Posts Tagged ‘Sun Ra’

Sun Ra

May 23, 2013

Wednesday May 22nd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Today would have been the 99th birthday of one Herman Poole Blount – aka “Sun Ra”. He was born in Birmingham, AL but claimed to be from the “Angel Race” – not of this planet. That alone makes him one of my all time favorite entertainers, but his showmanship is what I admire most.

   He was the leader of a huge band that he called his ‘arkestra’, and the name of it changed about as frequently as his musical directions. There was the ‘Blue Universe Arkestra’, the ‘Heliocentric Space Arkestra’, the ‘Solar Myth Arkestra’ and many many more. He was an eccentric fellow.

   There’s good weird and bad, and he was very good. By all accounts, he and his band were drug free and upstanding members of the community wherever they happened to be living at any time. They were based for years in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, where Sun Ra died in 1993.

   I never got a chance to see him live, but I’ve seen some very interesting video that puts me in a fun mood every time I see it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7_JUShK4n8&feature=related is one link. There’s also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMMWNwVhq5k&feature=related

   Sun Ra was a true original, and those are difficult to find. George Clinton borrowed a little bit from him and also set up shop in ‘outer space’. The whole ‘Mothership Connection’ concept and costume came out of Sun Ra’s shadow and I freely admit that’s where I got The King of Uranus.

   I remember the first time I saw him on TV when I was a kid. I didn’t know what I was seeing, but it captured my undivided attention as I watched it with my grandparents. Gramps looked like he got it, but my German grandma wanted to take a rolling pin to either the TV, Gramps or both.

   Grandma was not very open to anything new, different or artistic. If it wasn’t a Lawrence Welk ditty or a polka, she didn’t want it within five miles of her. Seeing Sun Ra and his ‘arkestra’ sent her farther into outer space than Sun claimed to be from. The greatest ones are loved and hated.

   I loved the fact that he incorporated outer space themes into his music, and that made me want to know more about him as I got older. He was a remarkable personality to say the least, and his claim of being taken by aliens to the planet Saturn made me like him more. He made that claim a long time before UFO abduction stories were popular, and he stuck by that story his entire life.

   I don’t know if he was from Saturn or not, but I do know he was an underappreciated artist and too eclectic for the masses. He was a recording machine, and it is said he’s the the 20th Century’s most prolific musical artist with over 100 full length albums. Wow! That alone is one major feat.

   It’s also notable that he’s a ‘22’. According to numerology, people born on the 11th and 22nd of a month are allegedly the strongest personalities and most influential people. Sun Ra was born on a 22nd, as was George Clinton (7/22). Rodney Dangerfield was too. (11/22) There are all kinds of entertainers, politicians and celebrities born on 11s and 22s so there may be some truth to that.

   I’m not a ‘22’ or an ‘11’ unfortunately. I’m a ‘pi’ (3/14). I don’t know if any of it means a dang thing, but I do know I am a fan of Sun Ra and not nearly enough people know who he was to pay tribute to a unique performer who had the guts to follow his creative vision for decades. That’s at the top of my list for people I admire most, and he’s up there with the very best. He spent his life entertaining this planet – whether he was born here or not. What better way to invest one’s time?

Sun Ra

Sun Ra

The King of Jupiter?

The King of Jupiter?

 

One Cosmic Cat

One Cosmic Cat

Facing The Music

May 15, 2013

Monday May 13th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL  

   Here’s another major life’s regret to toss on my ever growing pile: I never made the investment of time and energy to create music. I really wish I would have taken an opportunity at some point to at least learn the basics of music so I could have added it to my repertoire of creative outlets.

   I’m not saying I would have made a career of it or even attempted to, but I really think it would have added all kinds of interesting angles to everything I’ve already done. It would have been the perfect fit for my already ‘out there’ left handed creative mind set, and I think I missed the boat.

   I can’t sing a lick, and I know it. That’s just not in me, but I think playing some instrument and especially writing songs would definitely have been for me. It’s a craft and art form just like joke writing is, and I think a lot of the same brain cells are used to create each. I live for that process.

