Possessing a distinctive voice, Stipe has been noted for the "mumbling" style of his early career. He was in charge of R.E.M.'s visual aspect, often selecting album artwork and directing many of the band's music videos. Outside the music industry, he owns and runs two film production studios, C-00 and Single Cell Pictures.
As a member of R.E.M., Stipe was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. As a singer-songwriter, Stipe influenced a wide range of artists, including Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and Thom Yorke of Radiohead. Bono of U2 described his voice as "extraordinary".
Stipe performing at South by Southwest in 2008
|Birth name||John Michael Stipe|
|Born||January 4, 1960|
Decatur, Georgia, U.S.
John Michael Stipe was born on January 4, 1960, in Decatur, Georgia. Stipe was a military brat; his father was a serviceman in the United States Army whose career resulted in frequent relocations for his family. His younger sister, Lynda Stipe, was born in 1962 and became the vocalist of her own band Hetch Hetchy. Stipe and his family moved to various locales during his childhood, including West Germany, Texas, Illinois, Alabama. Stipe graduated from high school in Collinsville, Illinois, in 1978. Stipe's senior photo is pictured in the album art work of Eponymous. Stipe also worked at the local Waffle House. He was raised in and came from "a place of faith", as previous generations of his family were Methodist ministers.
While attending college at the University of Georgia in Athens, Stipe frequented the Wuxtry record shop, where he met store clerk Peter Buck in 1980. "He was a striking-looking guy and he also bought weird records, which not everyone in the store did," Buck recalled. The two became friends and eventually decided to form a band. Buck and Stipe started writing music together; at the time Stipe also spent time in a local group named Gangster. The pair were soon joined by Bill Berry and Mike Mills and named themselves R.E.M., a name Stipe selected at random from a dictionary.
All four members of R.E.M. dropped out of school in 1980 to focus on the band. Stipe was the last to do so. The band issued its debut single, "Radio Free Europe", on Hib-Tone, which was a college radio success. The band signed to I.R.S. Records for the release of the Chronic Town EP one year later. R.E.M. released its debut album Murmur in 1983, which was acclaimed by critics. Stipe's vocals and lyrics received particular attention from listeners. Murmur went on to win the Rolling Stone Critics Poll Album of the Year over Michael Jackson's Thriller. Their second album, Reckoning, followed in 1984.
In 1985, R.E.M. traveled to England to record their third album Fables of the Reconstruction, a difficult process that brought the band to the verge of a break up. After the album was released, relationships in the band remained tense. Gaining weight and acting eccentrically (such as by shaving his hair into a monk's tonsure), Stipe later said of the period, "I was well on my way to losing my mind". They toured in Canada and throughout Europe that year; Stipe had bleached his hair blond during this time.
In September 1983, a few months after the release of the R.E.M.'s debut album, Stipe participated in a low-budget, forty-five-minute Super-8 film called Just Like a Movie, shot in Athens by New York Rocker magazine photographer Laura Levine, who was a friend of the band. Those with acting roles in the film included Levine, Stipe, Lynda Stipe (Michael's sister), Matthew Sweet (who co-formed the short-lived duo, Community Trolls, with Michael Stipe), and R.E.M.'s Bill Berry. The film remains unreleased.
Stipe had planned a collaboration with friend Kurt Cobain, lead singer of Nirvana, in 1994, partly in an attempt to lure Cobain away from his home and his drug addiction. However, they did not manage to compose or record anything before Cobain's death. Stipe was chosen as the godfather of Cobain and Courtney Love's daughter, Frances Bean Cobain. R.E.M. recorded the song "Let Me In" from the 1994 album Monster in tribute to Cobain.
Stipe was once very close to fellow alternative rock singer Natalie Merchant and has recorded a few songs with her, including one titled "Photograph" which appeared on a pro-choice benefit album titled Born to Choose, and they appeared live with Peter Gabriel singing Gabriel's single "Red Rain" at the 1996 VH1 Honors and a few other times.
