Bill Hicks – Gone 15 years but still more relevant than ever?

On June 16th 1993, comedian, William Melvin Hicks was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a cancer that would spread to his liver and kill him less than a year later. He died on February 26th 1994.

15 years on, and perhaps now is a time to remember Hicks more than any. With the recent flurry of musicians in adverts almost everywhere you look, it’s very hard not to think of Hicks’ furious rants- “Here's the deal, folks. You do a commercial – you're off the artistic roll call, forever. End of story. Okay? You're another whore at the capitalist gangbang and if you do a commercial, there's a price on your head. Everything you say is suspect and every word that comes out of your mouth is now like a turd falling into my drink”.

It seems this hypothetical roll call may be a little thin on the ground in Hicks’ world right now. The discussion of whether or not these artists are selling out is another matter. However, what does need addressing is that the vehement belief that Hicks had in integrity, moral fibre and the infrastructure of the arts, is perhaps, lacking at the moment. Of course bands are doing things in their own ways, Radiohead aren’t likely to be selling Twix’s anytime soon, and people like Tom Waits have managed forty plus years without coming an inch near a commercial, but that dark fervour he possessed, is sadly missing.

The saddest thing about this more than anything else is that nothing has changed. That proverbial wall that Hicks spent so many years banging his head against has still not come down. Take his material on Bush senior and simply replace the title to junior. Take his pieces on New Kids On The Block and replace them with Pop Idol/X-Factor stars. In many ways Hicks saw the future, he had the foresight and understanding to challenge our society, and yet even fifteen years after his death, he would have to tell us all over again. Whether that is down to his genius or our own buffoonery is still up for debate.

Perhaps you feel that in current times a grim reminder of how fucked up everything is, might not be your cup of tea? But hicks mastered the art of furious social and political commentary merged with waspish comic wit that had the ability to cripple you with laughter. Gaining him the nickname ‘Chomsky with dick jokes’. It’s often easy to forget amongst his red mist that he was one of the greatest comics ever.

Whether or not you necessarily believed in what Hicks had to say, his conviction and delivery was unquestionable. Conviction that has arguably not been matched since his death. Hicks would stand so firmly to his beliefs that he could break his back in the process. The frightening sense of relevance that he still possesses is perhaps unrivalled, even in the music world. Taste’s change and musicians become more relevant depending upon the ‘scene’ or current bands. As an artist Hicks has transcended genres, even art forms themselves to remain one of the most relevant and culturally important artists of our time.

So treat yourself, celebrate the life and times of one of life’s truly majestic human beings. Let’s just hope we aren’t in the same boat on the thirtieth anniversary of his death.

Essential viewing: Sane Man, One Night Stand, Relentless, Totally Bill Hicks.

Essential Listening: I’m Sorry Folks, Rant in E-Minor, Dangerous, Arizona Bay

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