On January 4, 1960, John Michael Stipe was born. Twenty years later, while attending the University of Georgia (in Athens), Michael met Peter Buck at Wuxtry Records. Bill Berry and Mike Mills then joined Michael and Peter to form a little band called R.E.M.
R.E.M.’s first full-length album, Murmur, was named Rolling Stone magazine’s Critics Poll Album of the Year (topping Michael Jackson’s Thriller). The then-new channel MTV (Music Television) had R.E.M. videos almost from the start. Murmur was released just a few weeks before MTV came on-air.
The band underwent many changes over their long career, from a “College Rock” band to one of the biggest bands in the world. Starting on Independent Record Service (IRS), they signed a huge deal with Warner Brothers Records in 1988. Over the years, they recorded such hits as “The One I Love,” “It’s The End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” “Stand,” “Losing My Religion,” “Shiny Happy People,” “Everybody Hurts,” “Man on the Moon,” “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?”, “Daysleeper,” “Supernatural Superserious,” and “Überlin.”
While R.E.M. has always shared song-writing credits equally, Michael was usually the one writing the lyrics that he also sang.
Michael’s lyrics have often been cryptic, but for many years he has called out against Republican politicians. R.E.M. songs with political themes include “Gardening at Night,” “Cuyahoga,” “Flowers of Guatamala,” “Exhuming McCarthy,” “Ignoreland,” “Final Straw,” and “Until the Day is Done.”
R.E.M. called it a day back in 2011. They released 15 albums over their 31-year career. As for Michael, post-R.E.M., he made guest appearances on The Colbert Report, including “living on the shelf” on the show for several years and appearing in the final send-off song. He retreated from music for several years, instead pursuing visual arts. Nowadays he seems to be dipping back into music while continuing his artistic endeavors and political activism.
In closing, here’s part of R.E.M.’s guest appearance on The Simpsons, back in season 13 (sorry for potato quality):