The fact that poet-rocker-activist-access pioneer-wildman Tuli Kupferberg died this week wasn’t a great surprise, as he had been having some heavy health problems for months now. The fact that he continued to have videos put up on YouTube until only a month ago was the real surprise, a further indication that Tuli was a dedicated creator of poetic anarchy until the end. He gave away his best work in his latter years, and we in Manhattan (as his access audience) and around the world (as the viewers of his YouTube “perverbs”) were all the better for it.
I already wrote a blog post paying tribute to Tuli, on the occasion of seeing a Hal Willner-produced tribute to his work, and that of his legendary band the Fugs, at St. Ann’s in Brooklyn. I direct you back to that blog post, as it contains some of the best links to Tuli’s work then and now.
To present an update, I would simply like to link to the latest additions to Tuli’s channel on YouTube. Here is yet another clip from Coca Crystal’s terrific cable-access show of the 1980s-90s. Coca’s own channel (with a great Tuli clip) can be found here. Tuli seems to be pretty somber here, but he’s in his prime singing “Where is My Wandering Jew?”:
An invaluable video link is below: the entirety of a show at the Bowery Poetry Club held to raise money for Tuli’s medical costs is up on Vimeo. I attended the show, which was called “A Little More Nothing” and was an awesomely humble little event (none of the heavy star power of the Willner show, but incredibly heartfelt and filled with local talent):
In case, you don’t want to watch the whole show, a few highlights are on YT. Here is a great moment, wherein the latest incarnation of John S. Hall’s awesome King Missile combo perform Tuli’s “The Ten Commandments” in a very Fugs-like style:
And one of Tuli’s colleagues, a former Fug himself, the legendary Peter Stampfel, performed one of his own tunes, an intense acoustic ditty called “Stick Your Ass in the Air” that showed that he, like Tuli, has not mellowed with age. Check out that voice!
Tuli’s final vids for YouTube were not “perverbs” (as he called his aphorism one-liners), but they were, each and every one of them, terrific. Here is a tape shot for Tuli’s MNN show, Revolting News, in which he performs his classic “Slum Goddess of the Lower East Side” in a few different versions (the “minor poet” one is pretty fuckin’ brilliant). When asked about what he thought of his first trip to NYC, Iggy Pop noted he was just looking for “that Slum Goddess of the Lower East Side that the Fugs sang about.”
I believe this is Tuli’s final video for YT. He talks about and performs the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Tuli’s colleague Thelma Blitz notes on the video “this is the song Tuli would like to be remembered by” (which is interesting, in light of his beautiful “Morning, Morning”):
Tuli supplied this brief but pungent closing video for the St. Ann’s night. Heed his words, kats and kitties!
And a very touching way to end this tribute, Tuli singing “Summer is A-Coming In,” a very early English poem:
And since like any good poet, Tuli dealt very beautifully with the specter of death, here is the Fugs song he created from that poem, the haunting “Carpe Diem,” which substitutes the Reaper for summer. The thing about Fugs recordings like this one is that they are so blissfully “out of tune” and yet the song sounds just fucking perfect. “You can’t out-sing the Angel of Death/Sing, cuckoo, sing!”
NYC is a lot poorer without Tuli.