Space Is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra

John Szwed

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Space Is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra

Space Is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra By John Szwed Space Is the Place The Lives and Times of Sun Ra Sun Ra a k a Herman Poole Sonny Blount was born in Alabama on May But like Father Divine and Elijah Muhammad he made a lifelong effort to obscure many of the facts of his early life After ye

  • Title: Space Is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra
  • Author: John Szwed
  • ISBN: 9780679435891
  • Page: 408
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Space Is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra By John Szwed Sun Ra a k a Herman Poole Sonny Blount was born in Alabama on May 22, 1914 But like Father Divine and Elijah Muhammad, he made a lifelong effort to obscure many of the facts of his early life After years as a rehearsal pianist for nightclub revues and in blues and swing bands, including Wynonie Harris s and Fletcher Henderson s, Sun Ra set out in the 1950s to findSun Ra a k a Herman Poole Sonny Blount was born in Alabama on May 22, 1914 But like Father Divine and Elijah Muhammad, he made a lifelong effort to obscure many of the facts of his early life After years as a rehearsal pianist for nightclub revues and in blues and swing bands, including Wynonie Harris s and Fletcher Henderson s, Sun Ra set out in the 1950s to find a way to impart his views about the galaxy, black people, and spiritual matters through the various incarnations of the Intergalactic Arkestra His repertoire ranging from boogie woogie, swing, and bebop to free form, fusion, and whatever, Sun Ra was above all a paragon of contradictions profundity and vaudeville technical pianistic virtuosity and irony assiduous attention to arrangements and encouragement of collective improvisation respect for tradition and celebration of the fresh Some might have been bemused by his Afro Platonic neo hermeticism others might have laughed at his egregious excesses But Sun Ra was at once the last of the great romantic composers, one of the premier avant gardists of the latter half of the twentieth century, and a black cultural nationalist who extended Afrocentrism from ancient Egypt to the heavens.
    Space Is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra By John Szwed

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    One thought on “Space Is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra

    1. tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE on said:

      I grew up in Balti Sun Ra was based in Philly during alotof of my adult yrs there He played in Balti fairly often There was a club on N Charles St called the Famous Ballroom Sun Ra the Arkestra played there It was dark, w one of those disco balls those multi faceted things that spin have light reflecting off them It wasn t a big place but the stage cd manage to hold the Arkestra I have a very fond memory that must be around 30 yrs old by now of sitting at the Ballroom at a round table witnessing [...]

    2. Eddie Watkins on said:

      Sun Ra was fascinating and inspiring and than a little weird, though not as weird as his persona might proclaim, which is to say for all his cosmic out thereness he was grounded , and this book gives a nicely detailed view into how he managed to keep a marginal big band jazz outfit alive and thriving for forty years or It also provides lots of information on his particular philosophy and how he developed it.Sun Ra was like an alien Duke Ellington in tinsel who managed, through luck or cosmic f [...]

    3. Andy on said:

      I don t know if this book de mystifies Sun Ra or confirms his weirdness, but one thing s for certain this is a great book that entertains like only the best jazz can Many members of his big band remained loyal to him for over thirty years, and its easy to see why Sun Ra started out emulating Duke Ellington until he got hooked into the Martin Denny lounge groove while constantly experimenting with then new keyboards and exotic arrangements his movie Space Is The Place was a combination of El Topo [...]

    4. Kevin on said:

      I am, unfortunately, still not finished with this tome, despite having picked it up three different times and saying to myself, Alright, now I finish it It must have been among the hardest biographies to write of nearly any character in barely popular culture, but, unfortunately, it kind of shows Herman Blount was a man who had a creative view of telling stories and giving quotes to reporters, so almost nothing the man said could be taken at face value.Except, perhaps, that he believed he had be [...]

