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Nicholas Ferroni

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The Philosopher Who Indirectly Influenced Music and Pop Culture

Posted: 06/25/2012 4:36 pm

If you live on planet Earth and have access to a TV or radio, you are well aware of the story behind Adele's record breaking album 21. Just to make sure, Adele was so devastated after a breakup that, unlike most people who get dumped and turn into psycho stalkers, she decided to write an album with songs that could make the coldest hearted person cry like a teenage girl after getting dumped. This, however, is not the particular instance to which I am referring.

Adele is not the first person (and considering most songs are about being in love and heartbreak, and the remaining songs are about money or "swag," she won't be the last) to pour her heart out and express her emotions through her work, nor will she be the last person to turn personal heartbreak into fame and success. However, the person who has used his personal experiences as inspiration and not self-destruction, and who has had more of an impact on the music world than almost any other musician or artist is actually not a musician at all, but a philosopher. That's right; Friedrich Nietzsche, a nineteenth century German philosopher, probably deserves to win not only a "Lifetime Achievement Award" in music, but he is also deserving of dozens of Grammy's and an induction into every music genre's Hall of Fame.

What most people, and even most musicians, don't realize is that Nietzsche coined what can be considered one of the most used phrases in music and even society. In his book Twilight of Idols (1888), Nietzsche wrote "Was ihn nicht umbringt, macht ihn starker," which translates to English as "what does not kill me only makes me stronger." Not only is this phrase uttered and known by nearly every person in the civilized world, it has been the basis for more songs in more genres than any other phrase or quote (even more so than The Beatles' "All we need is love"). And, like Adele, Nietzsche's failures with love led him to adopt many of his philosophical views on love, life and even God.

Little did this "existentialist" know at the time, Nietzsche would be one of the most quoted people in history alongside Jesus and Confucius. He is not limited to being a "one hit wonder" of the quote world either; he has hundreds of gems and, for those of us who follow him on Twitter (@NietzscheQuotes), we enjoy his profound, pathetic and cynical words on a daily basis, and they are still extremely relevant. As a man who has had his share of rejection, I truly feel for him and his tortured soul. However, if his soul wasn't tortured, we wouldn't have the hundreds of songs that his quote has come to inspire.

So, thank you Friedrich Nietzsche, your words have helped and continue to help make artists such as Kelly Clarkson, Kanye West, Asia, Tupac and many more into award winners, and most of them I doubt would even know who you are. If only his family could find a way to cash in on the residuals and revenue acquired by using his iconic phrase? Whether it's Adele's song "Someone Like You," or Nietzsche's quote "Ah, women. They make the highs higher and the lows more frequent," it's safe to assume that the best revenge for being heartbroken is to become successful and famous, and the best way to do that is to write a song or something so profound someone will use it in a song. Though, I have also found that dating someone more attractive and successful than the person who dumped you works well too.

On a different note, for my superhero fans, Nietzsche also coined the term and concept of a "Superman," but I will save that for another blog entirely.


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References:

Wicks, Robert, "Friedrich Nietzsche", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2011/entries/nietzsche/.

The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche by H. L. Mencken (Sharp Press, 2003).

 

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