Stephen Hawking died yesterday. A huge loss to the world, and no matter his very human shortcomings, the world truly should pay tribute to this man. I am among those millions who bought his book “A Brief History of Time” in the early 90s. It opened my mind up on so many levels, and taught me complex concepts that I had only scratched the surface of before.
I met several of my heroes within science and last year I almost made a hat trick by meeting and interviewing both Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Cox and Stephen Hawking at the Starmus science festival in Trondheim, Norway. However, Hawking couldn’t make it because of his declining health. And now I never will be able to meet him. But last weekend I bought a new copy of “A Brief History of Time”, because I lost my old copy, and will read it this weekend in tribute.
As the years went by, Hawking became quite the celebrity. He appeared in numerous TV shows, probably most memorably “The Simpsons” and “The Big Bang Theory”. And loads of artists made songs with or about him. I have created a playlist of 12 of my favourites of these songs:
1) “Into the Party Zone” – Turbonegro
The Norwegian hard rock band Turbonegro’s opening track to the album “Party Animals” called “Intro: The Party Zone,” features Hawking’s familiar electronic voice saying, “Greetings, my name is Stephen Hawking. Anyway, please follow our denim leaders as they enter the final black hole – a new dimension in rock music. Welcome to the party zone.” I don’t think it is Hawking’s voice, though, even if the band have always refused to confirm or deny it.
2) “Stephen Hawking Sings Monty Python… Galaxy Song” – Monty Python & Stephen Hawking
For Record Store Day in 2015, Hawking recorded a version of Monty Python’s “Galaxy Song,” originally sung by Eric Idle for 1983’s film “The Meaning of Life” (he also appeared in a short video clip featuring fellow physicist and professor Brian Cox filmed for a documentary about the British comedy stalwarts’ reunion shows the year before).
3) “E=MC Hawking” – MC Hawking
When I attended the aforementioned Starmus festival last year, they showed us a documentary about Stephen Hawking’s career as a rap artist… It was hilarious, and taken from the works of Ken Lawrence, who created the MC Hawking rap persona in the late 90s. The lyrics are side splitting, and also spoofs N.W.A (“Fuck the Creationists”). Stephen Hawking was a big fan too.
4) “A Glorious Dawn” – Carl Sagan
Ok, so it’s not really Carl Sagan who performs this track. In 2009, John D. Boswell, a.k.a. Melodysheep, a.k.a. the man behind online video series Symphony of Science, concocted a genius mind-meld between two cosmologists, Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking. The result is a “cheesy, synthesizer-strewn odyssey that sounds like Auto-Tuning the Cosmos, that could also gently lull you to sleep on dreams of Milky Ways and nebulae nurseries” as Spin Magazine described it.
5) “Keep Talking” – Pink Floyd
David Gilmour insisted that the Pink Floyd albums released under his leadership were concept albums, just like the earlier Pink Floyd albums. 1994’s “The Division Bell” was about communication. So when British Telecom did an advert featuring one of Stephen Hawking’s most powerful monologues, Gilmour thought it fit the bill for his song “Keep Talking.”
“This was the most powerful piece of television advertising that I’ve ever seen in my life,” Gilmour said soon after The Division Bell’s release. “I just found it so moving that I felt that I had to try and do something with it, or with him or something, in some way.”
6) “Hawking Radiation” – Philip Glass
The mastermind of minimalistic music created an album of the same title as the book “A Brief History of Time.” This is a short, but very nice ditty. Unfortunately this is not on Tidal, so the Tidal playlist below only has 11 tracks.
7) “Me and Stephen Hawking” – Manic Street Preachers
The once huge stadium filling band, who used to be an underground band, name checks Hawking in this nice pop track.
8) “Hawking” – Todd Rundgren
Todd is a strange one. Part jazz, part prog, part rock, part pop and part psychedlia. Not only on one and the same album, but preferrably in one and the same song! This one however is dangerously close to lounge jazz.
9) “Da Vinci” – Weezer
Don’t remember what happened to this band, but mentioning Da Vinci and and Hawking in one and the same song just feels right.
10) “White & Nerdy” – Weird Al Yankowic
Come to think of it, I saw Yankowic in Trondheim as well. Oh well, this is a parody of a hiphop song I’ve never heard. But the lyrics are hilarious and the video is awesome too.
11) “Chronologie Part 4” – Jean-Michel Jarre
When the French electronica hero created an album about time, called Chronologie, in 1993, he name checked Stephen Hawking and thanked him for his book “A Brief History of Time,” in the liner notes. The book was a huge source of inspiration for Jarre when he worked on this album.
Last year when I was in Trondheim Jean-Michel Jarre received “The Stephen Hawking Award,” together with Neil deGrasse Tyson and the producers of the TV Show “The Big Bang Theory.”
12) “Talkin’ Hawkin'” – Pink Floyd
Hawking pops up again on the very last Pink Floyd album, “The Endless River.” I think this is a beautiful track, and a nice closer to this playlist.
What did you think of this list? Should I create other lists? Leave your comments below.