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Lawrence Ferlinghetti 1919-2021

February 23rd, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments

 Lawrence Ferlinghetti

March 24, 1919-February 22, 2021

When I moved to the Bay Area in Northern California in 1962 I settled in Santa Clara, where I was to go to school. San Francisco was a Mecca to me back then. The whole Beat headspace had been calling my name for years. Santa Clara was a backwater, but San Francisco was less than fifty miles away. As soon as I was able to find a like-minded spirit with a car, we saddled up and headed north up the 101.

North Beach had been calling my name for a long time. Coming back from the Philippines some months before, a stop at an English-speaking bookstore in Tokyo had outfitted me with some Henry Miller books… hard if not impossible to find in the States back then. At City Lights Bookstore there on Columbus Avenue in North Beach, all things were possible from The Rosy Crucifixion to Black Spring. That was 59 years ago, and at that callow age all things were still possible.

A couple or so years later in 1966, Jefferson Airplane would play a show at the Fillmore Auditorium. That in itself would not be that interesting. In some respects, the Airplane was almost like a band in residence. I lived up the street from the Fillmore in the Western Addition and the other band members did not live far away.

Anyway, the ‘opening’ act that night was Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the young Russian poet Andrei Voznesensky. Lawrence read, then Andrei read… then Lawrence read the English translations of the work that Andrei had just manifested. Hard to imagine an unformatted ‘rock’ show like that today. Bill Graham wasn’t into cookie cutter shows, that’s for sure!

Bill would die in 1991, Andrei in 2010 and Lawrence in 2021.

As Lawrence said, ‘The greatest poem is lyric life itself.

Fair winds and following seas brother!

Feb. 23, 2021

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  1. chinaski
    February 23rd, 2021 at 20:58 | #1

    While pondering his considerable accomplishments throughout his long lifes endeavors it occurred to me that “Feed Your Head” would be an apt statement of the City Lights philosophy.

  2. Rob
    February 24th, 2021 at 01:46 | #2

    Very sad news. 102 years is a damn good run and he contributed so much to world culture through his own work and through publishing the works of other important writers. What an impact he’s had!

    The reading you describe, Jorma, reminds me of one that I saw at the 92nd St. Y with Gary Snyder and Nanao Sakaki, where each read his own work, they read each other’s work, and did all of this in both English and Japanese. No JA on the bill, of course, but still a great night to be a part of.

  3. John R.
    February 24th, 2021 at 08:44 | #3

    I guess it is difficult for those of us who came of age after the ’60s to truly appreciate how stultifying post WWII American society was in many ways, and how genuinely radical the Beats and other “counter-cultural” figures were. Seems tame by today’s standards. But not at the time.

  4. carey georgas
    February 24th, 2021 at 09:09 | #4

    I read a very enlightening piece in the Washington Post about Mr. Ferlinghetti that I quite possibly would have skipped were it not for this blog. I come away from here with some tidbit of interesting information way more often than not. Music, poetry, history, sociology – a little haven for the liberal-artist in all of us. Thank you for sharing your trove of memories.

    WATCH NOMADLAND! Best movie I’ve seen since Lincoln.

  5. Jefferson Campervan
    February 24th, 2021 at 10:25 | #5

    Ferlinghetti… I’ll have to look for a book of his poetry I have somewhere that I bought about the same time that I bought Baxter’s … unbelievably 50 or so years ago. (The Eaton’s store in Prince Albert Saskatchewan had a ‘get $2 off with trade in’ sale – teenage me traded Gary Lewis and the Playboys Greatest Hits for Baxter’s. Good move. Baxter’s remains my all time #1 rock album). But as usual I digress.
    On another note – you can actually eat in a restaurant down there? Takeout only up here.

  6. Richard K
    February 24th, 2021 at 11:01 | #6

    @carey georgas
    Watched it last night..Makes me want to hit the road..Yes good film..

  7. Jefferson Campervan
    February 24th, 2021 at 11:20 | #7

    carey georgas

    Watched Nomadland the other night. poignant. Highway Song from Burgers would have been a good selection for the soundtrack, as long as one fades out before the last 2 verses…

  8. Paul Wasserman
    February 24th, 2021 at 12:53 | #8

    Fond memories. When I was working at the Off Broadway I would pop into the Book Shop and mooch around. LF was usually sitting on a high stool if I remember correctly. And usually reading a book. I already knew him and other beat poets by the time I moved to SF. What a kick in the pants!

