Louis Hardin aka Moondog was born in 1916 in Marysville, Kansas. At 5 he started playing a set of drums made by himself with a cardboard box. Later he got a buffalo skin drum at an indian fair, that he used as a Tom-Tom. His fascination with aboriginal American percussion never ceased. The repetitive beat became a distinctive sound that accompanied his compositions until the end of his life. At 16 he was injured in an unexplained dynamite accident and lost his sight, thus turning to an inner world of sounds and unique imaginary visions. After learning the principles of music in several schools for blind young men across central America he started teaching himself the skills of ear training and composition, becoming then a self taught man and artist.
He was never bitter about being blind. In late 50's he appeared in New York city as an eccentric figure, a man with a long beard, dressed as a Viking, claiming for the return to our ancestral roots, against the fake “values” of our modern world.
He transformed himself into something different from the rest of us. Into Moondog the poet, Moondog the pagan, Moondog the composer, Moondog the man in 6th Avenue who challenges society in a playful, rich way.
Although he had recorded a few works during the 50’s it was during the 60’s when he got to be known and admired by his peers and by a new generation that understood his anti-stablishment position much better.
By late 60’s he was a cult figure, probably not a world-famous one but known and celebrated by the likes of Janis Joplin (who covered one of his “rounds”) or James William Guercio (producer of the band Chicago, who “discovered him in 1969 and the guy who produced the album I am posting today)
About Moondog’s work allmusic.com says:
“His music, constructed of direct musical gestures and built mostly from pure modal themes expanded by sophisticated counterpuntal techniques, would now receive the avant-garde label of"minimal or pattern music but this sound has characterized his music since the late 1940's, and is thus a precursor of this postmodern compositional style. In New York, Moondog began to meet legendary jazz performer-composers, such as Charlie Parker and Benny Goodman, and to incorporate jazz inflections as well as humorous philosophical couplets and environmental sounds into his recorded compositions”
In 1974 Moondog left for Germany where he spent the last decades of the century producing a solid body of extraordinary compositions, edited in several marvellous albums, unfortunately not easy to be found today. (I’ll post some in the future if asked).
Among his many fans we can count people as diverse as Phillip Glass, Charles Mingus, Peter Hammill, Elvis Costello, Wim Mertens and the members of the great folk ensemble Pentangle.
In 1989 Moondog returned briefly to America for a tribute in which Glass himself asked him to conduct the Brooklyn Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, which he did in a rather unusual way: by sitting at one side with the musicians and beating a tympani.
He want back to Europe after that and recorded two albums in Peter Hammill’s studio in Bath, England: “Sax Pax for a Sax” and “Big Band” both extraordinary exercises in modernity.
It is said that his last years were very happy. He died, peacefully in Germany while listening to Camille Saint-Saens, in 1999.
His music is the soundtrack a nicer, better, happier world.
Ladies and gentleman, it is for a me a great honor to present to you all, Moondog