    5. Tom on said:

      Very well done biography on a difficult and enigmatic subject One slight disappointment is that the later years of Ra s life esp last 15 years, much of which he spent touring Europe are treated quite tersely compared to the earlier years, with fewer insights added by the author And, maybe it s just my opinion, but I would have liked to see interviews with Arkestra musicians explaining why they stayed with Ra despite low remuneration, rigorous practice sessions, etc For instance, there s one vig [...]

    6. Franco Vite on said:

      Questa non solo la storia di un personaggio in credibile, sia della cultura afroamericana, della musica in generale, del jazz in particolare.E anche un bellissimo racconto di uno scorcio di novecento gli anni che vanno dal 1940 alla fine del secolo immerso nell ambiente pi avanzato di quella parte di popolazione degli Stati Uniti che stata storicamente la pi osteggiata, umiliata, attaccata nella storia insieme ai nativi di quel continente Quella parte, i neri americani, che hanno prodotto forse [...]

    7. Wes Freeman on said:

      Certainly the best biography of an unbiographiable person, maybe the best biography of a musician ever Telling the story of a man who spent his adulthood trying to outdistance his own humanity is a tall order The most concrete things Swzed has to go on are government documents, Ra s notebooks the parsing of same requiring at the very least a slide rule, etymological dictionary and a library of pre Civil Rights era books on Black Nationalism , and offhanded comments from the man that might hint a [...]

    8. flannery on said:

      His first UK performance was one of the most spectacular concerts ever held in this country Not spectacular so much in terms of effects, which were low on budget but high on strange atmosphere spectacular in terms of presenting a complete world view, so occult, so other, to all of us in the audience that the only possible responses were outright dismissal or complete intuitive empathy with a man who had chosen to discard all possibilities of a normal life, even a normal jazz life, in favor of an [...]

    9. Scott on said:

      The most inspiring book I ve read while unemployed and feeling completely uncreative Very glad somebody with a background in Afro American cultural studies wrote a book about Le Sony Ra Instead of exoticizing Herman P Blount like most of the musical world has, Szwed contextualizes Sun Ra in a continuum of Black American occult and futurist philosophers, authors, musicians, and artists.

    10. Intortetor on said:

      c solo da levarsi il cappello difronte al lavoro fatto da john szwed in questo libro cercare di svelare la vita e il mistero di sun ra, dell uomo che non volle essere se stesso e scelse di essere un messaggero venuto dallo spazio, al tempo stesso cercando di spiegare le basi della sua complessa filosofia afrospaziale frutto di svariate letture che spaziavano in quasi qualsiasi campo, e spesso oscillante tra colpi di genio e cialtronate volutamente kitsch oltre ovviamente ad inquadrare la sua mus [...]

    11. Devin on said:

      John F Szwed s superbly researched biography of Sun Ra brings a sense of chronological order to the ears and mind long fascinated by the persona and massive recorded output of the man from Saturn Szwed manages to add another dimension of insight into this already colorful character.The evolutionary development of Ra was particularly interesting I hadn t realized that his house rehearsal habits had already begun before he d left Birmingham The experiences that shaped him on his course from Chicag [...]

    12. Cwn_annwn_13 on said:

      I always found Sun Ra s music and off the wall worldview persona interesting I thought it was or less a put on but from what I get out of this book apparently it wasn t He was a fanatical reader who cobbled together Afrocentricism Black Nationalism with a mish mash of UFology, numerology, science fiction, Egyptian Paganism, Kabbalism, Freemasonry and various other odd influences What he believed was total non sense but he was the type of guy that would have made a greatly entertaining guest on [...]

    13. Peter Landau on said:

      Are you depressed, uncomfortable, feel imprisoned on this green jailhouse That s because space is the place, and while we might be on a journey through the solar system on this global ship, the trip is like driving with one of our four tires missing we re going in circles But there is hope, one hundred years ago, Earth arrival time, came Sun Ra, and with him the promise that striving for the possible is a waste of time Anybody can do the possible Achieve the impossible, that s the real accomplis [...]

