by Robert Wilkinson
Yes, the great Allen Ginsberg would have been 88 today.
Allen Ginsberg (June 3, 1926 – April 5, 1997) was one of the original Beat Generation poets, and a major figure in almost every “countercultural” movement since the 50s, from gay rights to the psychedelic era and beyond. He was passionately antiwar, as well as opposed to predatory capitalism and the sexually repressed American culture. His most famous work was “Howl,” which landed him in legal hot water and was a turning point in how homosexuality was viewed by the American public.
I had the privilege of hosting Allen and his partner Peter Orlovsky for an event on the University of Texas campus in 1979 at my second Texas Festival of Metaphysics and Music, a multi-day series of events involving dozens of various types of musical performances, art shows, poetry readings, Eastern and Western philosophical and metaphysical talks, and other non-classifiable cultural events around the city, all for free. In that event on the UT campus, I saw hundreds of students show up on the West Mall for what they believed was a curiosity, and had their minds blown when the two went into “New York City - Get Your Shit Together.” We then adjourned to another venue, where Gregory Corso offered his own magic in a feast of wordplay. Those events were unique in the history of Austin!
Anyway, here are a few clips of this seminal figure of 20th century Beat culture.
From 1956, 25 minutes of video of Allen Ginsberg - Reading at the Poetry Center, San Francisco State University, October 25, 1956 1. A Supermarket in California (2:21) 2. In back of the real (0:44) 3. Introduction to Howl (2:43) 4. Howl I, II, III (18:27)
Here’s a few minutes of Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady at City Lights Bookstore
Here’s a 27 minute video clip An Interview with Allen Ginsberg
This is great! It's definitely a statement about the US government, the military industrial complex, capitalists, manipulators, and religion, all set to playful music by Macca! From the BBC in 1994,
Allen Ginsberg and Paul McCartney – The Ballad of the Skeletons (You can find these amazing lyrics at this link: Ballad of the Skeletons)
Here’s a movie from 2006 of amazing footage of this equally amazing man of arts and letters! An Elegy for Allen Ginsberg
Here’s a great blog with a bunch of links to Allen Ginsberg performances and interviews! The Allen Ginsberg Project
Thanks for everything, Allen. You and Jack and Neal and David and William and the rest blew my young mind, blew America’s mind, and kicked open the doors to all we regard as “counterculture.” You definitely pushed the envelope, and saw American grow up just a little because you refused to accept the uptight repression of the button down “Mad Men” Republican culture of the era. Thanks for sticking your neck out. But for that, none of us would have known the liberation that stared us in the face.
Copyright © 2014 Robert Wilkinson
ps - A huge thanks to friend of the site Alexei for reminding me of this birthday!