When you hear about the riders that musicians send over to concert venues beforehand, it’s usually about how crazy they are. Jennifer Lopez absolutely needs everything in the dressing room to be white and Jack White won’t play without special guacamole. Riders can also be clever business documents. The most famous has to be Van Halen’s “no brown M&Ms” clause, which they used to determine whether the contract documents were read thoroughly.
But riders can also include those items that get an artist in the right head space. You may imagine that’s a certain kind of water or special couch cushions. Pharrell Williams’ rider requests a framed picture of the late, great Carl Sagan because it helps him remember our place in the cosmos.
According to a document obtained by The Smoking Gun, Pharrell’s rumored appreciation for the astronomer-turned-beloved science communicator is in fact true. A few years ago, the artist even posted an image of his dressing room featuring Sagan (above).
But why Carl? As Pharrell explained in an interview on The Today Show (where the only request he made was to have a picture of Carl Sagan), he’s been obsessed with Carl Sagan since he watched COSMOS as a child. “I was always blown away and enamored with the way he thought,” Pharrell said.
“Every time I look at that picture I realize how lucky we all are…to be on this planet and to do what we love to do every day. Carl’s face reminds me of it.”
To be clear, Pharrell claims that Carl Sagan on his rider is a bit of a joke by his crew, but he doesn’t mind it and I’m sure many of us can understand the request. After all, there may be no more impactful science communicator in recent memory, aside from current science rock stars like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye. There was just something about the way Carl spoke and wrote, something about his enthusiasm for the poetry of the world that connected with generations of people, and surely inspired more children than you can name to get into science.
Like Pharrell, we miss you Carl.
HT: Rachel Feltman