I met Michael Stipe many years ago. It was at Heathrow Airport in terminal one and I didn’t realise it at the time. He was a very quiet, unassuming man with thin rounded glasses, dressed in a grey coat, wearing a matching hat and not seemingly attracting any attention. Little did I realise that around 7 years later I would be blogging about him. The reason I am writing about him now is that REM, one of “the bands of the 80’s” who influenced a generation of music lovers, have finally hung up their guitars after a glorious 31 year run. Every successful band that has ever been has always had an iconic frontman, and today I look at the horoscope of that man I bumped into at London Heathrow.
Michael was born in Atlanta Junction, Georgia on 4th January 1960 at 00.26am. He is a Sun sign Capricorn (so typical of a Capricorn to be dressed in grey), with a very dreamy Piscean Moon and a Libran Ascendant. The general orientation of this chart is very much angled to the Eastern hemisphere, which indicates that generally, Michael will tend to focus on himself. This is quite a fiery and mutable chart. Five planets in fire signs bring enthusiasm and energy that burns brightly within him, and 6 planets in mutable signs is an indication of adaptability, a willingness to change styles and to experiment.
The combination of Capricorn Sun and Pisces Moon shows a need to search for an ideal, to create & work with abstract and intangible ideas and he does this through the energy of the Capricorn Sun by administrating, by leading from the front. Dealing with and creating music involves using abstract ideas and sounds and making a coherent pattern from them, and of course Michael with this prominent Saturn would have to feel in charge of this whole process. Just with Sun and Moon, even without knowing who Michael was, you could get a feel for what he would do with his life.
The Capricorn Sun sits in the 4th house very closely in conjunction with Saturn. A Capricorn Sun is very much a contradiction in terms, like Saturn the ruler of the sign. Capricorn shows ambition and willingness to succeed but is also associated with fear, with restriction, with pessimism. Often Capricorns veer between the two, being so confident one minute, then wracked by doubt the next. Capricorns can be very conservative and staid one minute, but the next can have the most crazy sense of outrageous fun and humour. With Michael, the Saturn influence is very strong, as through a stressful t-square it connects with his Midheaven and also his Libran Ascendant. Even the gregarious nature of the normally sociable Libran Ascendant is very much tempered here, making him feel uncomfortable in the company of other people, especially large gatherings. With both planets in the 4th house, this will be a very, shy introspective guy who wishes to remain very private, especially at home and with his family. However, when on stage, the wild and crazy side of Capricorn comes out fully; all the pent up emotion and energy is released. I remember seeing a mesmerising, manic Michael Stipe performing brilliantly at the Glastonbury festival in 1999, where he and REM were truly fantastic (this a photo above from that very performance), and a few years later thinking when I met him that surely this wasn’t the quiet & ever so polite guy I had encountered. Here are the two extremes of Capricorn visibly at work.
The Sun and Saturn are part of a wider stellium which sits over the 3rd and 4th houses. In the 3rd house we find Mercury, Jupiter and Mars all in Sagittarius. This is the hose of communication & immediately we think of someone who is has a sharp brain as well as a sharp tongue; someone who will be outspoken. However this conjunction is connected to the Sun/Saturn so this urge to speak is severely tempered and is serious is nature. Yet there still is very much a can do feel of this connection of planets, seeing the big picture, reaching out to the masses. Stipe has had a reputation of being quiet in public but letting the lyrics in the songs outline his political views. If one were to ask him about the subject of his songs, I am betting he would tell you that he was trying to send out a message of hope through his music, aiding & influencing people through the lyrics he was writing. Wether it was about politics, “Document” “Green”, death and suffering “Automatic for the People” or the wider world, love and relationships “Monster”. There is also a philosophical side to him too. Michael will be a perpetual student of theories, relationships & concepts of the understanding of life itself, so long as they have a human element to them. He will be an excellent listener, and will have a talent for getting other people to open up to him. This is the placement of the teacher and had Michael not been a musician, I suspect he may have ended up lecturing about politics or something similar. A musician he became, and a very hard working one too. The Moon in the 6th house speaks of a man who is constantly grafting. There is an element of service to this Moon. The Pisces Moon is very sympathetic and kind and will want to help in any way it can. Michael will see his music as providing a service to heal broken hearts, to inspire people to act as well as to entertain. If you think that Michael will retire from music and creation after REM, think again. The 6th house Moon will not allow this to happen and it makes a triple square to Mercury, Mars and Jupiter. Michael will be generous, maybe overly so, and he will be sympathetic to his friends, but there is a very temperamental and awkward side to him which may flare up suddenly if he is irritated or frustrated, making it very difficult for others around him to put up with his moods. He needs to be on the go all the time, keeping his mind active to stop the grumpy and more aggressive side of his personality taking over.