Stipe and Tori Amos became friends in the mid-1990s and recorded a duet in 1994 called "It Might Hurt a Bit" for the Don Juan DeMarco motion picture soundtrack. Both Stipe and Amos decided not to release it.
In 1998, Stipe published a collection called Two Times Intro: On the Road with Patti Smith. 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. Also in 2006, 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 titled 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. He recorded a song with Miguel Bose on the album Papito "Lo que ves es lo que hay".
Stipe collaborated with Lacoste in 2008 to release his own "holiday collector edition" brand of polo shirt. The design depicts a concert audience from the view of the performer on stage. He appeared with Chris Martin of Coldplay live at Madison Square Garden and online to perform "Losing My Religion", in the 12-12-12 concert raising money for relief from Hurricane Sandy. A new recording from Stipe was revealed in 2013, featuring Courtney Love. The song, "Rio Grande", is taken from Johnny Depp's pirate-themed album Son of Rogue's Gallery. Stipe also created the soundtrack for The Cold Lands (2013), a film by Stipe's friend, director Tom Gilroy.
Stipe inducted the American grunge band Nirvana into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 10, 2014. He debuted his first solo composition at Moogfest in 2017. Later that year, he performed with Fischerspooner on the new song "Have Fun Tonight" from its 2017 album Sir. Stipe released the solo song "Future, If Future" on March 24, 2018.
In March 2018, Michael Stipe joined the "March for Our Lives" rallies to advocate gun control after Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. He also released a teaser of his new song in the rally.
With the success of the albums Out of Time (1991) and Automatic for the People (1992), R.E.M. became mainstream music stars. Around 1992, rumors that Stipe had contracted HIV began to circulate. He responded with:
Not that I can tell. I wore a hat that said "White House Stop AIDS". I'm skinny. I've always been skinny, except in 1985 when I looked like Marlon Brando, the last time I shaved my head. I was really sick then. Eating potatoes. I think AIDS hysteria would obviously and naturally extend to people who are media figures and anybody of indecipherable or unpronounced sexuality. Anybody who looks gaunt, for whatever reason. Anybody who is associated, for whatever reason – whether it's a hat, or the way I carry myself – as being queer-friendly.— Michael Stipe
In 1994, with questions remaining, Stipe described himself as "an equal opportunity lech", and said he did not define himself as gay, straight, or bisexual, but that he was attracted to, and had relationships with, both men and women. In 1995, he appeared on the cover of Out magazine. Stipe described himself as a "queer artist" in Time in 2001 and revealed that he had been in a relationship with "an amazing man" for three years at that point. Stipe reiterated this in a 2004 interview with Butt magazine. When asked if he ever declares himself as gay, Stipe stated, "I don't. I think there's a line drawn between gay and queer, and for me, queer describes something that's more inclusive of the grey areas."
In 1999, author Douglas A. Martin published a novel, Outline of My Lover, in which the narrator has a six-year romantic relationship with the unnamed lead singer of a successful Athens, Georgia-based, rock band; the book was widely speculated, and later confirmed by its author, to have been a roman à clef based on a real relationship between Martin and Stipe. The two had previously collaborated on two books, both in 1998: The Haiku Year (for which the two had both contributed haiku) and Martin's book of poetry Servicing the Salamander (for which Stipe took the cover photograph).
Stipe was the primary vocalist and lyricist for R.E.M. He possesses a baritone vocal range. Stipe's role in the songwriting process for R.E.M. was to write lyrics and devise melodies. While each member was given an equal vote in the songwriting process, Peter Buck has conceded that Stipe, as the band's lyricist, could rarely be persuaded to follow an idea he did not favor. Stipe sings in "wailing, keening, arching vocal figures" that R.E.M. biographer David Buckley compared to Celtic folk artists and Muslim muezzin. Stipe often harmonizes with Mills in songs; in the chorus for "Stand", Mills and Stipe alternate singing lyrics, creating a dialogue. Early articles about the band focused on Stipe's singing style (described as "mumbling" by The Washington Post), which often rendered his lyrics indecipherable. Stipe commented in 1984, "It's just the way I sing. If I tried to control it, it would be pretty false."
