Esquire (USA)



constant over David Byrne’s four-decade career, it’s his perpetual evolution. That, and others comparing him to the beloved children’s-show host Mister Rogers. “When I was younger, during my Talking Heads days, that was not meant as a compliment,” Byrne says. “It was meant as ‘You are a weird, geeky, creepy guy. You are in your own little world.’ ” Today, that’s no longer so. “The consensus on Mister Rogers has changed a lot in the last few years,” Byrne says. “He’s seen as kind of a hero now.” He mentions the scene from the documentar­y Won’t You Be My Neighbor? in which Rogers, in the wake of Robert F. Kennedy’s death, explains the meaning of assassinat­ion to children. “You knew that these kids’ parents were going to be talking about this, so he wanted to be really honest and explain it to them.” In 2018, Byrne made his own foray into explanator­y storytelli­ng. He launched Reasons to Be Cheerful, a site that specialize­s in stories of hope concerning issues that matter to him, such as climate change. Its latest project, We Are Not Divided, is a collection of stories on unity and shared purpose that’s rolling out in the lead-up to the November election. And American Utopia’s themes of civic engagement, empathy, and the longing for a better world are all Fred Rogers trademarks. As one of America’s elder statesmen of positive vibes, does Byrne now feel like a Mister Rogers for grown-ups? “Maybe in some ways,” he says. He lets the idea sink in. “Okay, okay. Yeah.”

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