Looking over to the 11th house of groups associations and received love, we find Uranus and Pluto. This is a really interesting combination, mainly because usually those with Pluto in the 11th house normally have an aversion to joining group or associations, yet Michael was part of REM for 31 years!! The only exception to the rule, seems to be if you believe that the group you are joining will encourage you to change in some way, or if the group itself is integral in helping to change society. I think that Michael’s motivations for starting up REM were the latter, and with Pluto’s influence here, he would want to have complete control of the output, from music to lyrics and even the artwork on the sleeves of the albums and singles. Uranus in the 11th promotes social change and encourages progressive ideas and I believe this has been the driving force behind his music. One other side-line of Uranus in the 11th, is that Michael will have a collection of rather unusual or extremely talented friends, more of that later...
There are multiple trines from Pluto and Uranus to the wide stellium in the 3rd and 4th houses. Mars Uranus is impetuous, inventive and has good natural rhythm and fast reflexes. This is an aspect that has to keep moving forward and hates stagnation and delay. Jupiter Uranus is so progressive and full of new ideas. Think of blasting off into space and exploring the stars, the planets and the universe and you have the basis for Jupiter trine Uranus. Pluto Mercury is the investigator, the man who looks for the hidden motives behind everything, seeking the answers, behind the answers to the questions.
Pluto trine Sun/Saturn shows control, being also the basis for his ambition and drive to be someone special and pushes one to personal success. This trine is part of a larger mini grand trine with Neptune in the 2nd house sitting at the focal point. Neptune in the 2nd is often seen with people with creative careers, especially musical ones. This is Taurus’ house which incidentally rules the throat and voice, and is the most rhythmical of all the signs in the zodiac. It is interesting that in the early albums, deciphering what Stipe was singing about was almost impossible due to his incoherent singing style. One can see the restricting influence of Pluto and Saturn on this Neptune. The heavy nature of this mini grand trine reflect the seriousness and deep introspection of the subject matter and style of rock that REM was known for. Even “Pop Song” and “Shiny Happy People” had an ironic feel, and an undercurrent of sadness about them. Notice how Pluto, Neptune, Mars, Saturn and the Sun all feed directly into the Cancerian Midheaven by aspect, highlighting how central Stipe’s music, control and ambitions have been to his career, seen through the Pisces Moon (Cancer’s ruler). This mini grand trine is business orientated and Michael has expanded into other Neptunian ruled areas like film production and acting.
Finally time to look at Venus in the 2nd house which is in Sagittarius and square to Pluto. Venus here loves quality, harmony and beauty in one’s possessions, is very affectionate and giving in Sagittarius and one is more interested in a spiritual and intellectual rapport with the one you love, rather than going on looks alone. The trine to Pluto also indicates that any relationship you find yourself in must be deep & emotional, and that you may be transformed by it. Now the speculation for a long time was that Michael was gay, however due to his private nature, it took a long time before he opened up and “came out”. Any good astrologer would have known this a long time before Michael’s admission. Look to the 7th house of relationships and we find Aries (Mars’ sign on the cusp). Mars as I mentioned before is trine to Uranus, known for unusual, bizarre and eclectic behaviour. Michael’s choice of partner and relationships would almost certainly go against the grain of social norms, especially in relation to conservative Georgia where he grew up.
Looking to the transit charts, we find transiting Saturn now well now into Michael’s first house. This suggests that the decision to break up REM had been in the pipeline for a year or so. Saturn passing the ascendant often winds up old issues and things that you no longer see as relevant to your life and heralds a new 28 year cycle of growth, one where new talents and ambitions can be developed for the next period in your life. Transiting Uranus had also around that time passed over the natal South Node, which always tends to have the effect of bringing important periods in one’s life to an end. Aquarius, Uranus’ associated sign sits on the cusp of the 5th house of creativity, so I suspect creative divisions within the group (Uranus sits in the 11th house of groups) would have caused the eventual split. I would expect him to continue his workaholic ways with his film interests and also do not be surprised if Michael branches out to do more solo projects, or ones in collaboration with other musicians.