The guitarist Anthony Bourdain called “an answered prayer”

The guitarist Anthony Bourdain called “an answered prayer”

Anthony Bourdain, the celebrated chef, author, and television personality, was known for his raw and unfiltered approach to life. Yet, beneath his public persona lay a complex and often troubled individual. In the days leading up to his tragic death, Bourdain expressed his deep-seated frustrations and loneliness in a text to his second wife, Ms. Busia-Bourdain. “I hate my fans, too. I hate being famous. I hate my job,” he wrote. “I am lonely and living in constant uncertainty.”

Bourdain’s final days were marked by isolation, substance abuse, and a descent into darkness. He frequently used steroids, drank excessively, and sought solace in the company of prostitutes. His family and friends remained silent after his death, choosing to mourn privately and avoid the media frenzy that followed.

Despite the many unknowns surrounding Bourdain’s life and death, one thing is clear: music was a significant source of comfort for him. His passion for music was deeply rooted in his childhood, as his father worked at Columbia Records. Bourdain often spoke about how music shaped his identity. “For the first two-thirds of my life, I built my identity almost entirely by what albums I was listening to,” he once said. “If everybody else loved the Allman Brothers, I hated them.”

Bourdain’s rebellious attitude towards music naturally drew him to the punk movement. Punk was a countercultural response to mainstream music, offering a voice to those who felt marginalized. The raw, chaotic sounds of punk resonated deeply with Bourdain, who found solace in its unapologetic defiance.

One guitarist, in particular, stood out to Bourdain as “an answered prayer.” When he first heard “Personality Crisis” by the New York Dolls, he was captivated. Bourdain described the experience as transformative, calling it “the antidote to all the lousy music of the era.” He praised Johnny Thunders’ guitar work, saying it “made life worth living again and permitted everything good that followed, like New York punk. Joyously nihilistic.”

Music provided Bourdain with moments of peace amid his turbulent life. It was a refuge where he could escape his inner demons, even if only temporarily. His love for music extended beyond punk, as he curated playlists for Rolling Stone and KCRW, showcasing his eclectic tastes.

Bourdain’s admiration for punk icons like Patti Smith and Sonic Youth was well-documented. He once lauded Patti Smith’s cover of the Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer,” performed at the closing night of CBGB in 2006. “It doesn’t get any angrier,” he said of the original. “The musicianship is not the best, but it encapsulated punk at its lowest and best.”

Similarly, Bourdain was enamored with Sonic Youth’s cover of “Personality Crisis.” He described the original as “an answered prayer” and praised its loud, unapologetically sloppy sound. “Johnny Thunders’ guitar made life worth living again,” he said.

Bourdain’s musical tastes also included the Brian Jonestown Massacre, a San Francisco garage band. He was particularly fond of their song “Anemone,” which he described as “drenched in opiates and regret.” The song, he said, “sounds like lost love, past lives, unforgiven mistakes and transgressions.”

Even as Bourdain grappled with his personal struggles, music remained a constant source of solace. His appreciation for ? and the Mysterians’ “96 Tears” and Hüsker Dü’s cover of “Chinese Rocks” by Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers further highlighted his eclectic tastes. He found a dark allure in these songs, which mirrored his own tumultuous experiences.

Anthony Bourdain’s life was a complex tapestry of highs and lows, but music was a thread that consistently brought him comfort. His love for punk and other genres provided a temporary escape from his inner turmoil. While we may never fully understand the depths of his struggles, it’s heartening to know that music offered him moments of peace.

In the end, Bourdain’s legacy extends beyond his contributions to food and travel. He was a music superfan who found solace in the raw, rebellious sounds of punk. His admiration for musicians like Johnny Thunders and bands like the New York Dolls and Brian Jonestown Massacre speaks to the profound impact music had on his life.

As we remember Anthony Bourdain, we can take comfort in knowing that music was his refuge. It was a place where he could find moments of joy and escape, even in the darkest of times. And for that, we can be grateful.

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