Archive for the 'Into The Light' Category
In 1193 there was established a hunting lodge. At a spot that later grew into the village of Chornobyl. A village that more than 700 years later would be said to exist within a country called Ukraine.
The literal meaning, then, is “black grass.”
In 1986, Chornobyl became truly black grass. When a nuclear power plant situated there literally blew its top. And rendered the area uninhabitable for a thousand years.
Chornobyl for many years was home to a thriving Jewish community. The 17th Century Hasidic rabbi and Kabbalist mystic Menahem Nahum lived and taught in Chornobyl. This is among what he said:
Rabbi Nahum said no man was beyond redemption. He said redemption was established before the creation of the world itself, that’s how important redemption is. No one can take it away.
—Despite the pogrom during the Russian Civil War, when rightist counter-revolutionaries gathered together the Jews of Chornobyl, packed them onto boats, steered them out into the Pripyat River, scuttled the boats, and then shot anyone who tried to swim for shore.
—Despite the fact that Boris Brasol, one of the leaders of the killers who shot the Jews upon the water, later emigrated to the US, where he was responsible for the first American edition of the notorious anti-semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Through this, Brasol came to the attention of automaker Henry Ford, who gave him a job on his Dearborn Independent; Brasol collaborated with Ford on the latter’s own despicable anti-semitic tract, The International Jew. That is a book that found favor with the forming Adolph Hitler, whose government later bought vehicles and parts from the Ford Motor Company, even after Germany was at war with Europe. When Hitler’s troops came to occupy Chornobyl, they exterminated those Jews remaining in the region. Every one.
Rabbi Nahum said no man was beyond redemption. He said redemption was established before the creation of the world itself, that’s how important redemption is. No one can take it away.
standin’ on the corner
suitcase in my hand
jack’s in his corset and jane’s in her vest, baby
me, i’m in a rocknroll band
you know they’re sayin’:
ah, sweet jane
I dream a lot.
Yeah. Well. Obviously.
But, I mean, I also dream, when I’m asleep.
Like, this afternoon, I awoke—like any cat, I sleep, and wake, all through the day, and all through the night—from a dream where I was at Lou Reed’s house.
Lou was there; there in his house. In the age and incarnation of the photo featured there just above. Settled; serene. Aged: experienced: passed. Beyond all the bullshit. In the clear.
There, in his house, Lou, he slung over his shoulder a guitar, and, naturally, effortlessly, clear as pure water, played for hisself, me just there hearing, “Sweet Jane.”
Then, he unslung the guitar. And passed it to me. So I could give it a try.
I commenced to fumbling with the strings. Trying to get it right.
Eventually, I hit, more or less correctly, the first couple chords (and in “Sweet Jane” there are really only two chords). And so began feeling a little better about myself.
Then I noticed Lou had settled himself into an easy chair. Had turned on a TV (and the sound was pretty dern loud). And was eating something like popcorn.
I felt kinda forlorn. Left behind.
I was playing his song. But he was paying me no mind.
I pass through these dreams, and they pass through me. But generally I have no idea what they might mean.
Sometimes I pass some crippled day-time gibbering verbal accounting of these dreams on to the wise—and these wise are always women—and, sometimes, through them, the light, it do shine.
For instance, in re the above-referenced Lou Reed dream, after I had cripple-jabbered it onto her, AvoMayor, she did say:
i think that is a perfect Lou Reed dream. How many times do you think he played Sweet Jane in the course of his career?? But he’s retired and trying to just relax now, so he has given it to you..
Use it wisely : ) No pressure or anything………
and jack he is a banker
and jane she is a clerk
and both them save their moneys, honeys
all when they come home from work
sittin’ there by the fire
radio does play
a little classical music from
march of the wooden soldiers
you can hear jack say:
he says: sweet ukraine
ah now baby: sweet ukraine
ah: sweet ukraine
Ukraine is a little tiny baby country.
Appearing, under that name, within those borders, but in the afterbirth of the Russian Revolution of 1917.
During which Lenin & Co., in a new and dusky shiny Red way, carved out, and named, various territories that, for the most part, had been subsumed, some decades, and even centuries, before, into the Russian Empire.
What is today, in these 24/7 times, causing ape-men to foam, from sea to shining to sea, rattling all and every saber, over “Ukraine,” is about a dirt-patch that, for most of recorded history, for about 500 years, was part of Poland.
