Singer Lana Del Rey has referenced Marilyn several times in her lyrics and music videos (see here.) The latest reference appears in ‘patent leather do-over‘, a spoken-word poem posted on Instagram this week, and to be featured in Lana’s forthcoming book, behind the iron gates – insights from an institution (due in 2021.)
“Sylvia, Marilyn, Violet, Diana All of my kind women who came before me, blonde I dyed my hair black for you I turned my back on that black pond I swear I won’t stop ’til I’m dead And here I am at 34 – And what for?”
Pop diva Gwen Stefani has made no secret of her love for Marilyn, as the artwork for her new single and forthcoming album shows.
Also this week, singer Lana Del Rey – who has referenced Marilyn several times in her work – appeared at a Los Angeles screening of her new video, ‘Freak’, in an outfit inspired by Marilyn’s Niagara style. (Although the original red/white ensemble – designed by Dorothy Jeakins – didn’t make the final cut, Marilyn wore it in public while filming on location in 1952.)
And finally, Lady Gaga channeled the bombshell look at last month’s Golden Globe Awards.
Memories of Marilyn lingered on the catwalk at last night’s Golden Globes. Marilyn herself won awards for Some Like it Hot, and as ‘World Film Favourite’. However, it was her appearance at a different ceremony – the Photoplay Awards in 1953 – that inspired the stars last night.
Jessica Chastain, reported to be cast as Marilyn in an as yet unmade big-screen adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ Blonde, wore a Versace gown reminiscent of MM’s iconic gold dress, but in a darker shade.
But singer Lana Del Rey – who has referenced Marilyn in several songs and videos – went the extra mile, wearing a vintage design by Travilla, who created the original gown in 1952.
Douglas Kirkland’s 1961 photos of Marilyn ‘between the sheets’ have become a staple of glamour photography, so much that its influence is often taken for granted. In September 2014, one of Kirkland’s images was featured on the cover of Vanity Fair in Italy.
Now singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey – who recreated Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday’ performance in her ‘National Anthem’ video, and referenced MM in another song, ‘Gods and Monsters’, represented by impersonator Jodi Fleisher in the short film, Tropico – has imitated the Kirkland session with photographer Neil Krug for the latest issue of US men’s magazine, Maxim.
The latest issue of British music mag Clash takes the American Dream as its theme. Up-and-coming singer Allie X is pictured inside with a portrait of MM, while cover girl Lana Del Rey names Marilyn among her idols:
“I ask Lana about her choice of John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis as heavenly spirits in the Garden of Eden for her short film, Tropico. ‘I wrote a little monologue for everyone who came to the premiere of Tropico. When I was studying philosophy my teacher told me that it’s okay to feel like the people you’re closest to aren’t alive anymore. Sometimes that is the best company to keep. It’s about the people that pondered the same questions as you did, and had the same sort of life mentality as you. I was upset and inspired by that premise.
‘I knew then, really, that my closest friends would be people I have never really met before. I was different and I didn’t know many people who felt about mortality how I did. As a result, I do feel a personal connection with the icons: John Wayne, Elvis. I loved how nice Marilyn was, I related to her. Finding girls who were as loving and warm as her is hard.’
Like Lana, Marilyn Monroe wasn’t one without her detractors. ‘Success makes so many people hate you,’ she once said, ‘I wish it wasn’t that way.'”
“Then there was Marilyn Monroe: widely associated with sexual appeal, femme fatale roles and the chauvinistic adoration of the troops, her foster-home-to-film-noir story inspired millions too, and a nude appearance in Playboy broke traditional conceptions of female behaviour for American society.
As the years rolled by, the wheels started to fall off the Dream’s systemic and idealistic prairie schooner. First, its leading lady died, analysed perfectly in the words of biographer Graham McCann: ‘The legend of Marilyn Monroe leads one into the bourgeois truisms of Western culture: that fame does not bring happiness; that sexuality is destructive; that Hollywood destroys its own children.'”
Lady Gaga performed her latest single, ‘Do What U Want‘ – a duet with R. Kelly – at last night’s American Music Awards. In this latest dramatisation (she and Kelly simulated sex on last week’s Saturday Night Live) Gaga played a White House intern who has a fling with the president (Kelly), who then dumps her.
Shades of President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky there. However, the blonde wig she wears is strikingly reminiscent of MM. In fact, one of Kelly’s lines in the song is ‘You’re the Marilyn, I’m the president/And I love to hear you sing, girl.’
‘In this R&B-esque dance cut,’ comments RockGenius.com, ‘Lady Gaga compares letting the media talk about her any way they want to giving explicit romantic consent.’ It may be that she is also trying to criticise the sexual exploitation of women.
However, some may feel that, on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s death, this is just another cheap stunt at the expense of those no longer with us, and unable to tell their own stories.
Personally, I found Lana Del Rey’s ‘National Anthem‘ video from 2012 – where she briefly impersonates Marilyn, before playing Jackie Kennedy in a meditation on the Camelot years – far more powerful. What do you think?
Lana Del Rey recreates Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ in the opening sequence of her new video, ‘National Anthem’. The president is played by rapper A$AP Rocky. Lana goes on to embody the Camelot myth, giving her own take on the role of First Lady Jackie Kennedy.
“Sure, there are some who will object to the clip’s re-telling of history: Del Rey actually plays both Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe — a loaded proposition when you consider the long-standing rumors of an affair between the actress and the commander in chief — and the clip opens with her doing Monroe’s sultry ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President’ from 1962. She then switches to the more demure Jackie, the doting wife to Rocky’s JFK, and their love story unfurls over seven hazy, dreamlike minutes. In a way, the dual roles seem to be director Anthony Mandler’s way of exploring the complexities of one of our nation’s most celebrated (and discussed) first couples: the notion that, from the outside, all appeared to be perfect, while, internally, their marriage was wrought with indiscretions and very stormy indeed.
There is also the fact that the clip is loaded with social commentary. The scenes of Del Rey and Rocky cavorting in the Kennedys’ Hyannis Port compound very boldly show the so-called ‘American Camelot’ (the term used to describe the unbridled hope associated with the Kennedy presidency) through a decidedly 2012 prism. Here is the first family reimagined as a beautiful white wife and a confident, powerful black husband, very much in love, caring for their biracial children, holding court with their associates. It was a scene that was practically unimaginable during the 1960s, and one that, sadly, is still sure to rankle some today.” – MTV
Marilyn has inspired another songstress – Lana Del Rey, whose new track, ‘Body Electric’ (performed at the El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles, on June 3) begins with the line, “Elvis is my daddy, Marilyn is my mother – Jesus is my bestest friend…”
‘I Sing the Body Electric’ is also the title of a poem by Walt Whitman, whose collection, Leaves of Grass, was a favourite of Marilyn’s. You can watch the video here.