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Here Lies Love With David Byrne and Imelda Marcos, A Theatrical Production From An Alternative View-Point

Updated on March 13, 2015

It was on BBC 1 Breakfast News that I watched an interview with iconic David Byrne - the front man of Talking Heads. Never actually meeting Imelda Marcos, he was inspired by her background and taste in music rather than her notorious love of extravagance. Here Lies Love, the musical, was the brainchild of David Byrne inspired by the famous Imelda Marcos. 

In terms of a historical perspective, this extravagance of Imelda Marcos has been criticised - the people that she governed were desperately in need of food and shelter - such wastefulness, therefore, was as if placing salt in the poor people's wounds. It has been documented that she had a shoe fetish, for example, and proudly claimed ownership of 3000 pairs. David Byrne explains how he carefully managed to avoid this aspect of her persona and wanted to view this powerful lady in a different light - Imelda Marcos, the First Lady of the Philippines and how she arrived there.

David Byrne collaborated with Fat Boy Slim (The House Martins, DJ extraordinaire, Norman Cook) aiming to create something theatrical on CD. In fact, Here Lies Love has been performed four times on stage.  Here Lies Love originally debuted at the Adelaide Bank Festival of Arts in Australia on March 10th 2006. It was further performed twice in Adelaide around the same time and then, lastly, at Carnegie Hall in New York on February 3rd 2007. The theatrical version has not been revisited since, although this could still be an aim in the future. For more on this, please take a look at the below video: Imelda Marcos; Here Lies Love.

David Byrne

Courtesy of Design Brooklyn
Courtesy of Design Brooklyn

If You Are Looking For Imelda Marcos 'The Public Figure', You Will Not Find It In 'Here Lies Love'.

Today this project focuses on David Byrne's book, Cd's and DVD on her rise to power and the person behind the media spotlight. If you are looking for Imelda Marcos 'the public figure' then you will not find it in 'Here Lies Love'. As usual, David Byrne explores the artistry that surrounded this very public figure and not the media hype. Byrne has always been notorious for his visual concepts and unique ways of exploring art. This is no exception.

Imelda Marcos, the first lady of the Philippines, was part of a regime in the 70's and 80's that was significant of corruption, extravagance and Marshall law. Money was frittered away on projects that were not of high priority at that time. Marcos lived the high life whilst her people suffered impoverishment. Read more about Imelda Marcos here.

This, however, was not what David Byrne wished to focus on. In the BBC News interview, he suggested that Here Lies Love was about how she managed to justify her eccentric lifestyle to herself and how she managed to arrive at that point. He further stated that he was ‘Fascinated with people in power and what makes them tick’ (Quoted From BBC Breakfast) … 'she liked going out to discos and clubs and even had a mirror ball installed in her New York town house'. For David Byrne, this is what intrigued him.

David Byrne On Imelda Marcos: ‘here is someone that – powerful person – brings their own soundtrack with them'.

David Byrne thought: ‘here is someone that – powerful person – brings their own soundtrack with them'...‘there is a story between ImeldaMarcos and the woman who raised her – Estrella Cumpas – when her mother passed away’ and Byrne looks at the strands around them rather than the politics with her husband. From her childhood, spent in poverty, and her rise to power to her ultimate departure from the palace, the project focuses on the relationship between the two - especially on key moments where Cumpas appears in the first Lady's life.

David Byrne's lyrics has been structured around actual quotes from the life of Imelda. This includes the project title - Here Lies Love for which it has been cited as the words that Marcus wishes to have engraved on her gravestone. This has been very cleverly interweaved into the songs rhythms and tones of the double CD. 

Fat Boy Slim AKA Norman Cook Hits With Production!

'Here Lies Love' is a 22 song double CD, 100 page hardcover book with lyrics, photos & essays. It includes a DVD with 6 videos featuring songs from the album cut to archival and historical footage from the Philippines. Fat Boy Slim, Norman Cook, used his skills of production to cement the sound of the CD from the original concept of the show. Each song has its own theme and these relate to a sequence of events. Click Here Lies Love for the scene structure - song by song.

