Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tuli Kupferberg - 1923-2010

My ex-wife and a few of our friends were into Tuli Kupferberg and The Fugs in the 60s. I thought their stuff had strong lyrics, weak musical organization.

The Fugs started the same year as the Mothers of Invention. Had the former been as dedicated and ingenious as the latter, the band would have done a lot better. They tested other areas more fully than the Mothers, particularly in their very overt political statements, especially early on.

I met Tuli in 1970 or 1971 when he was visiting Seattle. I think Bob Friede introduced me to him. Tuli was being interviewed at KRAB Radio, where I worked and had a daily morning show. He struck me as raucously funny and profane. He told me he was usually more serious.

I didn't know then that Tuli had recently decided to end it all, and jumped off the Manhattan Bridge:

I asked Tuli Kupferberg once, "Did you really jump off of The Manhattan Bridge?" "Yeah," he said, "I really did." "How come?" I said. "I thought that I had lost the ability to love," Tuli said. "So, I figured I might as well be dead. So, I went one night to the top of The Manhattan Bridge, & after a few minutes, I jumped off." "That's amazing," I said. "Yeah," Tuli said, "but nothing happened. I landed in the water, & I wasn't dead. So I swam ashore, & went home, & took a bath, & went to bed. Nobody even noticed."

I lost track of Kupferberg 39 or 40 years ago, only to discover his Youtube niche a couple of years ago. I didn't think it was that interesting. He had a stroke in 2009, and passed away on Monday.

His influence on anarchist art in the important period leading up to the 1968 artistic and political events in the USA and Europe is probably greatly underestimated.

Not many obituaries for Tuli. He was not George Steinbrenner, that's for sure. Howie Klein's obit is touching.

Here's The Fugs, playing Kill for Peace:

Here's Tuli a couple years ago, with NOBODY for President:

Here's a 1968 Swedish documentary, centering on The Fugs:

Part One:

Part Two:

some things never change.

Rest in Peace, Tuli Kupferberg.


Anonymous said...

I remember the Fugs very well. RIP, Tuli.


HarpboyAK said...

RIP, Tuli. I met him and the other Fugs in NYC during the summer of 1967. I was visiting Don McNeill, a former Juneauite who had dropped out of journalism school at Columbia University to be a full time columnist for the Village Voice. Don had been my editor at the J-Bird, the JDHS student newspaper, and was the son/stepson of Ward & Virginia Sims, who ran the Juneau bureau of the Associated Press during the 1960s.

Don took me to a party at Alan Ginsberg's apartment, where I met Tuli and the other Fugs, as well as William S. Burroughs and Lou Reed. A very interesting night...

Unfortunately, Don drowned while swimming in a lake in upstate NY a couple of months later.