He has written extensively on creative jazz and improvised music and is a regular contributor to DownBeat magazine. He is half the founding team of Corbett vs. Dempsey gallery. Search Query. Featured image. A photographic portrait shows a dark-skinned older man wearing circular mirrored sunglasses, a kh Short A photographic portrait shows a dark-skinned older man wearing circular mirrored sunglasses, a khaki flat cap, and a multicolored scarf.
Is it sane to believe them?
Is it sane not to believe them? Is it "reasonable" to believe that they are from space?
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Is life on this planet not an unreasonable, otherworldly existence in itself? It is a question of grappling with the African-American fight against what Cornel West calls "walking nihilism," a form of resistance waged with "demystifying criticism" or "critical prophecy" Indeed, in their own separate ways, Ra, Clinton, and Perry are just such prophets, busily demystifying through remystifying—as Clinton puts it: "We're gonna blow the cobwebs out your mind. Sun Ra's earthly tenure is difficult to trace with any certainty, but he was born Herman Blount in Birmingham, Alabama, in the middle of the first decade of the twentieth century.
He played piano and arranged for the big-bands of Fletcher Henderson and Eugene Wright before settling in Chicago in the early s.
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There, the Arkestra took shape, eventually establishing a core membership some members of which are still in the group today It was in Chicago, as well, in the mid-fifties, that Ra began experimenting with extraterrestriality in his stage show, sometimes playing regular cocktail lounges dressed in space suits. In Ra left the Windy City, settling for nearly a decade in New York City, where he directly influenced a vast number of East Coast jazz musicians. At the start of the s, Ra once again transplanted the Arkestra, this time basing the group in Philadelphia, where they continue to live, work, and record.
Moving up the coast with his family, in Clinton settled in Newark, New Jersey, where he formed the doo-wop group the Parliaments. From to , the Parliaments recorded singles for various small record labels. Since many of these labels were located in Detroit, the musically adventurous Clinton learned about that city's psychedelic groups, especially MC5, Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes, and the Stooges, and in he formed Funkadelic, an ensemble that innovated the combination of funk and psychedelic rock.
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In the same year, Clinton dropped the "s" from his more commercial outfit, making it Parliament. With these two groups and on his own, Clinton made hit records through the s and into the s, landing smash dance hits like "Give Up the Funk Tear the Roof off the Sucker ," "Flashlight," "Knee Deep," and "Atomic Dog. With the support of Prince and Prince's Paisley Park record label, the last few years have seen a renewed flurry of P-Funk activity, including large-scale concerts and a couple of records. In the mids, at the same time that Clinton was commuting between Newark and Detroit unsuccessfully trying to record for Motown and Ra was parading around Club DeLisa in flowing Cosmo-Egyptian robes playing "Magic Music of the Spheres," Lee Perry was working for Jamaica's preeminent producer Clement "Coxsone" Dodd, locating and recording new singers for Dodd's Studio One record label.
Himself a singer, Perry recorded a number of singles for Dodd and others, and after a nasty fight he split from Studio One and formed his own Upsetter label.
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There, he was central in the evolution of reggae out of its predecessors ska and rock steady Producing Bob Marley and many others, Perry was wildly successful, both in Jamaica and in the expanding British reggae market, and in the s he opened his own recording facility, Black Ark Studios, where he continued to produce. Along with King Tubby, Perry invented the studio technique called "dub," and he recorded some of dub reggae's most outrageous discs.
Perry had a turbulent period in the late seventies, fueled by the frustrations of the Jamaican music industry, substance abuse, and the loss by fire of Black Ark. He was institutionalized for a period, after which he left Jamaica for Europe.
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What is remarkable, uncanny perhaps, about the story of these three musicians, even in their merely mortal incarnation, is how they have independently developed such similar myths. Coming from different backgrounds, working in different musical genres, based in different parts of the music industry, making music for almost exclusively separate audiences, with divergent political and commercial concerns, Ra, Clinton, and Perry have nonetheless created three compatible personal mythologies, each of which is premised on the connection between identity, madness, and outer space.
These mythologies are materialized in three primary areas:. Aliases : Lee Perry, a. Sun Ra, a.
George Clinton and various P-Funk bandmembers , a. Costumes: Since abandoning the requisite big-band tuxedos in the s, the Arkestra has become well known for its colorful gear, glittery suits, and outrageous hats, adorned with Egyptian hieroglyphics, stars, moons, and planets; for the last few years of his life, Sun Ra dyed his goatee red and wore an imitation tiger-skin robe and matching headpiece among many other ostentatious outfits.
During an interview, he turned around to display the image of an erect penis hand-painted onto his jacket, declaring: "This is Jesus Christ, giver of life. We were wearing suits and ties and we'd sweat 'em up in one performance. Then you had to take them to the cleaners and it's a big mess Instead of wearing the suits we'd just gotten pressed, we'd wear the bags they came back from the cleaners in..
We'd just bust holes where the legs and arms would go. If we were on the road and we didn't have a costume, I'd take a sheet from the hotel and just dump whatever I had around on it. Wordplay: Central to the work of Perry, Clinton, and Ra is the reappropriation and manipulation of rational language.
Perry commences his recent song "Welcome Aboard" with the invocation: "God the Holy Ghost, as He was in the beginning forever it shall be, words without end.
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