James Gandolfini and Napster - The Originals
I’m beyond bummed to hear that James Gandolfini passed last night. There are a lot of reasons. I’m most sad because it’s the passing of his iconic character, Tony Soprano. There’s not much to say here that Alan Sepinwall didn’t capture in this memorial. I watch and read a lot of pop culture and Tony Soprano was by far my favorite character of all time. He was complex, heinous and also very human. He was also funny as shit - I even set up an Orkut page back in 2005 memorializing my favorite quotes. There are some at the end of this post.
Gandolfini was also a true original. As Sepinwall points out, he wasn’t the first choice for Tony Soprano. Other people could have played that part. But not many could have played it with the depth and humanity as he. Who knows - maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about, but for me, Gandolfini’s take was genius and original. For Godfather fans, only Marlon Brando came close to displaying the contradictory dimensions of brutality, sensitivity and humanity. Then again, Vito Corleone never killed anyone with a wire while on a [college trip](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/College_(The_Sopranos) with his daughter. And as Sepinwall points out, Gandolfini’s rendition paved the way for anti-heroes and shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Shield. Gandolfini was a true original. In startup parlance, he was a misfit.
On a completely different note, I always thought of Napster the same way. Napster was a true original - in my opinion, the most influential creation in the past 20 years. Others have had (arguably) more societal and economic impact - Google’s search engine, the original social networks - but none were as original in my opinion.
Napster completely redefined the way people view media and content. They took the cat out of Pandora’s box, as Christopher Moltisanti might say. People opened their eyes to the notion that they could consume media how they want, when they want and where they want. I’m not talking about piracy and illegal downloads. I’m talking about unbundling of content, watching content on different devices and paying a price commensurate with that exchange.
Napster also introduced peer-to-peer technologies (P2P) to the mainstream. Without mainstream acceptance and trust of P2P, you don’t have Skype and now Bitcoin. You could also argue that it was the first commercial hit to incorporate “crowdsourcing.” Users volunteered their time and energy for a better product. It opened people’s eyes to the the power of de-centralizing power and creativity to create value.
There’s probably a lot of revisionist history in both cases. Maybe someone would have played Tony Soprano like Gandolfini and have had the same impact. Maybe (or most definitely) there would have been a company leveraging P2P to help usher in companies and technologies like YouTube and iTunes. But I’m not sure. And the soon-to-be-released documentary on Napster called “Downloaded” helps explain my thoughts. David Simon, the creator of the The Sopranos, called James Gandolfini a “Mozart”, a “true genius.” It sounds irrational and silly because I never met the guy, but I will miss him.
Some of my favorite Tony Soprano quotes:
You don’t shit where you eat. And you especially don’t shit where I eat.
I’m like King Midas in reverse. Everything I touch turns to shit.
Dr. Jennifer Melfi: It sounds to me like Anthony Jr. may have stumbled onto existentialism.
Tony Soprano: Fucking Internet.
Dr. Jennifer Melfi: Your thoughts have sort-of an Eastern flavor to them.
Tony Soprano: Well, I’ve lived in Jersey all my life.
Bob Brewster: Some people would have you believe dinosaurs existed millions of years ago. It’s just not true! God created the Earth six thousand years ago. And I tell my kids: ‘You have to remember: dinosaurs and human beings lived on the Earth at the same time!’
Tony Soprano: What? Like the Flintstones?
You make your own luck in life.
Oh, poor baby. What do you want, a Whitman’s Sampler?
Tony Soprano: And I don’t want to hear about the freaking economy either! I don’t want to hear it. Sil, break it down for them. What two businesses have traditionally been recession proof since time immemorial?
Silvio Dante: Certain aspects of show business…and our thing.
Those who want respect, give respect.
What use is an unloaded gun?
Log off. That cookie shit makes me nervous.