Watch Iggy Pop Perform Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”

Of the orig­i­nal mem­bers of the Stooges, only Iggy Pop still lives. He has by now sur­vived a great many oth­er cul­tur­al fig­ures who came up from the under­ground and into promi­nence through rock music in the nine­teen-sev­en­ties. And not only is he still alive, he’s still putting out albums: his most recent, Every Los­er, came out just this past Jan­u­ary. It fol­lowed Free, from 2019, which includes his read­ing of Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gen­tle Into That Good Night” — an idea, Aman­da Petru­sich notes in a con­tem­po­rary New York­er pro­file, that came “after an adver­tis­ing agency asked him to read the poem for a com­mer­cial voice-over.”

“At first, I resist­ed,” Pop says to Petru­sich. “I’m not in junior high.” Indeed, as a vehi­cle for the expres­sion of one’s own world­view, “Do Not Go Gen­tle Into That Good Night” feels about one rung up from “The Road Not Tak­en.”

Petru­sich acknowl­edges that “the poem has grown increas­ing­ly mean­ing­less over time, hav­ing been repeat­ed and adapt­ed to so many inane cir­cum­stances. Yet if you can shake off its famil­iar­i­ty the cen­tral idea — that a per­son should live vig­or­ous­ly, unapolo­get­i­cal­ly — remains ger­mane.” Pop’s dis­tinc­tive Mid­west­ern voice, made hag­gard but res­o­nant by decade after decade of punk-rock rig­ors, also imbues it with an unex­pect­ed vital­i­ty.

It may sur­prise those who know Pop main­ly through his brazen onstage antics of half a cen­tu­ry ago that it would occur to him to read a poem at all. In fact, he’s a man of many and var­ied lit­er­ary inter­ests, hav­ing also per­formed the work of Walt Whit­man and Edgar Allan Poe, writ­ten about Edward Gib­bon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and made a film with Michel Houelle­becq (whose nov­els inspired Pop’s 2009 album Prélim­i­naires). All of this while he has kept on show­ing us, both on records and in live per­for­mances, how prop­er­ly to rage, rage — against the dying of the light, and much else besides.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Hear Dylan Thomas Recite His Clas­sic Poem, “Do Not Go Gen­tle Into That Good Night”

Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gen­tle Into That Good Night” Per­formed by John Cale (and Pro­duced by Bri­an Eno)

Iggy Pop Reads Walt Whit­man in Col­lab­o­ra­tions With Elec­tron­ic Artists Alva Noto and Tar­wa­ter

Sir Antho­ny Hop­kins Reads Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gen­tle Into That Good Night”

Iggy Pop Reads Edgar Allan Poe’s Clas­sic Hor­ror Sto­ry “The Tell-Tale Heart”

Dylan Thomas Sketch­es a Car­i­ca­ture of a Drunk­en Dylan Thomas

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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