February 26, 2008

February 26 | Bill Hicks

December 16, 1961 - February 26, 1994: Age 32

“Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves. Here’s Tom with the weather.”

Bill Hicks had the same problem that all open-hearted geniuses have had throughout history: his natural compassion and love for humankind clashed with his towering rage at the cruelty and foolishness of the species. Thus in his early career, although he was immediately recognized as brilliant, he sometimes lost it and went way over the line. The line being, in some cases, his physical safety: During the 80s when he performed in a drunken rage, a couple of military veterans beat him up after the show, breaking one of his legs and cracking a rib.

By the 1990s he had stopped drinking and drugs, and found enough equilibrium to deliver his best stuff without getting in the way of the material. In 1993, while touring in Australia, he experienced pains in his side. In June he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and started chemo while still on tour. He only told his family and close friends, and continued to work.

In October he made what would have been his last TV appearance, a guest spot on the Letterman Show. Although his material had been approved by the network twice, censors pulled his routine in its entirety at the last minute: Hicks was incensed. In his routine he had made a pro-life joke; one of the sponsors was a pro-life lobby organization.

His last performance was in January 1994. He spent time with his parents, playing them the music he loved and showing them documentaries about his interests. He called friends to say goodbye and re-read J.R.R. Tolkein’s Fellowship Of The Rings. He stopped speaking on February 14. His parents were with him when he died on February 26.

First of all, I did not know Bill Hicks before researching his death. He was AWESOME. Do follow these YouTube links if you aren't already familiar with him. The first link is to Part 1 of a roughly 1/2 hour video of one of his shows, for my money it gives the best overview. Just follow the links to Parts 2 and 3 as they come up. However if you don't have time, this link will take you to a 5-minute mashup of one of his greatest routines. This same routine appears at the end of the longer video; it also appears (or rather is heard) in the movie Zeitgeist.

Sources: Wikipedia, Bill Hicks Official Site

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