today marks the 32nd anniversary of the first report of the virus that would become known as HIV. In 1998, singer-songwriter Dan Bern released a song called “Cure for AIDS”; there have been countless jokey songs about the disease, including Ween’s “The HIV Song” and “Everyone Has AIDS” from Team America: World Police, but Bern’s seemingly lighthearted track was profound in its idyllic vision of a world free of the disease. Fifteen years later, an end to the epidemic feels like a very real possibility. Nearly 30 million people have reportedly died from AIDS, but each week seems to bring news of another breakthrough in the decades-long quest for a vaccine or cure. We thought this would be a good time to look back at some of the music inspired by the crisis that (eventually) galvanized a generation into action.

Editor’s Note: Listen to the complete list on Spotify.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pb_r-IwB8t8

15. Lou Reed, “Halloween Parade” (1989)

With “Halloween Parade,” rock icon Lou Reed recounted the effects of the AIDS crisis during the 1980s on New York’s annual display of pageantry and disguise in his signature sing-talk style.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86hrNjZVbw8

14. Pet Shop Boys, “Dreaming of the Queen” (1993)

The Pet Shop Boys might be the pop-music act with the most (and earliest) nods to the ravages of AIDS in their songs. “Dreaming of the Queen,” which Neil Tennant called “an anxiety dream” about the disease, stands out for its lush orchestral backing and sad hook sung in the guise of Princess Diana: “There were no more lovers left alive/And that’s why love had died.”


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbLdomO4iZg

13. Cyndi Lauper, “Boy Blue” (1986)

Cyndi Lauper’s deceptively bouncy “Boy Blue” was based on a children’s story and written for a friend who died early in the epidemic. The single wasn’t a huge hit, but it foreshadowed the prominent role the singer would take in the gay-rights movement later in her career.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wte8dY_9uo0

12. Elton John, “The Last Song” (1992)

Probably one of the most famous songs about the AIDS crisis, Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s tearjerker is poignantly told from the perspective of a dying man, “as light as straw and brittle as a bird,” reuniting with his estranged father.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNBj4EV_hAo

11. George Michael, “Jesus to a Child” (1995)

Written in the wake of his partner Anselmo Feleppa’s AIDs-related death, the first song from Michael’s 1996 album Older is a tender ballad composed in the bossa-nova style of Feleppa’s native Brazil and features stinging couplets like “The words you could not say, I’ll sing them for you/And the love we would have made, I’ll make it for two.”


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHpQFF_Et4s

10. Neil Young, “Philadelphia” (1993)

Though it lost the Oscar to Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia,” this achingly performed song confronts the meaning of city and friendship as a man looks at the light at the end of the tunnel.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_KB13IVJXY

9. Ani DiFranco, “One Every Corner” (1991)

A chronicle of the impact of AIDS on the homeless (and the lack of response) in early-‘90s New York, the folksinger proclaims, “I am looking forward to looking back on these days.”


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoJZsFMOkDs

8. Madonna, “In This Life” (1992)

Madonna has written better slow jams, but “In This Life,” from her brilliant Erotica album, is arguably one of her most personal, written about the deaths of her close friend Martin Burgoyne and mentor Christopher Flynn. The drums tick away like Stephen Hawking’s Doomsday Clock, which, coupled with tension-building keyboard intervals inspired by Gershwin’s blues lullaby “Prelude No. 2,” creates a sense of dis-ease rarely found in a pop ballad.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHBmpGLGyk8

7. Sarah McLachlan, “Hold On” (1993)

Inspired by the true story of a woman whose fiancé discovers he has AIDS, McLachlan’s “Hold On” is poignant without ever becoming saccharine or schmaltzy.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6qvIhygLTs

6. Suzanne Vega, “Blood Makes Noise” (1992)

One of the few songs on this list that’s not overtly about the AIDS crisis, released at the apex of HIV prevention and education, it’s impossible to listen to Vega’s modern-rock chart-topper and not think about sitting in a cold, sterile examination office anxiously waiting for blood test results.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYEUKZXA4es

5. Boy George, “Il Adore” (1995)

“Il Adore,” from the singer’s 1995 album Cheapness and Beauty and later incorporated into his musical Taboo, is as notable for its beautiful orchestral arrangement as it is for George’s delicate recounting of a mother’s sorrow over her ailing gay son.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxODj9gBW1I

4. Wu-Tang Clan, “America” (1996)

Smacking down conspiracy theories that were running rampant in the black community and telling listeners “AIDS kills…Coming from the Wu, it’s real,” Wu-Tang’s “America” is, perhaps, one of the most important songs about HIV/AIDS, directed squarely at a demographic that desperately needed—and still needs—to hear it.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OMtz_m0y7U

