Monday, January 24, 2011
Klaus Nomi's early death cut short a recording career which bordered on performance art. That his performance career was also out there is a given; by putting a New Wave twist on the Weimar-era's Brechtian theatrics (looking like a cross between the MC from Cabaret and Max Headroom) Nomi was something American audiences at that time were unused to seeing.
A fixture in the rich cultural life of Manhattan's East Village in the 1970s and early 1980s - alongside such towering figures as Charles Ludlam, Joey Arias, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Kenny Scharf - Nomi's greatest renown came when he was chosen by David Bowie to appear with him on a December 1979 episode of Saturday Night Live.
Nomi was one of the first celebrity casualties of AIDS; I stood over his panel when the Quilt came to Ottawa, and even though I'd never heard any of his work at that point, I was well aware of who he was. I have since enlightened my ignorance, and I can say his influence is both quite thorough and entirely deserving. His countertenor/falsetto lives on aurally in the work of Jimmy Somerville and his aesthetic (as well as his sound) can be detected in the work of Tiger Lillies.
He may have called his album Simple Man, but Klaus Nomi was anything but; born on this day in 1944, he died in August 1983.
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