David Byrne pays tribute to Jonathan Demme: 'He was open, warm and energetic'

The Talking Heads frontman, who collaborated with Demme for the 1984 classic Stop Making Sense, recalls a director whose films were ‘different and special’

David Byrne has paid tribute to director Jonathan Demme, who has died at the age of 73.

The Oscar-winning film-maker behind The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia also directed Stop Making Sense, the 1984 film of Byrne’s band Talking Heads in concert, which is regarded as one of the most inventive and influential live recordings ever.

Writing on his personal website, Byrne said: “Jonathan was a huge music fan – that’s obvious in his films, many of which are jam-packed with songs by the often obscure artists he loved. He’d find ways to slip a reggae artist’s song or a Haitian recording into a narrative film in ways that were often joyous and unexpected.”

He recounted meeting Demme while on the Stop Making Sense tour and realising they saw “very much eye to eye” on ideas. Byrne thought the show could hold up as a movie and Demme agreed, joining the band on the road in order to familiarise himself with the high-concept show. “Stop Making Sense was character-driven,” said Byrne. “Jonathan’s skill was to see the show almost as a theatrical ensemble piece, in which the characters and their quirks would be introduced to the audience, and you’d get to know the band as people, each with their distinct personalities. They became your friends, in a sense. I was too focused on the music, the staging and the lighting to see how important his focus on character was – it made the movies something different and special.”

Byrne ended his tribute by writing: “His fiction films, the music films and the docs are all filled with so much passion and love. He often turned what would be a genre film into a very personal expression. His view of the world was open, warm, animated and energetic. He was directing TV episodes even this year, when he was in remission. Jonathan, we’ll miss you.”

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