Playlist: Remembering Bill Hicks in Song
The older I get, the more I am convinced that Bill Hicks was the most important comic who has ever lived. It's not just because he's a fellow Houstonian and we tend to put him on a pedestal here, it's that even decades later, it's easy to find nuance and different shades of meaning in his material. It's kind of like scripture in a way, if you'll pardon the small blasphemy of comparing the One True God to some guy on a cross.
Preacher No. 31
That's the sort of humor Bill Hicks brought: a manic, dark, cackling madness that could drill an audience into place. And once he had you squirming, thinking of death and that everything around you was a lie, he turned on the lights and talked about freedom, space, consciousness and the infinite possibilities of human souls. He was scary because life is scary, and sometimes fear becomes a way of life. Hicks took people deeper as a shock to their systems, leaving them a bit wiser, and usually a bit more hopeful.
On this day in 1994, Hicks passed from this world for points beyond, dying of pancreatic cancer at his parents' house in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was just 32 years old. He left behind his incomparable stand-up work, but also an impact on the world of music that continues to this day.
Super Furry Animals, "The Man Don't Give a Fuck":
Welsh experimental band Super Furry Animals is truly something to see live. During concerts they open the appropriately titled song "The Man Don't Give a Fuck" with Hicks's quote, "All governments are liars and murderers" from a bit he recorded at Austin's Laff Stop about David Koresh condemning the government's handling of the Branch Davidian standoff. It's one of his more powerful messages, gleeful and terrifying, and it works wonderfully with SFA's strange psychedelic style.
Bliss n Eso, "Eye of the Storm"
I just recently discovered Australian hip-hop masters Bliss n Eso, but if "Eye of the Storm" is any indication, they're a pair you want to watch. Their second album, Flying Colours, featured this track, and all among the odes to various bits of beauty and life that they cling to in the chaos around them is the line "It's that echo through eternity that still hits live/ It's life, a beautiful journey on a Bill Hicks ride."
Take Hicks's advice, kids. Life is just that. A ride. Anyone trying to convince you otherwise just doesn't want to admit it.