When recruiting for the project Byrne mentions that he got turned down by a number of people because the subject matter was controversial. David used the word ‘distasteful’ on the BBC interview and said this with a rye look in his eyes. He felt that he was criticised for 'not being critical’ enough, glamorising a woman who was so materialistic in an environment of poverty. However, the recruitment of artists must be commended with the album featuring performances by Santigold, Florence Welch (from Florence and The Machine), Steve Earle, St. Vincent, Natalie Merchant, Tori Amos, Sharon Jones, Nicole Atkins and others.

Disc two

  1. "Dancing Together"
  • Vocals by Sharon Jones

"Men Will Do Anything"

  • Vocals by Alice Russell

"The Whole Man"

  • Vocals by Kate Pierson

"Never So Big"

  • Vocals by Sia

"Please Don't"

  • Vocals by Santigold

"American Troglodyte"

  • Vocals by 

David Byrne

"Solano Avenue"

  • Vocals by Nicole Atkins

"Order 1081"

  • Vocals by Natalie Merchant

"Seven Years"

  • Vocals by David Byrne & Shara Worden

"Why Don't You Love Me?"

  • Vocals by Cyndi Lauper & Tori Amos

Here Lies Love On CDs!

Track listing

Disc one

  1. "Here Lies Love"
  • Vocals by Florence Welch

"Every Drop of Rain"

  • Vocals by Candie Payne & St. Vincent

"You'll Be Taken Care Of"

  • Vocals by Tori Amos

"The Rose of Tacloban"

  • Vocals by Martha Wainwright

"How Are You?"

  • Vocals by Nellie McKay

"A Perfect Hand"

  • Vocals by Steve Hearle

"Eleven Days"

  • Vocals by Cyndi Lauper

"When She Passed By"

  • Vocals by Allison Moorer

"Walk Like a Woman"

  • Vocals by Charmaine Clamor

"Don't You Agree?"

  • Vocals by Roisin Murphy

"Pretty Face"

  • Vocals by Camille

"Ladies in Blue"

  • Vocals by Theresa Andersson

Buy This Special Edition of Here Lies Love At Amazon!

The package includes the double disc CD, book and DVD. The book is a beautifully bound 100 paged hardback book with lyrics, photos and essays. This accompanies the DVD and Cd's. Amazon does a beautiful Special Edition of 'Here Lies Love' and can be purchased at the click of this button. Remember that Amazon has free delivery on many of their items (this one is included), a quality service and they provide the cheapest around. However, why not take a look for yourself? Just click on the Amazon link below and check it out!

© This work is covered under Creative Commons License


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    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Great Britain

      Janet and Eliza... Imelda Marcos was contraversial, that is sure. Trust the Byrne genius to latch onto something different about her. Thanks for your comment:)

    • profile image

      Janet and Eliza 

      9 years ago

      Clearly, Imelda was politically promiscuous. More cutting edge music from David Byrne.

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Great Britain

      David Byrne is always rather contraversial... that is the only thing predictable about him and that is an aspect of him that I adore. In every person, given the right environment, conditions, we can always find something surprising and attractive in them. It is just up to us to seek this out.

    • profile image

      Jim Bauer 

      9 years ago

      Always been a fan of Byrne and Talking Heads—though not a fan of Marcos, though I can see how he could be fascinated by her. One can't help to find powerful people interesting, and for a variety of reasons.

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Great Britain

      It was/and still is, I believe (looking at the news leads below) an extraordinary life. Always love to have brilliant comments like yours Ladyjane1 - people have to see the 'whole of the moon'. Thank you for coming back :)

    • ladyjane1 profile image


      9 years ago from Texas

      shazwellyn you make a point well taken. I can see the interest in a life such as hers was.

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Great Britain

      Ladyjane1 - she came from an impoverished background as well. But this intrigued David Byrne - how can a woman so powerful and one that knows suffering become the person she did? What was the person behind the history? What was it that 'made her tick'? This disco diva, with a love of culture, walked on a pavement of gold whilst her people starved. It was as if she was living in another world and unable to see the reality of her country.

      Byrne said that he didn't want to focus on the politics of her life - this has been well documented and is easily accessible. He wanted to give another view - he believes that we all live in our own realities and wanted to focus on her truth, or her perception.

      He came across lots of difficulties getting rock stars on board for this project, partly because of bad timing schedules but also because they didn't agree with Imelda Marcos's actions during her reign. You are, therefore, not alone in your views and this is a valid point.

