The Song That Changed Your Life
George Stroumboulopoulos: Welcome to my nightmare
George Stroumboulopoulos talks to Canada Writes about his mother, Alice Cooper, and what gets him through the night.
Tell us about the song that changed your life.
There are so many! I’m that kind of guy. I’m pretty rough around the edges, but I’m a very open person. I operate with an emotional fearlessness, and I really feel music, I really feel songs.
There is one in particular that I can remember. I was five or six years old, at home in Rexdale Ontario, and I was watching the Muppet show. I loved the Muppet show! You know how in the opening scene, you would see the guest in the dressing room and Scooter would come in to get him? So in this show, Scooter goes in and there is Alice Cooper with a bunch of creepy Muppets. Scooter says, “One minute Mr. Cooper,” and he asks him if the Muppets are bothering him. Alice Cooper says “No they’re with me.”
Alice Cooper emerged from a coffin on the stage and started singing: “Welcome to my nightmare/I think you’re going to like it.” There was an opening in my mind; it’s as if the walls in my mind were painted black and rusty. I grew up in a religious home, where we celebrated the “pretty” stuff but I fell in love with the dark stuff. My mother said that was the day the light went off in my head.
What is it about the “dark stuff” that attracts you?
I’ve always had a real connection to that kind of music, to that intellectual space where you find beauty in things that aren’t necessarily seen as beautiful. My mom has never connected to it. A pleasant adversarial relationship about art — I think that’s what I have with my mom. We’re very close, but on this one issue there’s this gigantic gulf between us. Alice Cooper is a born again Christian and he asks about my mom whenever I see him.
What are you listening to these days that is affecting you?
I’m currently listening to a lot of Pink Floyd. I listened to it as a young man, and now I’m reconnecting to Pink Floyd in a way that’s almost concerning.
I don’t have any religious or spiritual beliefs. What gets me through the night is Aretha Franklin; it’s Pink Floyd and the Clash and Desmond Dekker. Music is how I connect with people. I went to a Catholic School and underneath my school uniform I wore a metal shirt. (It might even have been an Alice Cooper shirt.) A guy at the back of the class with long hair saw my shirt and said come sit with us. The people I hung out with and my social structure all revolved around music I liked. So music is community — it’s a social thing.
Sports and music are the same thing to me. When done wrong they are really frustrating; when done right, they can change your day.
Or your life.
An eleven-time Gemini Award winner (six for best host in a talk series), George Stroumboulopoulos has interviewed a who's who of entertainment icons, political leaders, and respected thinkers. George is the host of Canada's nightly talk show on CBC, George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight as well as The Strombo Show on CBC's Radio 2. George is the first Canadian National Ambassador Against Hunger for the United Nations World Food Programme. And he’s one of three Canadians recognized by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader for 2012.
Tell us about the song or music that changed your life!