Anthony Bourdain’s Life as ‘The Epitome of a Punk Rocker’
Celebrity chef, storyteller and travel show host Anthony Bourdain has died at age 61. Bourdain reportedly took his life by suicide in a French hotel room while working on an episode of his extremely popular Parts Unknown series. The world will remember him as a masterful entertainer, but we’ll always view Bourdain as one of us — a music fanatic with a lifelong passion for punk rock.
It wasn’t Bourdain’s most publicized characteristic, but the man’s punk ethos ran deep, having experienced New York City’s punk rock boom in the ‘70s first-hand. “The irradiated spawn of tormented loners who had grown up listening to the Stooges and the Velvets, wannabe poets, failed romantics — anyone with enough enthusiasm or anger to pick up a guitar, it seemed, converged on the only place that would have them,” Bourdain wrote about CBGB’s for Spin in 2012.
“And briefly (and only for a lucky few), music was good again. When the as-New York-as-it-gets Ramones took the stage, they immediately banished all music that preceded it, dooming it to irrelevance. At CBGB, the Voidoids’ incredible guitarist, Robert Quine, shredded his Fender over symbolist-inspired lyrics, making sounds never heard before or since. Talking Heads, Television, Dead Boys, the Heartbreakers, Patti Smith — for a brief moment, it looked like things might change for the better. New York was the center of the world.”
Speaking of the Ramones, Bourdain was arguably the biggest celebrity superfan of the seminal punkers. In 2010, the host invited drummer Marky Ramone on his No Reservations Holiday Special. Two years later, when Joey Ramone’s posthumous solo album, …ya know? was released, Bourdain was a part of the music video for “New York City.” Bourdain held the iconic street sign for Joey Ramone Place, paying tribute to the legendary singer. Bourdain even dedicated his 2006 book, The Nasty Bits, to Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone.
Earlier today, Marky Ramone gave Bourdain the highest of compliments. “Anthony Bourdain was so talented and smart,” Marky writes. “Loved talking music with him. He was the epitome of a punk rocker. Always made me laugh. The world has lost a truly stand up guy.”
During a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone, Bourdain shared a playlist of his personal favorite songs, tagging them to key points of his own youth. Bourdain shined a spotlight on underground favorites the New York Dolls and Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers, especially the latter’s punk heroin anthem “Chinese Rocks,” which was famously co-written by Dee Dee Ramone and later covered by the Ramones.
“Johnny Thunders’ guitar made life worth living again and gave permission to everything good that followed, like New York punk. Joyously nihilistic,” Bourdain said.
The TV star even used his platform to elevate modern punk acts. In 2014, Bourdain spread the word about Side Effect, a band from Burma whose goal was to play SXSW. Bourdain tweeted out a link to their PledgeMusic page, helping Side Effect crowd fund their entire goal, allowing them to become the first Burmese band ever to play SXSW.
We’d like to send our deepest condolences to the loved ones of Anthony Bourdain. Far more than a simple TV host, Bourdain was a consummate advocate for the arts, culture and kick ass tunes. If you’re struggling with mental illness or suicidal thoughts, we urge you to seek help, talk with a trusted friend or relative, or call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
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