August 17, 2014
With his curling hairmop and villainous mustache, the artist and activist ED SANDERS (born 1939) stomped from his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, to the Beat cafés of the Fifties and onto the cultural stage of the Sixties — where he held forth in poetry and song, dance, profanity, psychedelic music, and Yippie pranksterism, all of which he details in the 1975 novel Tales of Beatnik Glory and his recent autobiography Fug You. Even before the 1960s turned into the Sixties as we know them, Sanders founded the avant-garde arts journal Fuck You and opened the Peace Eye Bookstore in New York’s Lower East Side; he also created a secret room to film drug-enhanced peace fucking. In 1964, he co-founded the much-beloved satirical band The Fugs, whose excellent 1968 mutant album It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest competed with Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart for hyperbolic freakitude. (The Fugs’ profane music is still spun by idealistic young people and weirdos challenging the beat of the moment in order to move to a more radical and poetic cloud.) In October 1967, Sanders helped mobilize the attempt — made during the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam’s more sober-sided March on the Pentagon — to “exorcize” the Pentagon; along with Abbie Hoffman and other Pentagon-levitators, he subsequently associated with the absurdist direction-action group known as the Yippies. Sanders went on to write Shards of God (1970), a science-fiction folktale about the Yippies and their CIA/FBI counterparts; and — because he’d become fascinated by the Manson Family, whose scene mirrored his own utopian life of free love, free expression, and a passion for the transgressive joke, he wrote a great investigative piece of journalism, The Family (1971).
Since the end of the Sixties, Sanders has produced more music, much poetry, musical inventions, and a very admirable multi-volume America, A History in Verse — an incantatory history of America’s triumph’s and sins viewed at top speed as if through the porthole of a Yippie mothership. He is a great American artist, and I trust that someday there will be a statue of him in Tompkins Square Park.
HILO HERO ITEMS by GARY PANTER: Tadanori Yokoo | Peter Saul | Yasuji Tanioka | H.C. Westermann | Öyvind Fahlström | Cal Schenkel | Eduardo Paolozzi | Tod Dockstader | Yayoi Kusama | Walter Lantz | Richard Lindner | Shigeru Sugiura | Todd Rundgren | Yoshikazu Ebisu | Jim Nutt | Judy Henske | Tod Dockstader | Jesse Marsh | Tetsumi Kudo | Larry Poons | Ed Sanders | Dick Briefer | Dick Briefer
READ MORE about members of the Anti-Anti-Utopian Generation (1934-43).