Although the voice is definitely familiar, the genre is definitely not. Could that possibly be the late Allen Ginsberg, talk-singing while accompanied by horn and guitar? In fact, it is. In conjunction with the release of the 3 CD box set “The Last Word On First Blues” released by Omnivore Recordings, the Forward presents the premiere of “Father Death Blues,” a song by the beat poet laureate himself.
“Ginsberg first tried his hand at writing and recording ‘rock & blues’ songs (with Bob Dylan) - and recorded many tracks with himself as “lead vocalist” - recording sessions that continued throughout the 1970’s and early 80’s accompanied by notable jazz, folk and rock musicians such as David Mansfield, David Amram, Jon Sholle, Happy Traum and Steven Taylor,” according to Pat Thomas, music historian, writing on behalf of the Allen Ginsberg Estate.
“In the mid-1970’s,” Thomas writes. “Allen composed a poem titled “Father Death Blues” about the passing of his father Louis Ginsberg (a notable Jewish poet in his own right). “Father Death Blues” was sort of a mini-Kaddish for his father that first appeared as a poem in the 1978 City Lights book Mind Breaths. Along the way, “Father Death Blues” became a song and Allen described this 1981 recording as “to date, the most perfect of a hundred-odd live performances” – citing “Sholle’s appreciation of variable rhythms, Taylor’s lute-like guitar and delicate harmony, and Amram’s majestic French Horn double-tracked.”