   I remember reading somewhere that Steve Allen had written thousands of songs throughout his life – even though I can’t think of even one hit. It doesn’t matter I guess, the process is rewarding if nothing else. It can be financially lucrative too, I suppose. Hit songs are what pay royalties for a lifetime. People want to hear them over and over and over again. Who ever wrote a ‘hit joke’?

   The creative side of the music and comedy crafts may be the same, but getting one’s chops are completely different. A comedian has to go up and suffer constant pain in front of live audiences for years until he or she learns the ropes. A musician can haul out the old bassoon or piccolo and practice alone in the privacy of his or her own room. It’s still difficult, but not nearly as public.

   As a kid, I don’t remember being around live music at all. Nobody in my family plays anything but the radio, so it’s not like I was born into the Jackson or Osmond clan and given a tambourine for my first birthday. Plus I’m very Caucasian, so that may have impeded my progress as well.

   My natural inner rhythm may not be there from the start, but I bet I could have learned the craft and fit in on some level had I been offered more of an opportunity. I remember farting around on a cheap used guitar when I was around ten years old, and then my grandfather bought a keyboard organ from Kmart for some reason. I aped around on that too, but never had any formal lessons.

   Being left handed didn’t help with any dreams I may have had of becoming a guitar hero. Left handed guitars are like left handed golf clubs. They’re out there, but really rare. I never did have a chance to even see if I liked it or not. Maybe I would have hated it, or maybe I’d be a star now.

   One thing I would have been is eccentric and eclectic. I’m already that now, but it’s not a bad thing in the creative arts. I adore artistic kooks, and always have. George Clinton is one of those, and I mean it as a sincere compliment. He’s brilliant, but out there. Other names that pop into my head that did or do their own thing are Sun Ra, Frank Zappa, Alice Cooper and Thomas Dolby.

   I bet I would have written some interesting songs by now to say the least. I have a comic style, and I’m sure I’d have a music style as well. I love a well written song, especially one that tells an interesting or unique story. Was (Not Was) writes a lot of songs like that, as does Bernie Taupin.

   I suppose I could start taking some lessons now, but I think it’s way too late to make any noise on a serious level. I’d be just another half baked hack hobbyist, but I don’t need any more speed bumps in my path. I did what I did, now I have to live with it. Comedy keeps me busy enough.

What Is Crazy?

May 1, 2010

Friday April 30th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

Feeling MUCH better today. It’s like the dark clouds broke, and a ray of sunshine found it’s way to my face and recharged my batteries. Maybe I’m not all the way back, but it’s a lot better than it was. I’ve been here before too, and now it’s time for the creativity part of this whole mood swing thing. The hurricane is over, time to build stuff with the boards.

I found myself having all kinds of ideas today, as usually happens. I can see things in an entirely new way, and it’s like the darkness jumbles up my brain and reshuffles every idea I’ve ever had and puts a new spin, twist or angle on it. I can’t say I hate it either. It’s fresh and exciting, and I found myself pulling my car over more than once to write ideas down.

I tried to look objectively at my entire life right here, right now, and decide what’s good and what needs to go. What do I lack and what do I want? How am I going to get it? Who do I need to contact more, and who do I need to amputate from my life? Am I doing what I need to do to get results I want? Do I have a plan in place? Is it working how I want it?

It all seemed crystal clear to me as I went back to the post office to mail out more CDs. There wasn’t any sun out today, but this time that’s what I craved. It was the opposite of last time, when the sun was shining inward. Today, it was shining outward. Much better.

I really believe deep down inside, warts and all, I’m a pretty good person. Yes, I have a ton of quirks and shortcomings as we all do, but at 4am when the car breaks down, most of my friends know that if they call me I’ll come help them. That has to count for at least a little something in this life, doesn’t it? I sure hope so, but at least I can sleep at night.