      Byrne likes contraversial ideas and experiments with boundaries. He has, in this instance, excelled himself :)

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Great Britain

      billyaustin... well she was extravagant! I suspect there were a few riots, which is why she had to move to New York, I believe.

      You are right, if anyone could do something totally unique and creative, you can trust in David Byrne. I also love Peter Gabriel - the real world studios produce niche music (not far from where I live, actually) and his knowledge of technology is immense!

      Thanks for reading and dropping by.:)

    • ladyjane1 profile image


      9 years ago from Texas

      Interesting hub and the first I have heard about Byrne's connection with Imelda Marcos. Not really a first lady that I would look up to as she used up so much of her countries money on extravagances instead of helping the poor. The whole country was run by dictatorship and rackettering. She kind of reminded me of Marie Antionette telling her subjects to eat cake amidst all the chaos, Imelda instead was buying hundreds of Botticelli and Michaelangelo's and she even contemplated buying the Empire State Building I believe while so many were starving. Strange womam she is. But to each his own.

    • billyaustindillon profile image


      9 years ago

      David Byrne is a true icon - I think of him and Peter Gabriel of having done so much in world music - namely bringing it to everyone's attention. With Imelda Marcus I thought of "Burning Down the House" straight away , I don't know why?

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Great Britain

      Green... yes, he is a bit of an enigma himself, but then, he is an artist and this is what helps make a world more diverse. People have many facets. Byrne looks at the Marcos's passion for music and culture.

      Thanks for reading dear Green:)

    • Green Lotus profile image


      9 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      So interesting. It's nice to see Byrne, one of my favorite artists break the boring Imelda stereotype with some interesting insight. Thanks.

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Great Britain

      Thanks Ann... this really was an interesting piece of research and am glad to have shared it with you. I had a vagueness about this woman but now, with the help of David Byrne, I now know more:)

    • Ann Nonymous profile image

      Ann Nonymous 

      9 years ago from Virginia

      I watch BBC a lot but somehow I missed this! thanks so much for the update and interesting music! Well done, Shaz!

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Great Britain

      Pretty... what a great comment!

      David Byrne focused on the love of culture, rather than her extravagance. When he visited the Phillipines, he wanted to meet her but she declined because she had flu. So this was a missed opportunity. She did send her 'people' to go in council with Byrne but obviously they were careful to speak.

      David Byrne said that there is lots 'out there' about her extravagance, but he wanted to focus on Imelda Marcos - the woman and her fascination with culture (particularly discos!). The music he created for theatre was themed on that. Now that the music has been mixed by Fat Boy Slim and he enlisted some great singers, this exclusive set has been creates in true Byrne style.

      Thanks for reading and your comment:)

    • prettydarkhorse profile image


      9 years ago from US

      Hi Shaz, Imelda Marcos loves extravagance but she also built the Philippine International Convention Center -- a building for cultural events during her husbands reign as President, she made the Philippines beautiful, but then she spends a lot of money using the coffers of the people as well, some would say -- who cares as long as she is into building projects which showcase the Philippines -- and she loves arts, music and anything about culture! She was the First Lady when I was born in the 70s, her husband the then President is brilliant but he ruled with "dictatorship". Thirty years after, corruption is still present in the Philippines. I love shoes as well, but 3,000 hmmm, she loves really to see beautiful things, fashion jewelries and all, who wouldn't be, but using the peoples money is just not right, they never proved it anyway!

      Imelda is an elegant lady and I can see why they are "together" in this endeavor -- they both love fame, music and entertainment!

      Thank you for the wonderful insight Shaz,

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Great Britain

      Mordechai... it is an odd combination, isn't it? I think Byrne was fascinated by this beautiful lady - he loves people in powerful positions and wanted to work out what made her tick. It is strange how these types of obsessions tend to take hold. David, is a visual artist. as well as musical, and it doesn't surprise me that he developed a musical with such a niche subject.

      Thanks for reading dear Pooh:)

    • MordechaiZoltan profile image


      9 years ago

      My whole life I have tried to use David Byrne and Imelda Marcos in the same sentence and here you have gone and crafted an awesome hub pairing the two together. Brilliant!


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