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Fred Schneider of the B-52's talks about the band, his life, and getting an AIDS memorial in San Diego

Photo credit:
Pieter M. Van Hattan - danspapers.com

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News (SDGLN) got to speak with the male singer of the 70's and 80's group The B-52's, Fred Schneider, before they make their way to America's Finest City to help raise money for an AIDS memorial.  

Schneider is funny, a little out spoken and would like San Diego to have a place to honor the people affected by AIDS, “I think people respond to things like that. It’s a visible reminder about what has happened, what is still happening.”

The B-52’s are coming to San Diego on Sunday, August 14, for a concert to help raise money for the San Diego AIDS memorial headed by The San Diego Aids Memorial Task Force, co-chaired by San Diego First Lady Katherine Stuart Faulconer and local activist Nicole Murray-Ramirez.

Their mission is simple, “To plan and raise funds for the creation of a lasting tribute to those who have been affected by HIV disease and AIDS in San Diego County.”

Schneider was affected by the disease in 1985, when band mate Ricky Wilson (pictured above left) lost his life to AIDS.

The entire band felt the pain of losing Ricky; his sister Cindy Wilson sings in the band, while his best friend Keith Strickland, played drums and other instruments at the time

“It threw us into depression, Ricky was so important,” Schneider tells SDGLN. “Being Keith’s best friend and Cindy’s brother; it was just a shock.”

The toll was so great Schneider says the group had to take a break while they mourned his passing.

“We stopped for a couple years, Keith moved to guitar," he says. "Once he [Keith] was ready, and Cindy was okay with it...you know we weren’t under pressure or anything...it worked out, but we did stop for a while.”

Eventually the B-52’s would re-organize, always with the thought of Ricky in their hearts, and create some of the most well-known songs America has ever heard.

From “My Own Private Idaho,” to “Rock Lobster,” to most everyone’s favorite “Love Shack,” they continued to make a mark in the music world with their unique brand of lyrics and outrageous, funky style.

Schneider says that at one point the band caught the eye of pop culture legend Andy Warhol, who invited him out to eat. 

“Well we went to dinner, he was actually engaging; he stuck his hand down my shirt,” he laughs. “ I bought some prints from him, he gave me cow wallpaper which I still have. He was a real presence in New York.”

Schneider also makes no bones about how he feels this election year. He mourned along with the rest of the country after the Pulse massacre.

“Anything like that is awful, and then you have this Donald Trump – he’s a number two,” he says. “I posted that Donald Trump’s next saying should be, ‘Make America Hate Again.’”

But the B-52’s have always been known to make infectious upbeat music. He says that although the group isn’t planning on writing anymore songs just yet, they will definitely bring optimism to San Diego, “I think we’ll bring the mood up at the event, it’s definitely important.”

As for settling down, only Keith Strickland has retired from the band. Schneider says that he, Cindy, and Kate Pierson have already booked a tour through Australia and New Zealand next year.

San Diego may not have an AIDS memorial just yet, but people such as Nicole Murray-Ramirez and Katherine Stuart Faulconer and others working tirelessly within the The San Diego Aids Memorial Task Force, the likelihood of getting one seems imminent. 

The B-52's will help make that a reality on August 14 when they will appear with The Fixx and The English Beat for a benefit concert to help raise money for the monument. 

If you want to see Schnieder outside of the concert venue, he gives us a little secret as to where he might be in addition to raising money for the memorial. 

 “I love San Diego, I always go see my friend Graham at Record City," he said. "That’s my message; go see Graham at Record City and buy some records. Buy some vinyl.”

The The B-52's San Diego Aids Memorial Benefit will be at the Embarcadero Marina Park South in San Diego on Sunday, August 14, at 6 pm.

Embarcadero Marina Park South is located at 200 Marina Park Way, San Diego, CA 92101.

Appearing with the B-52's will be The Fixx and The English Beat. 

Purchase your tickets HERE