“The medium is the message.”
—Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan gravesite
Marshall McLuhan
(Herbert Marshall McLuhan)
Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery
Thornhill, Ontario

Marshall McLuhan, a professor and author, was Canada's best known public intellectual in the 1960s and 1970s. His ideas and theories on modern media and its impact on culture and society were widely discussed and debated, particularly in academia, though his fame extended far beyond the classroom. He appeared on numerous television and radio shows and was featured in many magazine articles, including the cover of the March 6, 1967 issue of Newsweek magazine. He sat for a talk with Playboy magazine for their well-known 'Playboy Interview' feature in March 1969. In 1977 he had a small cameo role as himself in Woody Allen's Oscar-winning movie, Annie Hall.

His most famous and influential book, Understanding Media, first published in 1964, is still in print and widely available in several different editions. This book is on the 101 Bananas Required Reading List for the Human Race, and the staff and management of 101 Bananas encourages everyone to read it.

In 1994 a Canadian group called Radio Free Vestibule released a CD entitled "Sketches, Songs and Shoes." (Now out of print.) One track was a hilarious parody poking fun at McLuhan's reputation in some quarters as an intellectual for hipsters. It was sort of a spoken poem with musical chorus interludes and reads like an electronic-era update to John Wayne in Stagecoach or Gary Cooper in High Noon:

The Ballad of Marshall McLuhan

Once upon a time there was a town,
A town where chaos reigned.
Lawlessness was everywhere,
And there was no cohesive theory existing which properly
     explained the mass media and their impact on society
     and man's thinking.
And then one day a stranger came riding into town,
And all the townsfolk gathered 'round and asked him
     his name.
Well he tipped his hat and he said,
"Marshall. Marshall McLuhan."


Well they gave him a star and put it on his chest
And gave him his own office with his name on the door.
Well, wouldn't you know the very next day a fight broke
     out in the Last Chance Saloon.
It was an argument concerning the externalization of the
     senses and it's subsequent effect on man's
     psychological makeup.
It was about to come to blows when Marshall stepped in
And he said, "Boys, a theory of cultural change is
     impossible without knowledge of the changing sense
     ratio affected by various externalizations of our

Marshall McLuhan,
You're such a groovy thinker,
And we really dig what you say
'Cause you've got the best insights into mass media
This side of the Rio Grande.

Well then came the fateful day when a tall dark man all
     dressed in black came riding into town.
All the townsfolk ran inside and locked their doors and hid.
And the bad man stood in the town square and he called
     out for Marshall McLuhan.
He said, "Marshall, I don't agree with your description of
     television as a tactile medium in the context of a
     visual notion of causality."

So Marshall shot him.

Marshall McLuhan,
You're such a groovy thinker,
And we really dig what you say
'Cause you've got the best insights into mass media
This side of the Rio Grande.
Marshall McLuhan...
Marshall McLuhan...
Marshall McLuhan...

—Radio Free Vestibule

Canadian stamp honoring
Marshall McLuhan, issued in 2000.