"With the exception of U2, there's no one who has stayed together
and stayed relevant for as long as we have. We can't possibly compete
with Limp Bizkit and Britney Spears, and I have no real desire to. But
as long as people are excited about our work, we're going to expend the
energy to do it." Michael Stipe
John Michael Stipe is an American singer who is the lead vocalist for the alternative rock band R.E.M. Stipe has become well-known for the "mumbling" style of his early career and for his complex, surreal lyrics, as well as his social and political activism. Michael Stipe was born in Decatur, Georgia, on January 4th, 1960. He was raised by nonmusical parents in a military family that moved constantly. Stipe was an an introverted child who spent much of his time hanging out with sisters Lynda and Cyndy. In 1975 he had begun reading articles about Patti Smith and the burgeoning New York punk scene and eventually bought three albums that would change his life: Smith's Horses, Television's Marquee Moon, and Wire's Pink Flag. In 1978 Stipe enrolled in the art department at the University of Georgia at Athens, where he majored in painting and photography and developed an interest in surrealism and medieval manuscripts. While at college he met Mike Mills, Peter Buck and Bill Berry. They dropped out of college to form the band R.E.M,(named for the dream state "rapid eye movement") in April of 1980 with Michael Stipe on vocals, Bill Berry on Drums, Peter Buck on guitar and Mike Mills on Bass. Buck and Stipe started writing music together. Stipe's role in the songwriting process for R.E.M. is to write lyrics and devise melodies. While each member is given an equal vote in the songwriting process, Peter Buck has conceded that Stipe, as the band's lyricist, can rarely be persuaded to follow an idea he does not favor. The band has sold over 40 million records and rivals Irish band U2 in being one of the most popular bands on the late 20th century. Throughout most of the eighties R.E.M remained mostly outside of the mainstream in music. Michael Stipe's sometimes dark and mysterious lyrics did attract a cult following though and the group became steadily more popular. Honing an atmospheric, jangly pop sound often reminiscent of the Byrds, R.E.M. toured relentlessly. In 1981 they recorded a demo tape of original music at Mitch Easter's Drive-In Studio in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Two songs from those sessions, "Radio Free Europe" and "Sitting Still," were released as a seven-inch single in July on the homegrown Hib-Tone label. The record's success on college radio attracted the attention of IRS Records, which released the band's Chronic Town EP a year later. R.E.M. released its debut album Murmur in 1983, which was widely acclaimed by critics. It was an instant classic, containing everything its supporters had hoped for: layers of ringing guitar, passionately vague vocals, atmospheric melodies, and seductive pop hooks. Murmur, which reached number 36 in 1983, cemented their reputation and made Michael Stipe an underground icon.
Michael Stipe's cryptic, often unintelligible lyrics were analyzed with Talmudic fervor, and his thrift-store image was copied by countless acolytes. Murmur went on to win the Rolling Stone Critics Poll Album of the Year over Michael Jackson's Thriller. The band's second album, Reckoning, followed in 1984. Despite little mainstream airplay, it reached the Top 30 and with the darkly beautiful follow-up Fables of the Reconstruction, the band earned increasing MTV visibility for the videos "Can't Get There From Here" and "Driver 8." Michael Stipe himself directed the video for "Fall on Me," the lead single from R.E.M.'s fourth LP, 1986's Lifes Rich Pageant. Michael Stipe's vocals resonated with newfound clarity, revealing a growing awareness with sociopolitical concerns, such as environmental issues and American foreign policy. 1987's Document was R.E.M.'s commercial breakthrough, buoyed by the top ten hit "The One I Love". "It was a song of betrayal that was almost universally misinterpreted as a love song. The album Green was the the band's debut under the Warner Bros label. Michael Stipe alluded to the ambiguous nature of his lyrics in "World Leader Pretend," acknowledging, "It's high time I razed the walls that I've constructed." It was the first lyrics he allowed to be reprinted on the jacket sleeve. Released on Election Day 1988, the album was R.E.M.'s most pointedly polemic to date. R.E.M. went on a touring hiatus following Green. It took three years for the band to return with the highly anticipated Out of Time, which rocketed to #1, went quadruple platinum, and included "Losing My Religion" and "Shiny Happy People" .
