Tuli Kupferberg

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Pacifist poet, anarchist author, countercultural cartoonist and co-founder of the band The Fugs  (28 September  1923 – 12 July  2010), born  Naphtali Kupferberg.

Tuli Kupferberg

While it wasn't unexpected the news that Tuli Kupferberg left this life around midday New York time on 12 July 2010 is something that can't be allowed to pass without comment from this quarter. Two strokes in 2009 had left him weak, and news of his state of health had not been encouraging.

In mainstream society the news would probably be greeted with a Tuli Who? so I ‘d start by pointing out that here was one of the last links back to the bohemian subculture that brought forth the Beat Generation, and that Tuli was the one who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge...and walked away unknown and forgotten in Allen Ginsberg's Howl. Tuli's version has it as the Manhattan Bridge, but the other details are more or less the same.

These days we tend to be dismissive when it comes to historical antecedents, and I guess that the Beats are largely forgotten, but pause for a moment to consider what the music of the last half of the twentieth century would have been like without the influence of Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix.

Tuli Kupferberg never found himself in that stratospheric company, but as long term resident and key figure in the Greenwich Village subculture he was part of the scene that produced the Dylan who played a major part in transforming rock music from the early sixties onwards. 

If there wasn't a thriving Greenwich Village scene, there's every chance that Chas Chandler wouldn't have found a certain guitarist playing at the Cafe Wha in 1966. When we're looking back, we tend to see big figures and overlook the factors that shaped them.


B© Ian Hughes 2012