Conversation With An Icon: Howard Bloom
I had a revelation last night. Your book is probably one of the greatest books to be released this year…..as a matter of fact it is. People love stories about celebs, but they also really want to hear about you…so here are some crazy questions for you…
You have just become a superhero, what is your power and why?
Hb: Like superman, I’d like to fly.
But there are real life superpowers:
- The truth. Including the truths that come from being in touch with passions at the very root of your soul.
- Curiosity. When everything you learn opens a box of new questions, new curiosities.
- Vision—something you have maybe five times in your life, when you can see what can be achieved and exactly how to achieve it.
- And most of all persistence. In my case, I work almost every waking hour of the day, 24/7. Why? Because my work is my play. It’s the greatest form of fun I will ever find. The greatest fun outside of my relationship with my girlfriend.
The soundtrack of your life has just been released, what songs are on it and why?
Hb: Let it Bleed by the Rolling Stones. In my life every agony has proven to be a source of insight and in the long run, of joy. I came close to death when I was sixteen and came down with hepatitis on a ski trip. I wasn’t allowed to move for three months except to go to the bathroom. It gave me a chance to read James Joyce’s Ulysses cover to cover and to put myself through the psychology 101 textbook from my local university, the university of Buffalo. I nearly died again in New Brunswick, NJ, of a kidney stone the size of a lima bean when I was nineteen. I gave myself a crash course on the works of Pablo Picasso in the hospital and from one of my roommates, a policeman, learned a bit of how New Jersey pork barrel politics works. When I was 45 years old, I was in bed sick for fifteen years, too weak to speak or to have another person in the room with me. But it allowed me to go back to my science full time. Science had been my essence since I was ten and had gone into theoretical physics and microbiology. My imprisonment in bed also allowed me to form two international scientific groups via cyberspace, to write three books, and to practice for the all-internet existence we’ve been tossed into by covid. Every disaster has been an opportunity in disguise. Then there’s Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” which helped me survive in some of the darkest moments of my illness. Especially after a nearly successful attempt at suicide. And Take Me Church by Hozier, about how the emotion of divinity comes alive in, of all things, sex.
You have just been commissioned to send the world a message, what is that message?
Hb: No matter where you are and what kind of regime you live in, work your ass off to upgrade, uplift, and empower your fellow human beings.
What have been your biggest challenges and triumphs in your professional world?
Hb: Succeeding in fields for which I superficially seemed to have no preparation, but for which my childhood habit of reading two books a day may have trained me. Possibly in ways few others have been trained. Co-designing a computer when I was eleven that won science fair awards. That same year, building a Boolean Algebra machine and meeting with the head of the graduate physics department of my local university, the University of Buffalo, to discuss Big Bang vs. Steady State theories of cosmology and the interpretation of the Doppler Shift. Being tutored in outside the box science by the head of research and development for the company that made the engine valves for the first plane to break the sound barrier and the first plane to reach the edge of space, the Bell X1 and the Bell X2. Unfortunately, he gave up on me when I couldn’t get excited about cycloids, devices that were not useful to me but I suspect were brilliantly useful in his engine valves. I wish he had explained how. Working at the world’s largest cancer research institute when I was sixteen and coming up with a theory of the beginning, middle, and end of the universe that predicted something that wouldn’t be discovered for 38 years—dark energy. (See the big bagel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdJyafSBCb0) Hitchhiking and riding the rails—riding freight trains illegally—from Seattle to San Diego in 1962 looking for the Beatniks, who had vanished from the scene. Searching for Zen Buddhist satori. Accidentally acquiring a small following. Ending up living totally naked with my tiny tribe in a big, pink condemned house in Berkeley, California. And ultimately accidentally helping to seed the hippy movement. That’s in my book How I Accidentally Started the Sixties. Turning the literary magazine at NYU into an experimental graphics and literary magazine. Art-directing it and raising a ruckus among some of the top magazine art directors of New York City. Co-founding a commercial art studio and making it a success. Editing a magazine focused on something I only knew tangentially, rock and roll. Being credited by one of Rolling Stone’s founding editors, Chet Flippo, with creating a new magazine genre, the heavy metal magazine. Building the biggest PR firm in the music industry, representing Michael Jackson, Prince, Bob Marley, Bette Midler, Billy Joel, Billy Idol, Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, David Byrne, AC/DC, Kiss, Queen, Aerosmith, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Run DMC, ZZ Top, Chaka Khan, and Joan Jett. Establishing that agency’s reputation as the best in the field. Making it a success in a world that was strange to me, a person who never cared about money. The world of business. And learning to find the gods inside of some of the most remarkable creators on the planet. But the hardest thing was re-establishing my credibility in science, writing journal articles and giving lectures at scholarly conferences in twelve different scientific fields, from quantum physics and cosmology to evolutionary biology, neuroscience, biopolitics, governance, and aerospace. Every one of these took intense immersion. And every one of these took non-stop persistence.
You have represented the hugest rock stars on the planet, do you believe music has the power to change the world or at least influence it?
Hb: Music does not have the power to change the world. Music is a mood changer and a mass bonding mechanism. It pulls us together and can make us march in step or dance in ecstasy. It can be used to help make war or to help make peace. It can help. In small ways. But most of all, it liberates the soul in you and me. It gives us validation and it sometimes sets us free. It lets us know that even in our deepest moments of insanity, we are not alone. It lets us know that sometimes we are more than merely not alone, we are a movement. It lets us know that we are a part of something much bigger than our selves.
In your book “Einstein, Michael Jackson and Me”, what are some of your favorite stories?
Hb: The Michael Jackson stories, meeting Michael for the first time, traveling with him in his van and talking about the life he knew far better than I did: the joys, the obligations, and the dangers of stardom. Most important, going head to head with him late one night when we were flanked by his brothers, Michael had declared that he was postponing his 1984 Victory Tour, I had been called because, the caller said, I was the only one he would listen to. Which meant getting on a plane in New York at 5 pm and being with Michael on a studio lot where he and his brothers were rehearsing by 11 pm. But most of all, being given the privilege of looking deep, deep into the passions that drove his heart and soul. And in the process finding everything I had been seeking in the world of rock and roll.
If you can go back in time what part of history would you have liked to be a part of?
Hb: I don’t think I would have wanted to go back in time at all. There were too many insects, too many illnesses, too many bone-jarring or non-existent forms of transportation, no smart phones, no laptops, no internet, no Facebook, no Telegram, no Skype. I would like to go 20 years into the future and see what new wonders we humans can use to turn the stuff of fantasy into a daily reality.
Oh, and if given the chance, I would love to go back to 1962 to 1944 to see the development of the Beatles as a phenomenon from their manager Brian Epstein’s point of view. Without being driven to what it drove Brian too—suicide.
What is next for Howard Bloom?
Hb: Two books: Everything You Know About Nature Is Wrong: The Case of the Sexual Cosmos and The Grand Unified Theory of Everything in the Universe Including the Human Soul. Plus, the building of something an impressive team is putting together now, the Howard Bloom Institute.
The official website for Howard Bloom may be found at https://www.howardbloom.net
Interview by Eileen Shapiro