David Byrne Remembers 'Incredibly Generous' Jonathan Demme

"He often turned what would be a genre film into a very personal expression," Byrne writes

David Byrne remembered Jonathan Demme in a post on his website on Wednesday. Credit: Nick Elgar/Getty

David Byrne, who collaborated with director Jonathan Demme multiple times, most notably on the famous Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, remembered the director on Wednesday with a post on his website. Demme died early this morning at age 73 from esophageal cancer. 

Byrne praised Demme for his "focus on character, his love of ordinary people, [which] made the movies something different and special." Byrne also commended the filmmaker for his musical enthusiasm and ability to "slip a reggae artist's song or a Haitian recording into a narrative film in ways that were often joyous and unexpected."

The Talking Heads' lead singer was already imagining the Stop Making Sense movie when he met Demme in the early Eighties. Since he was fan of Demme's films, especially Handle With Care and Melvin and Howard, Byrne asked the director to collaborate, and Demme joined Talking Heads on the road. 

"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," Byrne writes. "Jonathan was also incredibly generous during the editing and mixing. He and producer Gary Goetzman made us in the band feel included; they wanted to hear what we had to say."

Byrne's experience working with Demme eventually inspired him to try his own hand at directing. He helmed True Stories, a movie starring John Goodman, in 1986. He also directed the documentary Ile Aiye in 1989. Byrne continued to work with Demme as well, writing music for Something Wild and Married to the Mob.

"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." 

Other artists also paid tribute to Demme on Wednesday, including the country star Kenny Chesney and Bruce Springsteen's bandmate Stevie Van Zandt.