3. George Michael, “Do You Really Want to Know” (1992)

While “Jesus to a Child” may be the better-known of Michael’s AIDS songs, this delectable pop-house track from 1992’s Red Hot + Dance was, like Wu-Tang Clan’s “America,” better designed to reach an essential demographic—and it did so while making them shake their asses.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4z2DtNW79sQ

2. Bruce Springsteen, “Streets of Philadelphia” (1993)

“My clothes don’t fit me anymore,” the Boss sings plaintively on the opening theme song from Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia. Skeletons and frail bodies are common images in songs like these, but there’s nothing usual about Springsteen’s understated portrayal of a man lost and languishing in his own city.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQOW95Iaxhc

1. Paula Cole and Peter Gabriel, “Hush, Hush, Hush” (1996)

Like Elton John’s “The Last Song” and Boy George’s “Il Adore,” “Hush, Hush, Hush” paints a portrait of a grieving parent, calling out the cruel irony of delaying happiness only to find death. The beautifully arranged song reaches its heart-wrenching apex as the key changes and Gabriel joyously exclaims, “Oh, maybe next time you’ll be Henry the Eighth!”

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Let Your Sanity Go on Vacation with a Trip to the Moons of Madness

If you dare, ascend into the horrors of the Martian mind and check out the trailer for yourself.

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Moons of Madness
Photo: Rock Pocket Games

The announcement trailer for Moons of Madness opens with an empty shot of the Invictus, a research installation that’s been established on Mars. The camera lingers over well-lit but equally abandoned corridors, drifting over a picture of a family left millions of kilometers behind on Earth before finally settling on the first-person perspective of Shane Newehart, an engineer working for the Orochi Group. Fans of a different Funcom series, The Secret World, will instantly know that something’s wrong. And sure enough, in what may be the understatement of the year, Newehart is soon talking about how he “seems to have a situation here”—you know, what with all the antiquated Gothic hallways, glitching cameras, and tentacled creatures that start appearing before him.

As with Dead Space, it’s not long before the station is running on emergency power, with eerie whispers echoing through the station and bloody, cryptic symbols being scrawled on the walls. Did we mention tentacles? Though the gameplay hasn’t officially been revealed, this brief teaser suggests that players will have to find ways both to survive the physical pressures of this lifeless planet and all sorts of sanity-challenging supernatural occurrences, with at least a soupçon of H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmicism thrown in for good measure.

If you dare, ascend into the horrors of the Martian mind and check out the trailer for yourself.

Rock Pocket Games will release Moons of Madness later this year.

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Watch: Two Episode Trailers for Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone Reboot

Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes.

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The Twilight Zone
Photo: CBS All Access

Jordan Peele is sitting on top of the world—or, at least, at the top of the box office, with his sophomore film, Us, having delivered (and then some) on the promise of his Get Out. Next up for the filmmaker is the much-anticipated reboot of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, which the filmmaker executive produced and hosts. Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes, “The Comedian” and “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet.” In the former, Kumail Nanjiani stars as the eponymous comedian, who agonizingly wrestles with how far he will go for a laugh. And in the other, a spin on the classic “Nightmare at 20,0000 Feet” episode of the original series starring William Shatner, Adam Scott plays a man locked in a battle with his paranoid psyche. Watch both trailers below:

The Twilight Zone premieres on April 1.

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Scott Walker Dead at 76

Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde.

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Scott Walker
Photo: 4AD

American-born British singer-songwriter, composer, and record producer Scott Walker, who began his career as a 1950s-style chanteur in an old-fashioned vocal trio, has died at 76. In a statement from his label 4AD, the musician, born Noel Scott Engel, is celebrated for having “enriched the lives of thousands, first as one third of the Walker Brothers, and later as a solo artist, producer and composer of uncompromising originality.”

Walker was born in Hamilton, Ohio on January 9, 1943 and earned his reputation very early on for his distinctive baritone. He changed his name after joining the Walker Brothers in the early 1960s, during which time the pop group enjoyed much success with such number one chart hits as “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore).”

The reclusive Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde. Walker, who was making music until his death, received much critical acclaim with 2006’s Drift and 2012’s Bish Bosch, as well as with 2014’s Soused, his collaboration with Sunn O))). He also produced the soundtrack to Leos Carax’s 1999 romantic drama Pola X and composed the scores for Brady Corbet’s first two films as a director, 2016’s The Childhood of a Leader and last year’s Vox Lux.

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