Thursday, February 23, 2012

The AIDS Quilt Returns

"Little white flowers will never awaken you
Not where the black coach of sorrow has taken you"

I stopped by the old Tower Records storefront on Market Street the other day to have a look at select panels of the historic AIDS Memorial Quilt on display there. It was a contemplative, difficult moment to think of how HIV/AIDS is still very much with us but the era of the Quilt seems another one altogether. The times, like panels, are stitched together.

I only know of two of the people on this panel -- Rock Hudson, of course, and Philip-Dimitri Galas, the brother of avant-garde operatic singer Diamanda Galas.

She's a performer whose raging shredded multi-octave voice gave sound to the utter despair of those living in the midst of the emerging AIDS crisis in the 1980s. Her brother died in 1986. She has dedicated her artistic career to his loss. The Death Blues. It isn't always easy listening nor should it be.

Here she gives her rendition of the Hungarian classic, "Gloomy Sunday." It's a song first published in 1933 under the title "The End of the World" and subsequently covered by so many including Billie Holliday, Ray Charles,, Elvis Costello, Marianne Faithfull, Sinéad O'Connor, and Serge Gainsbourg. Bjork sang it for the designer Alexander McQueen at his funeral in Saint Paul's Cathedral in the Winter of 2010. It has death and beauty in it, a raging against the dying of the light.

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