As Halloween approaches, the creatures of the night revive themselves to come back to life. The story of the living dead crawling out of their graves is a painful one. However, if the legend of the return of these ghosts has anything to teach us, it must be learned out of respect for these bodily corpses to finally find the way home.
The Zombie myth begins in West Africa. The Congolese word for god (nzambi) or ghost (mvumbi) is the antecedent. In the local tradition, there were bodies that roamed the earth at night whose souls never went to the firmament. As these cultures combined with the voodoo legends of newly freed Haiti in the early 1800s, these wandering souls took on deeper societal significance as slaves who committed suicide rather than continue in this horrific peril on this deadly envelope. These souls were waiting to be taken to the verdant and placid afterlife of Lan Guinea.
The Zombie then lived as a facet of Haitian voodoo culture. Out of fear, the new nation was portrayed as savage and deeply superstitious. In 1819, while documenting the history of Brazil, Robert Southey wrote about “zombie” as a “leader who upholds justice”. Southey incorrectly translated this word to mean “devil” (a correction was made in the text by his brother-in-law Samuel Taylor Coleridge.)
In the 1838 story “The Unknown Painter: Murillo’s Pupil” by an anonymous author, “Zombi” is used to describe an “assistant” who enters the studio of the Spanish painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo to paint at night . This “Zombie” story was rewritten and reprinted in the remainder of the 1800s. From that point on, “zombie” would be synonymous with “African descent who helps unknowingly”.
In 1915, the United States attempted to modernize Haiti. They tried in vain to eradicate voodoo, the myth of which was brought back to the United States in the 1920s. As science fiction stories branched out from mere ghost stories, the dead – living people emerged from their graves in the most frightening way for readers – but also, carried with them their reason for doing so was to get revenge on the living person who had put them there. In 1929, journalist WB Seabrook’s “The Magic Island” was his travelogue in Haiti. The overt fascination readers found in his depiction of voodoo cults led to the film “White Zombie” in 1932.
Monsters and the living dead scared audiences in theaters and on the page for the next 30 years. In 1938, Zora Neale Hurston visited Haiti to become a voodoo priestess. Hurston was an anthropologist by training and had grown up around the African-American variant of voodoo – “Hoodoo”. In his book “Tell My Horse”, Hurston met the undead Felicia Felix-Mentor. Hurston overheard Mentor and even managed to take a picture of her. Most importantly, Hurston left Haiti knowing that these zombies were “a symbol of loss and dispossession for all humans.”
So the zombie was now a sympathetic being. Great writer Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend” from 1954 dealt with the lone survivor of a global pandemic battling vampires – who were actually zombies trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. Now that the zombies were victims of a loss of control over the scientific world, the “germ theory” of their stories would grow right alongside McCarthyism, Communism, and all the most existential fears of the 20th century.
The 50s EC comics would influence George A. Romero’s 1968 “Night of the Living Dead”. His “Dead” film series would influence filmmakers around the world to continue making zombie films. This movie epidemic would spawn a whole subgenre of zombie sci-fi novels beginning around 1975 with the publication of “Illuminatus!” trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson (who wrote most between 1969-1971.)
Today, the Zombie is part of the common culture. His troubled history is still in play, but most of the time the being is “lifeless”. In comedies, satires, and dramas, the zombie has taken on so many forms that sometimes it’s hard to tell who is or isn’t. With the living dead meant to be everywhere, the zombies remind us that we can never forget the past and always live in the hope that we will never join them as a lost soul in the endless walk of the living dead through Earth.
Mik Davis is the record store manager at T-Bones Records & Cafe in Hattiesburg.
NEW MUSIC FOR THE WEEK
ELTON JOHN – Confinement sessions
DURAN DURAN – FUTURE PASS
Here are two artists who enter the graying of their music with one thing in mind: to do their best to sound modern and relevant. Sir Elton continues his victory lap with a collection of collaborations. Honestly, at this point he couldn’t do anything wrong. This comfort translates into a set of duets with the most prominent artists and those he admires. For example, when Elton and Dua Lipa go cosmic on the dancing “Cold Love”, she sings the hook to “Rocket Man”. It’s like he knows he has more to give. He gets soulful both old (“Finish Line” with Stevie Wonder) and new (Charlie Puth’s helium vocals on “After All.”) However, with those who clearly interest him, Elton shines as he picks Rina up. Sawayawa (singing his own song “Chosen Family”) and piano backing Lil Nas X to his most honest (“One of Me.”) As an award-winning actor, “Lockdown” is largely about Elton doing this. he wants when leaving.
Duran Duran has a long history of collaboration. John Frusciante performed on their last album (2015 “Paper Gods”) and their New Romantic climax turned funk thanks to Nile Rodgers. “FUTURE PAST” reunites the group with Mark Ronson for this continuous search for a hit. So Ronson brings the best supporting cast a 40-year-old band could ask for: Blur’s Graham Coxon, Tove Lo, Lykke Li, legendary pianist Mike Garson from David Bowie’s 1970s band and producer Giorgio Moroder. “FUTURE PAST” is largely a reminder of their MTV days. The synthetic, bubbling dystopia of “Invisible” sits between the overt wham of “The Wild Boys” and the subversive punch of “Notorious”. The City Pop surprise (with CHAI) from “More Joy!” is a surprise, while the surge of 1985 Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Anniversary” offers the best chance of releasing a single. Yet while it’s nice to hear that they want to get involved again, this one is more about the PAST than the FUTURE.
THE ROLLING STONES – Tattoo You 40th Anniversary Edition
[LP/2LP/SUPER DLX](Polydor / UME)
The most important fact about “Tattoo You” is that it was almost not an album. In fact, her greatest song, “Start Me Up”, was hardly a song. But we’ll get there.
In 1980, the Stones were having difficulty organizing writing / recording sessions and working on a heavy touring schedule for their previous album “Emotional Rescue”. The point is, they recorded a lot more songs for “Rescue” than the 10 they used. The group and their producers therefore used these incomplete tracks as a starting point for their new album. Chris Kimsey (who had been with the Stones since 1971) spent three months digging through their vaults and compiling the biggest “lost” songs. Most were outings. Some parts were missing. Most lacked a voice. After hearing the selections, the Stones plunged into “Tattoo You” devoting a side to rockers and a side to ballads. For example, “Tops” and “Waiting On A Friend” date back to the “Goats Head Soup” sessions of 1973 (with a saxophone overdub from the great Sonny Rollins, the latter would become a hit.)
During the fruitful but tense “Some Girls” sessions of 1978, the Stones were working on a reggae-tinged number called “Never Stop”. They rolled up duct tape. The band played it way too fast. Keith Richards asked Kimsey to erase this take so no one would ever hear it again. Three years later, that song would become the Stones’ biggest hit and put “Tattoo You” at the top of the charts for nine consecutive weeks. “Start Me Up” remains a must because it appeared on their setlist on October 14 in California.
This new edition allows the Stones of ’81 to paint in even wider strokes with nine additional songs and a 2LP set from Wembley Stadium in 1981. “Tattoo You” remains a favorite of the Stones as it is a successful comeback on their past because it alludes to the future.