“Don’t you know that yet?”
At City Lights, we can say firmly, yes, Sun Ra, we do know that yet.
For the month of December, we’re featuring books and artists that celebrate the end of the world and the beginning of new ones. Obviously we need to kick off the month with a little Sun Ra. Below we’re highlighting two books from smaller presses about the life and work of this famed Saturnian.
SUN RA: Interviews & Essays
edited by John Sinclair
published by Headpress
Composer, bandleader, pianist, poet and philosopher, Sun Ra is one of the most colourful and enduring of musical legacies, transcending time, place and cultural genres.
From the mid 1950s until his death in 1993, Sun Ra led “The Arkestra”, an ensemble with an ever-changing line-up and name which sometimes numbered as many as thirty musicians living and playing together under the despotic tutelage of Sun Ra himself. Their music touched upon the entire history of jazz, from ragtime to swing, bebop to free jazz, while the band also pioneered the use of new forms, including electronic music, space music and free improvisation. But Sun Ra’s legendary status was earned as much for his eccentricities as for his unique artistic vision. Claiming to be from Saturn, he developed and propagated a mystifying sci-fi mythology which he weaved into both the music and Dadaist performances of The Arkestra (performances which inspired artists as diverse as George Clinton and MC5). His ideas are still the cause of much debate and controversy, the poetry and prose Sun Ra left behind only deepening the ambiguities around his work and ideas.
This book collects together for the first time interviews with Sun Ra, the people that knew him, and his contemporaries, alongside illuminating essays and conversational pieces regarding his prolific musical output, mystique, philosophy, fans and much more.
Space Is The Place: The Lives And Times Of Sun Ra
by John F. Szwed
published by De Capo Press
Sun Ra, a.k.a. Herman Poole “Sonny” Blount (1914–1993), has been hailed as “one of the great big-band leaders, pianists, and surrealists of jazz” (New York Times) and as “the missing link between Duke Ellington and Public Enemy” (Rolling Stone). Composer, keyboardist, bandleader, philosopher, poet, and self-proclaimed extraterrestrial from Saturn, Sun Ra led his “Intergalactic Arkestra” of thirty-plus musicians in a career that ranged from boogie-woogie and swing to be-bop, free jazz, fusion, and New Age music. This definitive biography reveals the life, philosophy, and musical growth of one of the twentieth century’s greatest avant-garde musicians.