Much like certain Tarot cards, I have found that the traditional descriptions of astrological Sun signs don’t always hold up.
I see this most clearly in the arts, particularly in the realm of pop music where I’ve tracked the discrepancies for decades. Although less striking with a more extroverted sign like Aries, the failures of the traditional profile are painfully pronounced with a sign like my own, Virgo, which includes the likes of Eazy-E and GG Allin. Yikes! Not too “virginal,” right?
And yet the fundamental motivations and preoccupations highlighted in these traditional profiles do seem to be correct. It’s more a question of how these pulsions manifest themselves.
Each class metamorphoses with the march of history and progress, changing its affect in accordance with social structure, political organization, and technology. What it means to be working-class, high-income, black, white, male, female, etc., have all changed drastically in the past hundred years and still deviate wildly in accordance to geography.
So it is with the zodiac signs…
Is it my imagination or are Taureans far more experimental than one might expect? In music, I regularly confuse them with Aquarians, which is odd… to confuse Fixed Earth with Fixed Air. Stolid, sturdy, and stubborn, Taurus is particularly gifted working with rhythm, and this seems to be their access into the aural avant-garde. They take a basic tempo and fragment it, break it, and then extrapolate upon it – like a broken heartbeat. The form is the meaning and the meaning – if it could be said to mean — is emotive, sensory, intuitive. It means how it sounds to the ear.
Their musical output is therefore not characterized by an overtly discursive politics, as we saw with Aries, but rather with an Earthy, corporeal subversion of tradition. Taurus turns the ground upon itself, like the collision of tectonic plates. Immovable object meets irresistible force and the resulting art is a rhythmic rumbling.
Whereas the Arian delivery is smooth, direct, and driven – channeling and honing past tradition — the Taurean works upon tradition as if a bedrock, fragmenting and pounding the sound into a texture. Taurus is rugged, maybe even brutal. As such, Taurus does well working in the underground. They’re more darkly chthonic than one might guess and are at home in emergent genres. More sensorial than intellectual, Taurus plays the full scales in a staccato, earthy fashion. It should come as no surprise that they are particularly gifted as drummers, although a part of me wonders if this isn’t because they like to beat on things.
They seem to enjoy breaking their beloved possessions (a true sign of ownership if ever there was one) as well as being overtly, almost maniacally, dirty, bloody, and/or made up. Their presence is corporeal, and as we progress, you’ll find that this is a trait of all of the Earth Signs. La nostalgie de la boue? I don’t know. If anyone has any explanation as to why this should be the case, I’d love to hear it!
Known to be hedonistic, affectionate, dependable, tenacious, and acquisitive, the Taurus motto is “I have.” Taurus is a Fixed, Earth sign occupying the Second House of Possessions. It is ruled by Venus, the goddess of love.
Let’s consider what Taurus might sound like…
Ella Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917) – The First Lady of Song is best known for her clean delivery and pure tones. But considering that she’s a scat legend with a unique tendency to style her hair as two buns in the front like horns, and it should be obvious that she’s a Taurus. Ella Fitzgerald does not depend on words to make her point. Rather she communicates affect by way of rhythm — sound is given a texture, a body.
Fitzgerald had a rough adolescence and was homeless for a time. However, by 17, she made her singing debut at the Apollo in Harlem and was awarded the $25.00 cash prize. Considered a too rough diamond, people were hesitant to sign her – but she stuck it out, as Taureans are known to do, and went on to record hundreds of songs. I’ve chosen to include “Black Coffee,” as it was the first 78 that I ever bought. However, her scat talents shouldn’t go unheard, as her sense of timing sets her apart from her contemporaries and further marks her Taurean nature.
Similar Artists: Ma Rainey, Bing Crosby, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin (wrote ‘God Bless America’ and ‘White Christmas’, Taj Mahal, Luther Vandross, Kate Smith (popular singer of ‘God Bless America,’ famously mocked by Lenny Bruce), Judy Collins, Perry Como, and Barbara Streisand.
James Brown (May 3, 1933) – Patron saint of Funk and the “Godfather of the Blues,” James Brown is a bundle of contradictions. In a six-decade musical career during which he successfully “africanized” popular music – told you Taureans are all about rhythm! – he was also a devout Republican who adored the unusually racist Strom Thurmond and was a downright Nurse Ratchet when it came to drug use. If any of his musicians were caught using, they were out! Er… except for the “Godfather” himself who, when he finally did use, decided to go for the whole hog and start smoking PCP. Jeesh! This purity/impurity preoccupation, however, is a pretty common behavior pattern for the Earth signs. Indeed, it’s so notable that it’s reflected in Tarot; since going professional, I’ve noticed that the King of Pentacles generally indicates a tyrannical, drug-addled father.