People, these days, because it is nearly against the law to know history, do not understand that long before these was any Russian Empire—or even any Russia—Poland, like a colossus, did bestride, all and every, of its nearby earth.
But then, in the course of things, like all empires, Poland waxed, and waned, and, eventually, crumbled into dust.
Until it was no more.
Until there became no Poland.
Until, in the late 18th Century, Poland actually ceased to exist. What was once “Poland,” was divided between Russia, Prussia (read: crazed Germans), and the doomed Habsburgs of Austria.
After WWI, to punish the Austrians and Germans, who had been defeated, and the Russians, who had gone wild and gone Commie, the allied powers decided “Poland” should be reconstituted.
They also Made a new and different-one nation, out of what was once Poland, known as “Ukraine.”
Which was, quickly, and in the course of things, absorbed into the nascent Soviet Union.
This “Ukraine,” it yoked together a “western” stretch of people on soil that had, for millennia, yearned towards the west, and an “eastern” stretch of people on soil that had, for millennia, yearned towards the east.
Everybody, west or east, who ever wanted to grow shit, has always liked “Ukraine”—and lots. Because it features deep fertile soil, unmatched, anywhere on the planet, except in California’s central valley. Deep, unbelievably rich topsoil, 20 feet deep.
Of course, these days, the soil, that everybody for millennia has fought so over, is all ruint. Because, there in Ukraine, in 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear reactor erupted, and scarred not only the near and far, but all the planet.
There were forty-one official deaths from the accident, and half a million unofficial.
An honest list would reach to the moon.
some people like to go out dancin’
then there’s other people, baby, they gotta work
—you better watch me now—
there’s some evil mothers
they’ll just tell you that life’s just made out of dirt
that pretty women baby they never really faint
and villains always blink their eyes
that children are the only ones who blush
and that life—LIFE—that life is just to die
but i want to tell you somethin’:
Bobby Hoffman and Yakov stood in the middle of the road facing a security wall decked with shiny coils of wire. Each man wore a yarmulke and a tasselled shawl. Arkady couldn’t make out what they were saying, though they rocked back and forth to its rhythm.
Beyond the wall was another wire-draped wall and, fifty meters farther on, the sarcophagus, as stained and massive as a windowless cathedral. Dim security lamps glowed here and there. A crane and a chimney stack towered over the sarcophagus, but compared to it, they were insignificant. The sarcophagus was apart, alone, alive.
Arkady didn’t need to use his dosimeter; he felt his hair rise.
The chanting wasn’t loud enough to carry far. Bobby’s voice was whispery. Yakov’s was deep and worn, and Arkady recognized the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. Their voices overlapped, separated, joined again. Standing outside the corrupted shell of a nuclear disaster, rocking back and forth like human metronomes and intoning the same verses over and over, “Ose sholom himromov hu yaase sholom.” When they finished the prayer, they simply began again.
Arkady moved into their line of vision. Each step brought the sarcophagus closer, too, as if it had been waiting for the right hour to leap the wall, a hard sight to face without a prayer. Yakov acknowledged Arkady with the briefest nod, to say not to worry, that he and Bobby were fine. Bobby clutched a list of names that Arkady could see because of a rising moon that spilled over the station yard. The list looked long. Arkady remembered Eva saying that a complete list would reach the moon.
I loathe that I feel I have to step-by-step. I just want to play the chords.
Russia, the one place it has warm water, the one place it can sail its boats, is on the Black Sea. And the one place it can access that sea, is through the Crimea. Little strait. Through which the Russians can sail, and sail and sail, from the sea of Azov, to the sea of Black, and then into the Mediterranean. Where it can feel, at last, like it is a Real nation.
Russia, astrologically, is a Scorpio. Which means, at root, it believes that all and every are always out to get it. Whether that is true or no.
Crimea. The Mongols swept into all and everywhere beginning in the 12th Century: no one, anywhere (except the Vietnamese), could stop them.
Centuries later, the last Mongol Khanate to be made to retreat was that in the Crimea, which was absorbed into the avidly advancing Russian Empire, only round about 1800.
Some of them, during WWII, allied themselves with the Germans.
And so, WWII concluded, Stalin decreed it was right and meet to export the entire population of the Crimea, to Central Asia.
When he was done, not a native inhabitant remained.
Stalin—heh—that’s just the way he be. A stone cold killer. With one hand on a vodka bottle. And another on a List.
I these days am only amused by those who burrow deep into dark and dank and-all-and-every all-encompassing theories. Where all is forever explained. By some nefarious puppet-stringing total control over everything.
