Music Video Monday: Once in a Lifetime

Today on Music Video Monday: “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads

This is one of my all-time favorite music videos. Toni Basil (who, despite being an actress, dancer, choreographer, and so on, is remembered mostly for her 80s hit “Mickey”) worked with David Byrne to choreograph the video. Mister Byrne wasn’t interested in dancing or anything that would eventually become commonplace in music videos, so he and Ms Basil spent some time watching footage of epileptic patients and based the video on that. (Remember, this was the 80s, and the idea of the music video was brand new. Musicians weren’t at the mercy of “the label” or “the management” telling them how to promote themselves.)

My favorite part(s) of the video involve the row of Davids dancing in synchronicity, while the “real” David Byrne dances in the foreground. He struggles to keep up, makes mistakes, gives up, and loses control of himself at various points. I’m no music video analyst (though that would be a sweet job!), but I like to think of those scenes as symbolic of life in general. The row of Davids is the everyday rhythm of life, as wacky as it can be. Foreground David is our individual struggle, which, despite appearing to go against the rhythm, is actually a big part of it.

Or maybe it’s just a wacky video, and I’m searching for the profound in something that’s just supposed to be entertaining. I can be like that.

Photo by Luan Rezende on

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