"That voice. It's an extraordinary voice", said U2's lead singer Bono in 2003. "I often tell him I think he's a crooner, and he doesn't like that very much. But it is sort of one part some sort of Bing Crosby '50s laid-back crooner, and one part Dolly Parton", he added, laughing.
Stipe insisted that many of his early lyrics were "nonsense", saying in a 1994 online chat, "You all know there aren't words, per se, to a lot of the early stuff. I can't even remember them." In truth, many early R.E.M. songs had definite lyrics that Stipe wrote with care. Stipe explained in 1984 that when he started writing lyrics they were like "simple pictures", but after a year he grew tired of the approach and "started experimenting with lyrics that didn't make exact linear sense, and it's just gone from there." In the mid-1980s, as Stipe's pronunciation while singing became clearer, the band decided that its lyrics should convey ideas on a more literal level. Mills explained, "After you've made three records and you've written several songs and they've gotten better and better lyrically the next step would be to have somebody question you and say, are you saying anything? And Michael had the confidence at that point to say yes ..." After what Stipe has referred to as "The Dark Ages of American Politics [The Reagan/Bush Years]", R.E.M. incorporated more politically oriented concerns into his lyrics on Document and Green. "Our political activism and the content of the songs was just a reaction to where we were, and what we were surrounded by, which was just abject horror," Stipe said later. "In 1987 and '88 there was nothing to do but be active." While Stipe continued to write songs with political subject matter like "Ignoreland" and "Final Straw", later albums have focused on other topics. Automatic for the People dealt with "mortality and dying. Pretty turgid stuff", according to Stipe; Monster, meanwhile, critiqued love and mass culture, and Reveal dipped into mysticism.
In early 1987 Stipe co-founded C00 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." 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. He was also credited as a producer of the 2004 film Saved!
In 1998 he worked on Single Cell Pictures, a film production company which released several arthouse / indie movies.
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. He also appeared as a guest on the Cartoon Network talk show spoof Space Ghost Coast to Coast in the episode 'Hungry'. Stipe made several short appearances on The Colbert Report.
Production In addition to co-producing most of R.E.M.'s output, Stipe has also produced the following:
Stipe, whose on-stage behavior was always slightly strange, entered his most bizarre phase, as he put on weight, dyed his hair bleached blonde, and wore countless layers of clothing.
"Animal" is a single released by R.E.M. It was one of two new songs recorded for the band's Warner Bros. Records compilation album, In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988–2003 (the other being "Bad Day"), and was released as a single in support of the album.
The video for "Animal" stars lead singer Michael Stipe and shows an artist's conception of the idea of a solar eclipse allowing energy of all forms, including emotions between people, to be seen as visual light. The music video was not included on In View: The Best of R.E.M. 1988–2003, the DVD supporting In Time, as it had not been filmed until after its release.Daysleeper
"Daysleeper" is a song by American alternative rock band R.E.M. It was released as the first single from their eleventh studio album Up on October 12, 1998. Sung from the point of view of a night shift worker corresponding with colleagues, "Daysleeper" focuses on the disorientation of time and circadian rhythm in such a lifestyle, leading to despair and loss of identity. Lead singer Michael Stipe developed the song's concept after noticing a sign reading "daysleeper" on a New York City apartment door.Electron Blue
"Electron Blue" is a song by American alternative rock band R.E.M. It was released as the third single from their thirteenth studio album Around the Sun on February 28, 2005. Written by group members Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe, the song features a synthesizer-heavy arrangement. Its lyrics describe an electric hallucinogenic drug made of light, a concept which was developed from a recurring dream of Stipe's. Upon release as a single, "Electron Blue" peaked at numbers 43 and 26 on the singles charts of Ireland and the United Kingdom respectively. Michael Stipe performed on the Around the Sun tour with a blue band painted across his eyes as a reference to the song, his personal favorite from Around the Sun.Finest Worksong
"Finest Worksong" is the third and final single released from R.E.M.'s fifth studio album Document. It peaked at number 50 on the UK Singles Chart in April 1988, at the time the group's highest-charting single in the UK.The single version of the song (also known as Mutual Drum Horn mix), featuring a new horn section by The Uptown Horns, was placed on R.E.M.'s I.R.S. Records compilation Eponymous. This was the last original single the band released on I.R.S. Records.Gardening at Night
"Gardening at Night" is a song by American rock band R.E.M. It was recorded for the band's 1982 debut EP Chronic Town.Get Up (R.E.M. song)
"Get Up" is the fourth and final single released by R.E.M. from the band's sixth album Green (1988). It was included in the limited edition Singleactiongreen box set released in November 1989. The song was released as a single only in the US but failed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100.