The current ferment over Ukraine is a perfect example of how it is not so black/white, from however one approaches black/white, as it may seem.
Russia will never give up Crimea. That is the only place its Navy may flow from a warm-water port.
Crimea was part of Russia. Until 1954. When, Khrushchev gifted the Crimea to Ukraine. Why? Because Khrushchev was Ukrainian. He wanted to reward the homeboys. Against all logic. Against all history. But what did that matter? He did it. Because he could.
That’s all there is. There isn’t anymore. Except, again, I’ve wasted my time. I should, really, only have inscribed, these final eight lines. All the rest, in the long view, is either masturbation, or waste.
anyone who had a heart
they wouldn’t turn around and break it
and anyone who’s ever played a part
they wouldn’t turn around and hate it
they say: jane
I understand that in this universe there recently concluded an “Olympics.”
A “Winter Olympics.”
In my universe, there has never been any such thing.
Because that’s where it began. The Olympics.
And it occurred, the Olympics, occurs, only in summer.
Because this is Greece.
And we, here in Greece, we do not have skis. Or skates. Or snowboards.
We, pretty much, don’t even have snow.
So we don’t have sports in winter. Instead, in winter, we go inside. We build wee fires. We eat warm food. And we, hot, get jiggy with it.
All the latter-day, today, Olympics events, here in my universe, they are as those that occurred 1600 years or so ago. There in Greece. And the performers, now as then, represent only themselves. And, now as then, they compete stark naked.
For the fine high sensual breeze passing across their oiled bodies, as they do disport and play.
Maybe somebody will win.
In our universe, we remember that the original Olympics were about fucking and fighting.
In your universe, you don’t much fuck. You just fight.
I understand that in your universe the “Olympics” occur every two years and they move from place to place where billions are spent on temporary crazed transitory facilities and the Olympoid mavens are always inventing new events and each team screams at each other team that there is cheating and the athletes are festooned and costumed and dragooned by peculiar artificial ephemeral constructs known as “nations” and are not individual free human beings alive on this earth but limpy-loo computers the rulers may soon someday be able to control through their teeth.
Meat nor drink nor money have I none.
I am so glad that I do not live in your universe. But instead live in mine.
Where the Olympics, once resurrected, were sited permanently in Greece. You, you in your universe, currently have a Greece with a bankruptcy problem. In my universe there is no such problem. At all. The permanently-sited Olympics: it obviated that.
In your universe, you had to have a Putin.
This might have been okay, if he had been made to skate, shirtless, across the ice. That would have been like a Dukakis tank moment.
But, alas, that did not occur.
But that’s okay. Because, here, in my universe, Putin is all so over.
And he was over more than 20 years ago. When the band Electronic released this song—there, below: “Soviet.”
Putin was done then. As he is done now.
So let it be written. So let it be done. Here, as it is, in your heaven. And earth. And everywhere else. You may need. Anyone like him. To be done.
(Alexa posted this on her Never In Our Names blog for Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in 2009. I think it’s worth reposting every year.)
For Just One Day
“And also in the human rights revolution, if something isn’t done, and done in a hurry, the whole world is doomed.”
—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop.”
For just one day, let there be no progress. Let us not find a new way to convert seemingly worthless pieces of earth into technological slaves that fulfill our every whim. Let us not alter the chemical composition of this substance to turn it into something new, something nature never thought of, that will come back in the fish as a poison lasting millions of years. Let us not bring the fossil fuels up from the ground so that we can burn them, their particles rising into the air to return back to us in rain water. Let us not re-engineer the rice so that we get three crops a year instead of two, but are forever dependent on the manufacturers of the rice seed, because it is a sterile, patented product now. Let us leave Mars to the science fiction writers and give up thoughts of permanent homes on the Moon.
For just one day, let us be something less than what we could be. Let us have something less than what we could have. Let us look at what is possible and say, “no thanks,” in favor of what is preferable. Let the moon be for poets who make meaning out of its reflection on a lake. Let all things be as they are born and enjoyed just for that. And may you too be loved and embraced just as you were born, needing no embellishment or proof of your worth. Let how we treat the least among us reveal a societal identity we are proud to claim, one that leaves each of us feeling safe and secure even as we rest in the pure essence of our being.
For just one day, let us not earn our keep. Let us instead be still and listen to the birds sing in the trees, watch the wind blow in the leaves, feel that same breeze against our skin, and smile at how lucky we are to be living on Earth.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction….The chain reaction of evil—hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars—must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.