Michael Stipe is a keen photographer and often contributes his pictures to the artwork of REM's albums, (notably the covers of the albums 'New Adventures In Hi-Fi' and 'Reveal').One of Michael's closest friends was the actor River Phoenix. When River died, aged just 23 in late October 1993, Michael called his young friend's sudden passing "the most shattering experience of my life." He dedicated REM's 1994 album 'Monster' to River. The dedication ("For River") can be seen in the album's fold out sleeve. Michael Stipe is in charge of the band's visual image, not only selecting album artwork but directing many of the band's music videos. Radiohead is one of Michael's favorite bands and he is friends with all the band's members. In early 1987 Stipe co-founded C-00 Films with Jim Mckay, a mixed-media company that was designed to channel its founder's creative talents towards the creation and promotion of alternative film works. In the early 1990s, Michael Stipe and Oliver Stone tried for over two years to get a movie financed, but never succeeded. Stipe and his producing partner, Sandy Stern, have served as executive producers on films including Being John Malkovich, Velvet Goldmine, and Man on the Moon. Michael Stipe was also credited as a producer of the 2004 film Saved!
Michael Stipe has made a number of acting appearances on film and on television. Stipe appeared in an episode of The Adventures of Pete & Pete as an ice cream man named Captain Scrummy. Stipe has appeared as himself with R.E.M. on Sesame Street playing a reworked version of "Shiny Happy People" called "Furry Happy Monsters", and appeared in an episode of The Simpsons titled "Homer the Moe", where R.E.M. was tricked into playing a show in Homer Simpson's garage. Michael Stipe also voiced a reindeer named Schnitzel in the Christmas cartoon special Olive, the Other Reindeer. In 1998 Michael Stipe published the photo collection "Two Times Intro: On the Road With Patti Smith.".
Michael Stipe went on the "Vote for Change Tour" that toured 9 states and 28 cities in the USA with fellow performers that included Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M., Dave Matthews Band, Dixie Chicks, James Taylor, Ben Harper, John Mellencamp and Tracy Chapman. The Vote for Change tour was a politically-motivated American popular music concert tour that took place in October 2004. The tour was presented by MoveOn.org to benefit America Coming Together. The Vote for Change Tour declaration states that it is "a loose coalition of musicians brought together by a single idea.. the need to make a change in the direction of our country. We share a belief that this is the most important election of our lifetime. We are fighting for a government that is open, rational, just, and progressive...." The tour was held in swing states and was designed to encourage people to register and vote. Though the tour and the organization were officially non-partisan, many of the performers urged people to vote against George W. Bush and for John Kerry in the 2004 Presidential election campaign. Michael Stipe had this to say about the tour in an interview with the Australian Andrew Denton: "We wanted George W Bush the fuck out of the White House and we wanted John Kerry in. And it didn't work." In 2006,Stipe released an EP that comprised six different cover versions of Joseph Arthur's "In the Sun." for the Hurricane Katrina disaster relief fund. One version, recorded in a collaboration with Coldplay's Chris Martin, reached number one on the Canadian Singles Chart. "In The Sun" also included versions of the song with Justin Timberlake, Will.I.Am and Joseph Arthur. Michael Stipe's versions of "In The Sun" raised over $200,000 for Mercy Corps. Also in 2006, Michael Stipe appeared on the song "Broken Promise" on the Placebo release Meds. Continuing his non-R.E.M. work in 2006, Stipe sang the song "L'Hôtel" on the tribute album to Serge Gainsbourg entitled Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited and appeared on the song "Dancing on the Lip of a Volcano" on the New York Dolls album One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This. R.E.M since retired as a band.