4 Mar 2016

Moondog: "The Viking of 6th Avenue" by Robert Scotto

An interesting image of a great man
There are musicians, and then there are iconic legends. Lemmy was one, Johnny Cash was one, and to a less known extent, Moondog was one. Some people transcend mere musicianship - They live and breathe music and culture, and so their legacy far outlives the person itself. Claiming Moondog was larger than life seems both a gross understatement and a huge exaggeration after having read Robert Scotto's, formerly a professor at Baruch College, biography of the patron saint of counter-culture.

Scotto's book, authorized by Moondog's friend Ilona Sommer, paints a vivid portrait of the American known to some as Louis Hardin, but to a great many others simply as Moondog. Starting off with a short preface by none other than minimalist genius Philip Glass, with whom Moondog had lived and collaborated at times, the work chronicles his life from his early years as Louis Hardin up until his death as Moondog in Germany, 1999. The in depth description covers several aspects of the man's life, from his Christian upbringing and his blindness over his period as the Viking of 6th Avenue in New York City, to his touring and life in Europe and Germany. These are among the more superficial aspects, but through the book we're also treated to a more personal view into the man and the character, through testimonys from collaborators and friends and through great analysis of the work he leaves behind.

I first got to know Moondog through pictures - I had seen photographs of him in his viking get-up and was intrigued like so many others. I sought out additional information and found his music, mostly a weird mixture of jazz, swing, classical and additional avant-garde elements different to each album. I found a kickstarter campaign from Dog Days Films, who wanted to create a biopic about Moondog's life with interviews with many of the people and musicians he had inspired. After having succeeded by the skin of their teeth, the film is set to come out some time in 2016.

"The book tends to be very factual and heavy at times, but manages to produce a nuanced image of the musician, viking and human known as Moondog."

As for the actual contents and the way Scotto passes information, the writer's past as a professor of English at Baruch College shines through. The book tends to be very factual and heavy at times, but manages to produce a nuanced image of the musician, viking and human known as Moondog. I wouldn't recommend it as casual reading for people who are only superficially acquainted with Moondog or people who would read it for it's portrait of the legend but aren't as such interested in the musical aspects, because Scotto's writing is highly saturated by musical and lyrical analysis. It is, however, an absolute must for those who are already into Moondog's music and legend.


Released in 2013 by Process Media


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