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"Dog Trot" by Moondog

Louis Hardin, AKA Moondog, made some craaaaazy records back when he was the Viking of 6th Avenue—a curiosity, an Outsider patching together his art from whatever scraps he could find, recording dogs barking and trains rattling under the streets.  He invented his own instruments from bits and pieces and played beautifully.  Years later he’d earned himself an audience and could afford to hire professional orchestras for his recording sessions, but he never lost the creativity that had helped him get by for all those years.  Many artists turn boring when they get old and respectable, but Moondog just got betterThat’s the virtue of doing things the hard way: If you learn to do more with less, imagine how much you can do with more.

ArtistMoondog
TitleDog Trot
AlbumThe German Years
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"Death, When You Come To Me" by Moondog

Someone asked me what’s the weirdest album I ever heard, and of the dozens that came to mind, this was one.  In his later years Moondog would move to Europe, achieve remarkable popularity there, and make some very respectable records.  In his early days, though, he was just another crazy New York street musician, performing on the corner in a Viking costume and occasionally making some very quirky records.

ArtistMoondog
TitleDeath, When You Come To Me
AlbumMoondog
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"Novette No. 1 in D Flat Major - 2. Mov." by Moondog

I want to introduce you to Louis Hardin, AKA Moondog, but I don’t want to distract you with a bunch of irrelevant (though interesting) stories about his career as an eccentric street performer, the Viking of 6th Avenue.  Louis Hardin was a strange man but it would be wrong to dismiss him as a freak.  His work deserves a more dignified introduction.

Anthony Burgess, the novelist and composer, once wrote that music is the “purest” art because it’s so far divorced from meaning and reality.  Poems and stories and even paintings are expected to depict something, some human experience or prosaic truth.  Music is the exception.  It’s just beautiful sounds.  It depicts nothing, or at least nothing you can point to or express in words.  It exists solely as an aesthetic experience. It’s pure emotion, pressed in wax.

I don’t know how to argue that Moondog was more than just an eccentric footnote in music history—that he was, in fact, a genius.  I don’t know what I can say to prove that, so I’ll just play this record.  This song you’re listening to is, to me, one of the most emotionally gripping things I’ve ever heard—but I haven’t got the faintest idea what it’s “about” or why it should have such an effect on me. 

Listen.  Let this record make its case, and Moondog’s.

ArtistMoondog
TitleNovette No. 1 In D Flat Major - 2. Mov.
AlbumSax Pax For A Sax
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"Rabbit Hop" by Moondog

Because some days need a little weirdness.  Here’s Louis Hardin doing his thing.

ArtistMoondog
TitleRabbit Hop
AlbumMoondog & His Honking Geese
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Because It’s Janis Joplin singing a song by Moondog!  What more do I need to say?

ArtistBig Brother & The Holding Company
TitleAll Is Loneliness
AlbumThe Lost Tapes
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Moondog, AKA Louis Hardin, was an eccentric genius, with strong emphasis on both eccentric and genius.  He used to stand on a street corner dressed as a Viking and perform jazz using instruments that he himself had invented.  He made amazing records incorporating instruments both traditional and improvised as well as street-sounds like dogs barking, car engines, children babbling, et cetera.  Andy Warhol, ever a fan of experimental music, painted the cover art for one of these early albums.  Why is every musical act associated with Andy Warhol doomed to be beautiful and obscure? 

Anyhow, the story goes that after years of barely scraping by, a German art student found Moondog performing on that street corner and said something to the effect of, “What the fuck are you doing here?  You’re a genius!  I have all your records!  Come away with me to Europe, where you’ll be given the respect you deserve!”  Or something like that.  However it happened, Moondog moved to Germany where he finally had the time and the budget to record some truly amazing work.

PS: This song was written to mark the passing of Charlie Parker, another musical genius.  If you haven’t listened to Parker’s self-titled Verve LP, or the Charlie Parker With Strings record, you’re missing out.

ArtistMoondog
TitleBird's Lament
AlbumSax Pax For A Sax