Today marks the holiday for Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. who dedicated his life to the freedom and dignity of all people, just as they were born. He was slain by an assasin’s bullet, but you still live. There remains a hope that if you dare, if you have the courage and the conviction, you may claim your life as your own and set yourself free.
This is an invitation. Be still and know that you are God, that God is all there is, and that that is good enough.
Once upon a time, there on the deeply sad, old-and-in-the-way mercy-preserve for crippled, doddering, withered, sick, ancient, and/or feeble white people—known round these parts as The Great White—there was a foam-at-the-mouth, projectile-vomiting, glow-in-the-dark racist, who called hisself Uberbah.
Among this man’s many manifest manifold sins, included his inability to inscribe a comment without upchucking either the term “weak tea,” or “hand-waving.”
Well, as it is said, “even a blind pig can find an acorn every once in a while.”
And so, tonight, Uberbah, I bow to you. In all your nightriding, white-hooded, glory.
Because, having heard, and turned round and round in my mind’s hands, like a rubik’s cube of the operative universe, the black man’s speech, in re the serial killers of the NSA, I conclude, but four words.
There are no nations, no parties, no ideologies.
There are only queens. And kings.
It was a test. And there were people that passed, and there were people that didn’t pass.
When we did the show up in Portland—to give you an idea of someone who passed—some businessman, just walkin’ around on the street, came in; we charged a buck, and for a buck you got to see us make all our noise, and the Dead make all their noise, and anything else that happened.
This guy was in a suit, and he had an umbrella. He got the customary cup of stuff. And about midnight, you could see him really get ripped. Somebody who’d probably never been anything but drunk on beer. But he looked around, and he saw all these strange people, and he looked down, and the spotlight was showing down on him, and he saw his shadow.
And he stands up straight, puts that umbrella over his shoulder, and he says:
“The king walks.”
“The king turns around.”
“Now the king will dance.”
Let’s have a little break here, so that we don’t get too tired. Do you have any questions or problems? First issue: very often after the fourth beat there is a feeling of waiting for something. We wait for the fourth note . . . and the flow of the music stops . . . Or maybe my heart stops.
I have stage fright when I face you. I do not do this every day. Instead I listen to music, and I’m more interested in playing myself, than conducting.
But I will improve before tomorrow. If I live that long.
The most important problem for me at the end of the twentieth century is the continual lack of time. We are always in an awful hurry and still we waste an incredible amount of time, for instance in front of the TV or in a car. While I do like some aspects of our “fast” civilization—I love to fly in airplanes, I am fascinated with cosmic adventures, trips to the moon or Mars—and we do live in astounding times, still, here, in this music, we have to surrender ourselves to this other dimension of time. We have to slow down. Only then the sonority will be fantastic: the higher the music will go, the more distinctly it will sound. I dream of writing such tranquil music. I do not want to compose anything that echoes the modern “rush”—the cell phones, the telephones and faxes. It has to be calm. Life is too beautiful to be wasted in this way, by rushing things so much.
How should I explain it to you? Perhaps you should think about an elevator: you leave behind the basement of everyday life, filled with noises, distractions and anxieties, and you take the elevator up to the tenth floor, or even into the sky of timelessness. When you are in this music, time slows down, it is as if you were in heaven, it is like eternity. Do you understand what I want to achieve there? Total calm.
Let us play it again.
This is a mother’s song. This song has to be expressed both by the orchestra and the soloist. It has to be contemplative in mood, but still maintain the tempo. It approximates the speed of slow walking, when one walks alone, lost in thought. We have to enter into this mood. It is as if we were walking, or even slowly dancing. You have to think about walking here.
For me it is a very difficult movement because I do not usually engage in conducting and I do not know how to enchant you with my hand movements. But music carries me away and I may at some spots—and please forgive me if I do—make a wrong movement at a certain time. But you know the score and could play on. So then do not look at me, at what I am doing, but listen to each other, listen to what happens around you.
I am sorry for these mistakes. But I think that we will be able to communicate soon.
Alpha and omega, the beginning and the ending, which is, and which was, and which is to come.
On those stepping into rivers staying the same other and other waters flow.
The chemical composition of seawater, the Science Men tell us, is identical to that of human tears.
And seawater, they tell us, is from where, on this planet, all life did grow.
I believe that, in a mobius strip of time, the tears shed by us, created the oceans, from which came us.
So. Don’t hold back. Let them flow. All your tears. Like water flow.