    14. Shane Bordoli on said:

      A great book, a page turner and something that really helped put Ra s work in perspective for me Every period of Ra s life and music is well documented From looking around this seems to be the definitive book on Sun Ra and I couldn t get enough of it The only downside for such a well received book is that it could do with an editor going over it with a fine toothcomb It looses a star in my rating because of the very few minor editorial errors I think I found one quote is repeated in part twice, [...]

    15. Mister Mank on said:

      On the final page of this biography, Szwed calls Sun Ra difficult to follow and hard to believe, and that pretty much sums him up Sun Ra resists definition a black nationalist who was evicted from a Black Panthers owned house, a theologist who undermined religion, an avant garde composer who paid homage to big band swing, a serious intellectual who lectured at UC Berkeley with a gift for humor and word play Reading this book won t answer too many questions about what Sun Ra was actually like, bu [...]

    16. Zack on said:

      Great subject exhaustive book, exhausting book, I can usually power through these for the parts about recording sessions or crazy shows, but it seemed like this book covered every musician who d ever been in the same room with him and every book, pamphlet, or tract that he d read This may be the one I d say to skip the book and watch the movie of the same name, low budget brilliance in which Mr Ra blows up a saloon by playing dissonant stride piano so he can play the devil in a chess game, in th [...]

    17. Jonathan Nall on said:

      The story of Herman Blount is the story of one of the twentieth century s greatest musicians From the corner taverns of Calumet City, Indiana to Alphabet City in Manhattan, Sun Ra s story is an incredible read Admittedly, this is not for everyone, but if you like music history and jazz, this biography is a super fun read Rolling Stone magazine called him the missing link between Duke Ellington and Public Enemy Sounds far out Well it is.

    18. Sen on said:

      Read this well over 15 years ago, have to take it down off the shelf and dust it off From memory Swzed is good on the early life of Sonny Blount as a youth in Alabama, his musical roots, his piano playing and some interesting facts as a conscription objector and finally his entry into music as Sun Ra The other parts of the book I could not get into and skipped a few chapters on cosmic hokum, but its a good read for any fans of the this legendary figure in African American music.

    19. David on said:

      So it seems that my main man Charles Mingus ran into Ra in New York s Greenwich Village in the mid 60s Mingus What are you doing down here Ra Well, I often come down to the VillageMingus No, I mean, what are you doing down here on Earth Ra to a journalist, late 70s Did you see Star Wars It was very realistic.

    20. Phil Overeem on said:

      Quite a bio Szwed has the task of taking a musician who was certifiably half genius and half lunatic and portraying him with understanding and dignity, not to mention illuminating him Plus, it serves as an underground history of African American 20th century consciousness and puts Ra s messy discography in order.

    21. Andy on said:

      Story of a great American Saturnian musical innovator which I got a taste of in Blutopia Another great biography, by a good writer historian with a deep knowledge and love of subject reaffirming my general avoidance of modern long fiction when there are so many compelling real stories not to be missed

    22. Colin Masso on said:

      All other music biographies will be judged by me in comparison with this from now on You don t have to be a fan of Sun Ra s music to appreciate this book, but I m sure that it helps Highly recommended.

    23. Steve on said:

      Sun Ra lived and made music on his own terms He dreamt of a planet where African Americans could get away from white people His music is startlingly original and his life is a paragon of ingenious eccentricity Read Listen

    24. C_gibson on said:

      I had no idea just how complicated and exciting Sun Ra s life was until I read this book It tought me a lot about him, his music, his band and music in general He was hardcore DIY 20 or 30 years before the term even existed.

    25. Naeem on said:

      The definitive book on Sun Ra if there is any justice at all the world will be recognized as one of the great artists of our time Szwed does a wonderful job of honoring him with the concrete details of his life and music.

    26. Kirsten Kowalczyk on said:

      I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in jazz music or the history of jazz It describes in detail the life of one of the greatest avant garde musicians of all time From his childhood to him and his Arkestra, this book goes into great depth about his life.

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