Friday, July 16, 2010

RIP, Tuli Kupferberg: Beatnik Peacenik Poet And Fugs Co-Founder

Just saw obit in WaPo for Tuli Kupferberg who died at 84. An old beat poet, he co-founded the Fugs with Ed Sanders, who was more the musician, while, big surprise, Tuli was the lyricist, poet he. Most famous song of the group and by him? "Kill for Peace," still unmatched for its message.

Tuli was the link between the Fugs and Allen Ginsberg, who toured with them in 1967. I saw both of them performing (well, Ginsberg reading) in May, 1967 in the Stock Pavilion at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a peculiar venue where I would also see Martin Luther King, Jr. speak once. There was a hippie Be-In the next day on Picnic Point, a wooded area sticking out into Lake Mendota, which was probably the purest epiphany of hippiedom in the history of Madison, with Ginsberg chanting. I briefly met him there, through a friend who now edits a leading literary magazine.

Regarding that moment of purist hippiedom in May, 1967, when Love would conquer all, it did not last. By October there was the anti-war demonstration against Dow Chemical recruiting on campus, which turned violent, chronicled by David Maraniss in his "They Marched into Sunlight." This would lead to more violence and yet more.

As for Tuli Kupferberg, I met him once many years later, but it was in New York. He was a gentle soul, capable of quietly wry remarks, for all the shouting and carrying on the Fugs did in their performances and recordings. Ultimately still an old beat poet, he had become a sort of grand old man of the East Village, which I guess he continued to be until his recent death. We did not hear much of him in these recent years, and now...

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