And upon them, someday, you may sail. Sail to Caledonia.
I want to tell my daughter not to be afraid. Instead I’ll tell her to be vigilant, and to look to her dreams and nightmares for clues and signs of progress. I’ll tell her to be open-minded about the spirit world, and if it feels right, to call upon the spirits for help. I will also tell her to seek out communities embarked on meaningful and noble acts. The acts need not be as large as the Sword of Heaven, for any act that makes the world a better place is worthy. Above all, I’ll tell her that all action, big or small, must always be accompanied by the opening of one’s heart. As the Sword of Heaven taught me, ritual only takes one to the door. To get through to the other side, there must be love.
The afternoon light moves from the end of my desk and for a moment illuminates the letters on my keyboard. From my window, I can see a huge ship passing beneath the Golden Gate Bridge on its way to dock. I lean back and take it all in. I wonder where the ship is going next. I wonder where the light will fall now.
—Mikkel Aaland, The Sword of Heaven
I write along a single line: I never get off it. I said that you were never to kill anyone, and I meant it.
A boy, so broken; broken from birth. So broken that, as he entered adolescence, he came to physically less resemble a human being, than a pop-eyed sketch of an extraterrestrial gray.
So, through weeks, and months, and years, he closed himself off, from all the world. Eventually sealing all the windows, of his room, and of his soul. His room, he sealed with desperate scratchy black plastic, and duct-tape. So he could freely crouch. Ape-like. Masturbating. Before his video screen. His hands on the controls. Sealing the cessation of his soul. As he ceaselessly engaged, there on his screen, in killing. Killing. And killing. And killing. And killing. Killing. Killing. And killing.
Till, one fine morn, he awoke. Took a face from the ancient gallery. And walked on down the hall.
To blow, with her own gun, his sleeping mother, into bloody chunks.
Killing, this time—at long last—for real.
Then, the broken boy, he went to school.
And rained death down upon them with the second amendment freedom discharge of his god-given-right weapons unrecognizable some they had no longer any face what so proudly we hailed upon twenty little children in the twilight’s last gleaming they were five-year-olds they were of the age of fairies and fingerpaints and a broken boy because he could because any freedom git yer gun git yer gun git yer gun broken boy in America can freedom freedom freedom came to them with a gun and he concealed carry freedom second amendment blew all their faces and their brains away.
They were shot and they were killed and they were buried in closed coffins because they no longer had faces. Their faces splattered all about the schoolroom. Traces of blasted faces among the fairies and the fingerpaints. Five years old. Because freedom. Clap your hands. Because freedom. Clap your hands. Outta yer cold dead hands. Because freedom. Clap your hands. Sometimes. I. Feel. Like. A. Motherless. Child. Because freedom. Clap your hands. Hoo-rah. Semper fi. Aim high. Anchors aweigh. Because freedom. Clap your hands. Clap your hands. Clap your hands now.
I been thinkin’ what to do with my future. I could be a mud doctor. Checkin’ out the earth underneath.
—Days of Heaven
A number of new laws—national, state, local—took effect January 1.
Many of these laws are Good. Such as the local ordinance that now permits me to deploy mammoth spike strips, both east and west, so that by the time these ludicrous motor vehicles lumber by The Manor, their tires are totally deflated, the infernally combusting sadsacks shrieking along, slowly, but on the rims, and thereby no longer posing any Menace, at all, to the squirrels.
Others of these laws are, to many people, Unknown.
Such as the Decision by the 60 Cro-Magnons of the United States Senate, back last spring when they were busy not being sane about the nation’s gun laws, to introduce and approve legislation designating American Warrior as the new national icon, and Ordering that he be depicted on both the nation’s money, and its flag.
You see, throughout many regions of this planet, there exists an iconic representation that is said to embody the essential nature and characteristics of a nation’s people.
In Britain, for example, there is John Bull—a stout, middle-aged, stuffy twit, with a Union Jack emblazoned across his ample and protruding midsection.
In France, meanwhile, there is Marianne, a comely, topless, determined lass, most often depicted leading the people against some Outrage or another.
In Bhutan, there is Druk, the dragon who speaks truth in gentle thunder.
In the United States, traditionally, there has been Uncle Sam. A tall, lanky, bewhiskered gent, with a penchant for scowling and pointing his finger at people, commonly as part of a demand that they go enlist in some wing of the death industry, so they can slog off to kill non-Americans somewhere.
