Coronavirus appears to have a particular vehemence for our heroes. A week after the death of Cameroonian afro jazz pioneer Manu Dibango, Fountains of Wayne member Adam Schlesinger and the hospitalization of folk legend John Prine, Cristina Monet-Palaci has died, reportedly after being diagnosed with the coronavirus or COVID-19.
The daughter of a French psychoanalyst and an American writer, Cristina was an icon of the late 1970s/early 1980s New York City music scene. Her tongue-in-cheek track “Disco Clone” would become the first release on ZE Records, co-founded by her future husband Michael Zilkha. ZE was the label most closely identified with New York’s fleeting No Wave scene and built one of the strongest and most eclectic indie label back catalogs of the era, with records from Coati Mundi, Nona Hendryx, Lydia Lunch, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, James Chance/James White, Bill Laswell, Don Was and Suicide.
“Disco Clone” might have been all there was of a novelty career but two albums and a series of fractured ’80s pop singles cemented Cristina’s place as an underground hero before she retired from the music scene in 1985. Of particular note was “Things Fall Apart,” the 1981 single and an essential play on every art school dropout’s anti-Christmas music playlist.
“The one thing that pop music has lost lately is its sense of irony,” Cristina said in 1984. “People either write dumb-funny novelty songs or dead-earnest serious songs. There’s nothing around that combines elements of both. There’s none of the real wit and self-humor of anyone from a Berthold Brecht to a Cole Porter or an early Dylan.”
According to the Guardian, Steve Wasserman reported Cristina had recently disclosed she was running a high fever but clear lungs heralding an apparent recovery. “Then, with appalling swiftness, she was gone this morning.”