Remember the first English song you heard, as a child? For many of us growing up in the ‘90s, with parents who had a taste for Western music, it may have been Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, or Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall, or The Beatles’ Hey Jude. But for an overwhelming lot, it was a seemingly unexpected artist who gave us our first experience of Western music on our PCs. That experience came along with the launch of the pioneering Microsoft Windows XP – an operating system that ruled our computers well, well after Microsoft moved on to newer versions. The song – Like Humans Do by David Byrne.
Be ready to feel old – in six months, it will be 20 years since Microsoft first announced that David Byrne’s Like Humans Do will feature as a complementary promotional song onboard every copy of Windows XP. The latter was a big jump from the basic graphic interface and user experience that most mainstream PCs offered on Windows 98. The objective behind the song was to offer a way for users to see the multimedia capabilities of Windows XP, via Windows Media Player. A section from Microsoft’s now two decades-old press release announcing the inclusion of the song says, “(The song) will come preloaded in Windows Media Player for Windows XP. The song will play as a digital audio track, complete with album art and lyrics, the first time the Windows Media Player is used, showcasing the high-quality music experience possible with Windows Media Player for Windows XP.”
Now 69 years old, British-American Byrne is a popular singer-songwriter who is also noted for his music production, filmmaking and his work on music theory. Best known as the lead member of American band Talking Heads, Byrne’s Like Humans Do was a part of his solo album, Look Into the Eyeball, released in 2001. While Byrne is often noted as a pioneering musician of his time, his fame does not transcend the notability of the likes of Linkin Park, Green Day, Backstreet Boys and the likes, which were often among the first experiences of Western music for many in India.
Like Humans Do by Byrne may no longer be remembered as notably, and neither does Windows Media Player hold the esteem for providing the “ultimate” media experience that Windows XP had promised. However, the inclusion of this track may have served as a notable moment in popular culture for many non-English speaking nations, in terms of their exposure to mainstream English music. Over time, tech titans have regularly collaborated with musicians for product announcements and showcases, but the subtle charm of the solitary English track on Windows XP PCs is a moment in time that is largely under-appreciated and lost.