I’ve elected to include “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” because the sentiment of the song strikes me as uncommonly Taurean. However, James Brown is best known for his on-stage cape routine and “I Got You (I Feel Good),” which are both worth a gander.
Other Notable Taurean Musicians: Stevie Wonder, Taj Mahal, Billy Joel, Fats Waller, Charles Mingus, Lionel Hampton, Billy Cobham (drummer for Miles Davis), Peter Frampton, Ritchie Valens, Willie Nelson, Jerry Lieber (wrote “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Stand By Me”), and Norman Whitfield (wrote “Heard It Through the Grapevine).
Iggy Pop (April 21, 1947) – Another “Godfather,” although this time of Punk, Iggy Pop commenced his musical career as a drummer… of course. He probably also smoked PCP from time to time, but was far less of a hypocrite in doing so to the extent that overt corporeal outrage was par for his course. Upon joining the Stooges he intended to create “White Man’s Blues” which is been my favorite description of the Punk project, and upon going solo, he refined that goal a bit, stating that he wanted to make music that sounded like Detroit industry, music that sounded like the construction of cars.
His onstage persona was inspired by the live performances of Jim Morrison, who is a Sagittarius, and I consider the addition of make-up to be an Earthy touch on his part. I’ve chosen “Dum Dum Boys,” which is one of my favorites. However, it also illustrates the way in which Water and Earth signs are so adept at framing failure as a delicate art.
Artists in a similar vein: Captain Sensible (Bassist, guitarist, and keyboardist for The Damned), Crispin Glover, Pete Townshend, Sid Vicious, Joey Ramone, Joe Cocker, Bill Ward (Original drummer for Black Sabbath), Jerry Nolan (drummer for The New York Dolls and The Heartbreakers), Dick Dale (surf-rock guitarist), Josh Homme, and Dan Auerbach (vocalist and guitarist for the Black Keys).
Brian Eno (May 15, 1948) – A pioneer of Ambient music, Brian Eno is an icon in Glam, Experimental, Minimalist, Punk, and Goth circles. As a founding member of Roxy Music, he was at first a “phantom member” as pertains to stage appearances, operating the mixing desk for their live shows and only later appearing in… wait for it… full make-up and flamboyant costume. But it didn’t last long, and after two albums he went solo. A self-professed “non-musician,” Eno has worked as a composer for numerous film scores and has collaborated with many artists, working most regularly with David Bowie and John Cale. He has also, over the course of his career, worked extensively as a producer for many popular musical acts, including U2, Depeche Mode, Coldplay, and others.
I have included “Third Uncle” because it suits the sound of the playlist, however the majority of Brian Eno’s work is of a much more nuanced and… well, ambient sound. You can listen to an example of that here.
Related Taurean Artists: Liberace, David Byrne, Bono, Joe Cocker, Charles Mingus, Enya, and Donovan.
Kim Gordon (April 28, 1953) – You know, it’s difficult to think of what to say about the woman who curated your entire pre-teen musical induction. In the early 90s, if Sonic Youth didn’t make it, but the music was really good, you best believe they were aggressively pushing it on to the airwaves. How did they do that?! And who would I be without Kim Gordon? Best not to think about it….
When I was 13 I had an X-Girl T-shirt; X-Girl was written in pink and silver glitter, making me one more California girl who wanted to kill all the California girls, but “the next generation” – because Kim Gordon’s roots are So-SoCal, too, although you might not have guessed it.
Kim Gordon turned up in NYC in the 70s and fell in love with its exploding No-Wave scene. Considered a step beyond punk, No-Wave was far more disjointed, dissonant, and discordant — just one giant diss. No surprise then that the movement took both Brian Eno and Iggy Pop as two of its greatest inspirations. Below is an early Sonic Youth track which should give you an idea as to their beginnings. It’s also a cover of fellow Taurean, Iggy Pop. To be fair, this is where Sonic Youth went — with a long career in between and after — until only just recently.
Honorable mention to: Krist Novoselic (bassist for Nirvana and one resurrected Flipper.)
Eric Singer (May 12, 1958) and Ace Frehley (April 27, 1951); drummer and guitarist respectively: KISS – KISS is spelled in all capital letters; if you use lower-case letters you have misspelled KISS. The band’s Taurean base was rounded out by Gene Simmons (a Virgo) and Paul Stanley (an Aquarius), although it should be noted that Eric Singer was not the original drummer. The original drummer was Peter Criss, a Sagittarius.
An undoubted 70s phenomenon, KISS had all the hallmarks of an Earth-heavy band: they wore make-up, they wore costumes, they probably don’t want you to know who they really are, which means they’re probably intensely private people. So, when they were in public, they put on a show. KISS put on such a show that the entire band was made up of comic book-like characters with fixed face paint and corresponding nicknames: Simmons was “the Demon,” Frehley was “the Spaceman” or “Space Ace,” Criss and his replacement, Singer, were “Catman,” and Stanley was “Starchild.” Now, that’s creative.
