Tuli Kupferberg and George Steinbrenner

July 20, 2010 at 12:26 pm (Uncategorized)

An excerpt from Dean Wareham’s blog. Wareham is one of my favourite musicians and it’s a good investment to pick up music from any part of his career, be it Galaxy 500, Luna or as a solo artists with Britta Phillips.

Tuli Kupferberg, singer with the Fugs, poet, cartoonist and long-time peace activist, passed away last week at age 86. Kramer produced  and released an album (Tuli & Friends) with him on Shimmy Disc in 1989, and Kramer liked to say that Tuli was the wisest person he had ever met. My last contact with Mr.  Kupferberg was a couple of years ago when I called him about reprinting the lyrics for his amusing anti-war song “Kill For Peace” in Black Postcards. Luna had performed this song at the Knitting Factory on the night that the Iraq invasion commenced. About a month earlier (March 2003), Kupferberg and I had both performed at Joe’s Pub, part of an evening titled “Songs of the Vietnam Songbook.” The Iraq War had not yet started, but everyone in the room knew it was coming. I remember Tuli predicting that “the war against Iraq will be a short war, but the war against the United States will go on for a long time.” It seems he was mistaken with the first part of that equation; the war in Iraq has now been going on for eight long years. Maybe he wasn’t anticipating that the initial shock and awe would be followed by a disastrous occupation. Or perhaps he was only observing that what looks at first like a quick and easy war turns into something else. It seems a fundamental truth of the modern world that  most people will no longer tolerate foreign occupiers — no matter what their supposed intentions. In the 19th century European powers could control vast colonies without facing much resistance, as historian Eric Hobsbawm has observed. It doesn’t work that way any more. But enough history, here is Tuli reciting a poem about a superior billy club (this from his 1966 LP “No Deposit, No Return.”

Because the wars are ongoing, they still play “God Bless America” at Yankee Stadium during the 7th-inning stretch (in addition to the “Star-Spangled Banner” at the start of the game). Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner died this week, the day after Kupferberg, and the eulogizing has not stopped — they even observed a moment of silence at Fenway Park. “George is a great guy,” Lou Piniella once said, “unless you have to work for him.” Steinbrenner, who was convicted of making illegal contributions to Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign, and was forced out of major league baseball in the early ’90s for hiring a gambler to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield, had started playing “God Bless America” at the Stadium after 9-11, and many other cities followed suit. But after 10 years of war, the only stadiums still playing the song are Yankee Stadium and Dodger Stadium. In 2008 one Red Sox fan tried to go to the bathroom during the singing of “God Bless America”, but was detained and then ejected from Yankee stadium by two members of the NYPD. He sued Yankee stadium, and won (with the help of the NYCLU); now we are all allowed to go to the bathroom whenever we like.
Here’s another of Tuli’s songs, from Tuli & Friends, a re-recording of the Fugs’ “Morning, Morning”, certainly the prettiest song he ever wrote.

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