The song was written by Michael Stipe about Mike Mills. Mills always seemed to sleep late during their recording sessions for Green. This was Stipe's call for Mills to get up and work. However, Mills did not find this out until a concert in the late 1990s, when Stipe introduced the song as being about him.The video for the song was created by a young filmmaker named Eric Darnell, who had recently graduated from the CalArts program in experimental animation and who went on to co-direct the mainstream computer animated features Antz and Madagascar.
In the film Tourfilm, which features footage from R.E.M.'s tour in 1989, Stipe introduces this song as his favorite.
During the bridge, several music boxes are played at once. This was the idea of Bill Berry, who had originally envisioned this in a dream.Hollow Man (song)
"Hollow Man" is the fourth track and second single from R.E.M.'s fourteenth album Accelerate. The music video was created by Crush Inc., a graphic-design and production studio based in Toronto, and posted on the band's website on April 23, 2008. The single was released in the UK on June 2, 2008. The song peaked at number 7 on Billboard magazine's Triple A chart.List of songs recorded by R.E.M.
This is a comprehensive list of songs recorded by the American alternative rock band R.E.M. that were officially released. The list includes songs performed by the entire band only (Berry, Buck, Mills and Stipe 1983-1997; Buck, Mills and Stipe 1998-2011). Side projects, including contributions by solo members of the band, are not included in this list. The list consists mostly of studio recordings. Remix and live recordings are not listed separately unless the song was only released in that form. Album singles are listed as released on their respective album. Only one release is listed per song, except for their first Hib-Tone single.Man-Sized Wreath
"Man-Sized Wreath" is the second track and third single from R.E.M.'s fourteenth album Accelerate, released on August 11, 2008 in the UK. The single was announced after the band's Madison Square Garden show on June 19, 2008, where footage of the upcoming music video was shown. The single is available as a digital download and a limited edition clear-colored 7" vinyl single. The b-side "Living Well Jesus Dog" is either a demo or early take of "Living Well Is the Best Revenge," and gets its title from a comment Peter Buck makes at the beginning of the track as to whether or not Jesus had a dog, which prompts Michael Stipe to joke they should name the new album Did Jesus Have a Dog?
Before the performance of "Man-Sized Wreath" during R.E.M.'s live show at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin in 2007, Michael Stipe commented, "This next, new song will not be on our next record." Peter Buck then responds, "It's a little early to make that call."Mine Smell Like Honey
"Mine Smell Like Honey" is a song by American alternative rock band R.E.M.. It was released as the second single from their fifteenth and final studio album Collapse into Now on January 18, 2011.Nightswimming
"Nightswimming" is a song by the American alternative rock band R.E.M. It was released in 1993 as the fifth single from the group's eighth album Automatic for the People (1992). "Nightswimming" is a ballad featuring singer Michael Stipe accompanied only by bassist Mike Mills on piano (lyrics and music respectively, but credited to the whole band as usual), a string arrangement by former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, and a prominent oboe by Deborah Workman in the latter part of the piece. Stipe sings about a group of friends who go skinny dipping at night, which draws from similar experiences in the band's early days.Radio Song
"Radio Song" is the fourth single released by R.E.M. from their 1991 album Out of Time, where it appeared as the opening track.