Check out “I Love It Loud,” and if it strikes you as a clichéd Hard Rock video, keep in mind, they’re kind of the authors of this genre.
Similar artists: Mick Mars (guitarist for Mötley Crüe), Alex Van Halen (drummer and founding member of Van Halen), and Chris Mars (drummer for The Replacements).
Trent Reznor (May 17, 1965) – As a teenager, I had to play Quake on mute if I was to have any chance of surviving. The sounds, particularly of the Scrags right at the beginning, were just too much for me. The irony – I could beat the game — what I couldn’t beat was the work of Trent Reznor. Taurus is particularly gifted at isolating sounds for maximum emotional effect, and Reznor is a master.
I’ve included a live version of “Head Like A Hole” because I remember being impressed by all the mud as a kid – another Taurean move. However, Nine Inch Nails is really only the tip of the iceberg for Reznor. He successfully popularized dance industrial in the early 90s (Ministry and Skinny Puppy were popular, but still pretty niche; Pretty Hate Machine and Broken exploded the genre), he’s done a host of amazing film scores, he’s publicly gone to bat for his fans and dropped out of the major label system entirely, and he’s been around for forever and a day. Stamina! That’s Taurus.
Other Taurus musicians: Jim Keltner (drummer for Elvis Presley, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan), Christoph Schneider (drummer for Rammstein), and Danny Carey (drummer for Tool).
Alison Goldfrapp (May 13, 1966) – Alison Goldfrapp has great taste in music. However, that same talent that I so appreciate in Iggy Pop, Brian Eno, Trent Reznor, and other Taurus musicians – that capacity to dissect sound – makes me hesitate with her. I bought her first album, Felt Mountain, the month that it came out and I remember thinking: ‘Wow! One part Ennio Morricone, one part Dinah Washington, and a splash of Cocteau Twins. Mmmm-kay.” But there seemed to be little else. It was just too perfect.
I’ve heard snippets of Black Cherry. It’s very different. It’s also very formulaic. And I know that was a long time ago. One friend said: ‘Yeah, but she’s good at the weaving together of influences.” Is she really? If I can so easily identify every reference? Where is she in all this music making? I just don’t know. Even seeing her speak so intelligently in the Scott Walker documentary, 30th Century Man, just seemed to support my suspicions… That is, she’s not experimenting if she never makes a mistake. Listen to “Strict Machine” and let me know if I’m being too hard on her.
Other Taurus artists: Tammy Wynette, Cher,Robert Smith, Grace Jones, Janet Jackson, Lily Allen, and Chris Brown.
Killer Mike (April 20, 1975) – In 2012, Killer Mike’s debut solo album, R.A.P. Music, was released. And I reacted to it like 12 year old. I have listened to this album over and over and over and over again, with little to no respite. I am now like Pavlovian dog – when the album plays, I jump to my feet, begin dancing, and get really badass and passionate whilst singing the lyrics.
Taurus is dependable. So is Killer Mike. His output has been so consistently amazing that I actually follow the guy on Twitter – which is how I discovered his birthday! 4:20. Lucky for me, Killer Mike has collaborated with El-P on a new album, Run the Jewels, which will be released June 26 of this year. Ouf! I can’t wait… Until then, here’s “Reagan,” the song that got me hooked.
Other Taurean Hip-Hop artists of varying quality: Too $hort, Busta Rhymes, Meek Mill, and MGK (aka Machine Gun Kelly and Richard Colson Baker).
Adele (May 5, 1988) — “I taught myself how to sing by listening to Ella Fitzgerald for acrobatics and scales, Etta James for passion and Roberta Flack for control.” That’s what Adele said of her vox on myplay, and I can hear that. She also doesn’t strike me as too contrived, which is impressive in light of my hesitation with other artists. I find Adele’s work rather organic.
Am I a fan? Not exactly. But the girl most definitely made a hit. And the fact that I recognize it as legitimate is a pretty big deal… at least for me. Here it is:
Other Taurus Pop stars: Tionne Watkins (from TLC), Enrique Iglesias, and Kelly Clarkson.
Word to the Wise for Taurus, i.e. Virgoan criticisms: I have many a Taurean in my life. What is more, I always have had many a Taurean in my life. So, strap in, because here is my main issue with you folk – You can be greedy! And it manifests differently for men and women. The lady Taurus can, at times, give with a view towards receiving. As in: ‘I give only so that I may receive.’ But that’s not really how it works. As for the manly Taurus, he can be a downright cheater. Not in the happy-go-lucky, open relationship Sagittarian fashion, but in the ‘I demand monogamy from others but do not hold myself to the standards that I set for others.’ That ain’t cool…
Want the Taurus playlist? It’s here. And don’t forget to subscribe for the other signs!