I’m far from perfect, but at least when I screw up I claim it and make an attempt to fix whatever needs to be fixed. If I’m wrong I’ll admit it, and if I’m right I’ll stand by it, even if it’s not the popular choice – which it often isn’t. At least I’ve got some convictions and I’m not worried in the slightest about who likes them and who doesn’t. I’m in my groove.

The point is, I like myself and I’m not upset if I have to spend time alone. I could easily do prison time (other than the lovin’ and squeezin’ with my cellmate part) and those who can’t stand me should really worry about that. Yes, I’m crazy, and if I do ever finally flip, prison is not a deterrent. They’ll feed me, give me a place to sleep, and there are books.

I’m not looking to go to prison, and I’m not looking to flip out on anyone either. I want to have FUN, and I want to set and achieve goals that I like, regardless of what any other person thinks. I want to take my comic abilities to a level even I haven’t imagined, and if I do that I’ll make people laugh the rest of my life and beyond. I want to become a legend.

I already am in some circles, but not always in a good way. Sure, I’ve made some brutal mistakes. Some of them were so good I did them over again and again just to make sure I got credit for them, and boy did I. I’ve tried to undo as many as I could, but not everybody thinks the same way I do. I’ve shot myself in both feet and both ass cheeks many times.

Still, I didn’t die, and I didn’t piss everyone off either. There are a lot of people who are in my corner and always have been, and for them I have such love, respect and gratitude I can’t come close to putting it into words. THOSE are the people that keep me keeping on. Those are the ones I want to think of me as a positive legend and a source of inspiration.

I want to have more television appearances and radio shows and develop and release as many products as I can crank out whether it’s a CD, DVD, book, whatever. I want people to think of me as one of the all time great creative minds, and when my name comes up I want people to break out in a big smile of recognition and say “He was SOMETHING.”

Ted Williams wanted people to look at him walk down the street and say “There goes the greatest hitter who ever lived.” Was he? If not, he was damn close, and one can argue his case quite proudly and not look like a dummy. Ted Williams had guts, and he also had vision. He also had a work ethic, and he was also crazy. We have quite a bit in common.

Ted Williams was loved and hated, but nobody could question he was one of the greats of all time in baseball. I respect the hell out of everything he was and stood for, and I have to believe if we met we’d have gotten along famously. It takes major trouser pebbles to be who one is and not care who likes it or who doesn’t. That’s what I think a real winner is.

I want to be a winner, starting from the inside out. Immediately. I want people to look at me walk down the street and say “There goes the King of Uranus!” They can laugh at me all they want, because it’s FUNNY – and I want to be walking to the bank when they see me walking down the street. I want to squeeze out every last bit of life I have left.

I really don’t care who’s making fun of me or thinks I’m an idiot. I said I was crazy and I am, but crazy doesn’t mean stupid. It doesn’t mean mentally ill, either. Crazy means the opposite of boring and predictable. That’s what my definition is. Einstein, da Vinci, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Sun Ra, George Clinton…they were ALL crazy – but also brilliant.

That’s how I want to be thought of. We’re all going to die anyway, I want to burn out in action with all my creative cylinders firing, not rust out like 99% of everyone everywhere. I never thought this planet was my home, and soon enough it won’t be. If I waste my time being pissed off or complaining, it’ll be that much more painful. Piss on it, I’m in charge.

I know this is rambling and all over the place, but I really don’t care. After four years of writing my thoughts every single day, I finally feel like I’m starting to get a clue of what’s really important. I know I’m not a very good writer, and I don’t claim to be. I do this for a daily discipline, to force myself to at least make some effort to catalog my time on Earth.

If nobody reads it I’ll still keep doing it, especially after today. I feel like I’m peeling an onion and discovering a whole new side of my inner drive, passion and creativity. Getting rejected yesterday was actually a positive, in that I didn’t die from it and I’m dealing with it in a very logical and productive manner. It’s not personal, and I know I have something to offer as far as productivity goes. Crazy is not a bad thing, at least how I intend to use it.