Lead singer Michael Stipe once said that he hoped everyone had enough sense of humor to realize that he was "kind of taking the piss of everyone," himself included.Stipe also asked KRS-One, leader of Boogie Down Productions (of which Stipe was a fan), to contribute to the track. He provides some backing vocals for the track, as well as a closing rap, and appears prominently in the video.Star 69 (R.E.M. song)
"Star 69" is a song from the R.E.M. album Monster. It was not released as an official single but still reached No. 74 on the US Billboard Hot 100 Airplay chart. It received a promotional release in Spain.Suspicion (R.E.M. song)
"Suspicion" is the fourth and final single released by R.E.M. from their album Up. Unlike previous singles from Up, "Suspicion" was the only single from the album not to chart.
A live version of the song, recorded at Toast Studios in San Francisco, CA 1998, was released as a B-side to the second single from Up, "Lotus", released the following year and peaked at #26 on the UK Singles Chart. This version was included in the German releases of the CD.Texarkana (song)
"Texarkana" is a song from R.E.M.'s studio album Out of Time. Though not released as a single, it managed to chart at number 4 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart and number 6 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. This song was written, musically and lyrically, by bassist Mike Mills (credited to Berry/Buck/Mills/Stipe), as vocalist Michael Stipe had been having problems for weeks trying to come up with lyrics for it. As a result, Mills also sang lead vocals.
The title is a reference to the city of Texarkana (located on the border of Texas and Arkansas), originally mentioned in the chorus before it was changed. As heard on the Outtakes of Time bootleg as well as Out of Time's 25th Anniversary edition, Stipe's original chorus was "When I'm out in Texarkana / where's that county line / another county line."
It is one of few songs that the band never performed live.Turn You Inside-Out
"Turn You Inside-Out" is a song by American rock band R.E.M. from their sixth studio album Green. Like all tracks on the album, it was written by group members Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Bill Berry. The song's main guitar riff is an inversion of that used in "Finest Worksong". The recording also features percussion from former Sugar Hill Records house drummer Keith LeBlanc.Despite only being released as a single promotionally, it did well on the Billboard Alternative Songs and Mainstream Rock Tracks charts, placing top ten positions on both charts. A music video for the track was directed by James Herbert, who had previously directed music videos for eight other R.E.M. tracks.
In a 1989 live performance of the song, Michael Stipe proclaimed to the audience, "This song goes out to the Exxon Corporation". This performance happened shortly after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, in which the oil tanker Exxon Valdez struck the Bligh Reef and spilled 260,000 to 750,000 barrels of crude oil. This may further elaborate on the environmental message of the album Green.
In a review for R.E.M.'s 2011 album Collapse Into Now, British magazine Uncut writes that the opening track, "Discoverer", "summons memories of the baleful stadium rock of Green, "[Peter] Buck recycling the purposeful shuddering guitar of "Turn You Inside-Out".The song is featured on the soundtrack to the 2008 video game Grand Theft Auto IV, and is featured in-game on the radio station "Liberty Rock Radio 97.8".Until the Day Is Done
"Until the Day Is Done" is a song by American rock band R.E.M. from their fourteenth studio album Accelerate. It was debuted on Anderson Cooper 360° to promote the Planet in Peril special and was released as a single on November 14, 2008, as a two-track download-only single. The promotional music video, directed by Vincent Moon, was posted on the band's website and on the band's YouTube account in late October 2008 and features footage from the live video album Live at The Olympia.Wanderlust (R.E.M. song)
"Wanderlust" is a song by R.E.M. It was released as their fourth and final single from their thirteenth studio album, Around the Sun. The song has a partially compound time signature; 4/4 in the verses and 7/4 in the chorus.
A version of the song, called "Wanderlust (Clayton St. Studio version)", was released as a digital download only and later added in the compilation AthFest 10.Überlin
"Überlin" is a song by American alternative rock band R.E.M.. It was released as the third single from their fifteenth and final studio album Collapse into Now on January 25, 2011.
The song's music video was directed by Sam Taylor-Wood and stars her fiancé, actor Aaron Johnson, dancing in an area of Shoreditch.