  9. JohnB
    February 24th, 2021 at 15:13 | #9

    Hey Carey I hope you are well and enjoying this fine day. I have been looking forward to seeing Nomadland ever since I saw the first coming attractions a month or so ago. Besides Francis McDormand , one of my favorite actresses , I heard that parts of it are shot in the Badlands of South Dakota. I have visited the Badlands of North Dakota , Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora. What a beautiful , beautiful place it is. Had a buffalo steak dinner there… Hoping in the future Tuna will do some more dates up in that part of the country. Thanks again Carey for the heads up “And God Bless” A little Red Skelton there for ya . Red used to sign off with that. Anyone remember him ? o@carey georgas

  10. JohnB
    February 24th, 2021 at 15:17 | #10

    Chomping at the bit to hit the road . Over the last few years my buddy and I have tried to plan road trips around Tuna. Regretting not getting out to Montana when they were there recently. @Richard K

  11. JohnC.
    February 24th, 2021 at 17:10 | #11

    I remember first discovering Howl by Allan Ginsberg, and having two thoughts. One was that this poetry spoke to me, unlike a lot of poetry. The second was that, based on how the book looked, as it was published by City Lights, it must be an interesting bookstore. Discovering the Airplane, Dead, Quicksilver around the same time made me want to move to the west coast pretty badly. It took ~10 years, but I finally made it in 1977. It’s a different place now, but still the right place for me.

  12. BrendanC
    February 24th, 2021 at 22:29 | #12

    I only began to appreciate poetry around 30 years ago, in my late 20’s. I’ve had a fondness for what Lawrence called the “escape to lyricism” found in writing since age 4 or 5. He had an unhappy childhood but stayed intact and found a.way out, with help from that Bronxville family. I wonder if that sort of Great Expectation serendipity happens anymore.

    Years ago John Mendoza said his girlfriend suggested they go to a poetry reading. He said, “Why don’t we just break up”.

  13. Art
    February 24th, 2021 at 23:07 | #13

    I carried Coney Island of the Mind around in my teenage backpack in my high school years … got to interview Ferlinghetti after a reading in Providence, RI in the late 70s. A big moment for a big fan of the Beats and the whole SF psychedelic scene.The City Lights press and store were great gifts to our culture.

  14. carey georgas
    February 25th, 2021 at 13:09 | #14

    So, I was reading about some Christian zealots spreading the word that masks are quite possibly the mark of the beast as described in the New Testament book of Revelation I immediately harkened back to a conversation I had over 50 years ago. In 1970 I was a junior in High School. I had a class with this old boy who was raised in the Assembly of God denomination. It was a “spirit filled” denomination way back yonder before “spirit filled”was cool. Anyways, he’s telling me about this new technology that was the mark of the beast. It was called bar coding. By the time we were the age we all are now we’d have them stamped on our foreheads. That, and Henry Kissinger was the Antichrist. Ever hear of the Millerites? (and I ain’t talkin’ Henry) Seems like after a while we’d catch on to the fact that now is all we have. The past is subject to interpretation and the future subject to conjecture. Just wear the damned mask and get a shot soon as you can.

  15. KJ Bleus Parsons
    February 26th, 2021 at 11:27 | #15

    Re: Additional info regarding origins of “Uncle Sam Blues”

    Digging into some blues history this morning ….. The origins of blues tune “Uncle Sam Blues” is quite interesting. Below web link to Library of Congress Archives offers the origins story. Blues & Jazz musician Oran Thaddeus Page is the original performer, on the Savoy record label, 1944.


    Of course, Hot Tuna and Jorma K made “Uncle Sam Blues” a big, big thing during the Vietnam War era. Here’s wishing for Jorma and Jack to continue performing this tune into future years !!!

  16. KJ Bleus Parsons
    February 26th, 2021 at 12:01 | #16

    Re: Additional info regarding origins of “Uncle Sam Blues” :

    Uncle Sam Blues
    Oran Page & Swing Seven
    Savoy Record label 1944



  17. Rob
    February 27th, 2021 at 01:38 | #17

    That means the war in question was WWII.

  18. JohnB
    February 27th, 2021 at 11:08 | #18

    So now this blog is used as a platform to launch attacks on Christians ?

  19. February 27th, 2021 at 11:13 | #19

    What are you talking about?

  20. JohnB
    February 27th, 2021 at 13:21 | #20

    Carey Georges comment.

  21. carey georgas
    February 28th, 2021 at 12:16 | #21

    I am a Christian.

  22. John B
    March 1st, 2021 at 12:25 | #22

    Well then I must ask your forgiveness for misinterpreting your comment and bringing it to Jorma’s attention and not checking with you . Please forgive me…..@carey georgas

  23. carey georgas
    March 1st, 2021 at 20:53 | #23

    @John B
    Already done.