But in the 1970s Uncle Sam was appropriated by the extraterrestrial anarchists of the Grateful Dead, transformed into a merry skeleton, and set about dancing and drugging and fornicating and astral-space-traveling and all sorts of other essential wonderfulness.
So, decided the Cro-Magnons of the US Senate, Uncle Sam, he is over. He has been soiled, besmirched, besmeared. He cannot be redeemed. And, moreover, the new, real, true, iconic representation, that nails, precisely, the essential nature and characteristics of the American people, these days, decreed they, is American Warrior. That is the fellow shown in the photo to the right.
He is America.
American Warrior, he is ugly, and he is obese. He has guns, and he has ammo. He has a computer, so he can howl, to all and every, on whatever might drag its knuckles through his brain, and without surcease, all of the day, and all of the night. He lives in a hole even a termite or scorpion would spurn. He is without sense. He is without taste. He is without grace. He is without shame.
He is America.
That is why he is going on the flag. The design for the new American flag, the American Warrior flag, the flag Mandated by Congress, it may be seen below.
Expect to see it shining, in the rockets’ red glare, soon, from a flagpole near you.
And the money, henceforth, it shall read: “In God—And American Warrior—We Trust.”
American Warrior patches will also, by law, be sewn on to the uniforms of all the nation’s serial killers. And American Warrior decals will be placed upon all the vehicles employed in the American death industry.
Programs shall be introduced into the nation’s schools, to encourage American children to model themselves—physically, mentally, morally, spiritually—after American Warrior. Those children who do not so model themselves—they shall be Punished.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans costumed like American Warrior shall be dispatched across the land—like a sort of escape of characters from a satanic Disneyland—and those who do not salute American Warrior, as he passes by, shall be guilty of a felony, and will serve five years in the federal prison, after which they shall be deported.
It’s a new dawn.
* in an alternative universe
for Carter Camp
My grandparents were “removed” by jackbooted thugs when the cavalry came into our village and forced us at gunpoint to leave our ancestral lands and walk to a prison in Oklahoma. They rarely talked about it but all the old folks of our nation spent the rest of their lives yearning for what they had left behind and what they had lost. In fact that yearning still lives inside me too. As a part of the cost of “manifest destiny.”
Too many Americans think the native genocide in this country is “ancient history” but my Grandmother and Grandfather were alive when our nation (Ponca) was torn from their lands and “removed” to Oklahoma. We lost a third of our people on the long march and the ensuing concentration camp. We were reduced from a thriving people of over 3,000 to around 400 by the end of the century. The final solution damn near worked. But genocide takes many things from a people besides all the lives. My nation still suffers its effects today in many uncountable ways.
The Americans shot several million rounds at me when I led my people at Wounded Knee in 1973. I shot back at them and never considered my citizenship any factor, we were fighting and both sides were trying to kill the others. Two of my soldiers were killed but no one ever objected to it because they were Americans. I was targeted in an up close assassination attempt and damn near got whacked, if I had been I doubt anyone would have said anything.
The only possible opening for a statement like this is that I detest writing.
A gentle exit for the old year with a trio of songs from Fred Neil. Not generally acknowledged as one of the titans of music, but long a favorite of mine.
Neil was a Florida boy with a rich baritone voice, a unique touch on the 12-string, and a fondness for songs melancholy. Some of his earliest tunes were recorded by Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison; he shepherded callow youngbloods David Crosby and Bob Dylan through the Greenwich Village folk-music scene (Dylan backed Neil on harmonica); he inspired talents as disparate as Jerry Jeff Walker and the Jefferson Airplane. Neil recorded four albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the world took no notice. Afforded a modest living through steady royalties generated by Orbison’s cover of his “Candy Man,” and Nilsson’s cover of his “Everybody’s Talkin’,” Neil left Woodstock and environs in the early ’70s and retired to southern Florida, where he spent the rest of his life, until his death in 2001, aged 64.
“[His retreat] was rightfully deserved,” said Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner. “He was treated rather brutally by the music business, and he was a gentle soul.”
Like many in the music trade, Neil spent time as a narcotics person—see, for instance, “Cynicrustpetefredjohn Raga”—but he left that world behind, too. “Fred went in until the water was up to his neck,” said friend Michael Mann, the film director, “and then he got out.”
Neil spent the last thirty years of his life with The Dolphin Project, which he established with Richard O’Barry on Earth Day in 1970, and which is “dedicated to abolishing the billion-dollar dolphin slave trade.”