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Ted's Music by David Berrigan PDF E-mail
Ted Berrigan's son, David, has all his dad's early music. I (Codrescu, editor) once visited Ted in 1967 at 101 St. Marks' Place in New York City and he played an LP of Kerouac reading. He loved "the music" of Kerouac's phrasing. Years later, Eileen Myles, who'd been Ted's student in Chicago, told me that she took "Dylan 101," Ted'd creative writing class, and that she couldn't want to take "Dylan 2" next semester, but didn't for some reason.


 NPR has just a series “How, for better or worse, has your parents' record collection shaped your own taste in music?”  It had some touching interviews with kids and their parents about memories of music.  So I was thinking about my father, Ted Berrigan’s, love of music and our few conversations about it.

In the late 1950’s dad lived in Tulsa Oklahoma and worked at a record store, he had a bunch of 45’s he would bring to parties in a box.  A few years ago Ron Padgett, his old friend from Tulsa, gave me the records.  Ron’s mom had them in the attic since Ron Dick Gallup Ted and Joe Brainerd left Tulsa for New York to seek their fortunes.  Ron gave them to me at conference about the adventures and work of these four friends a few years ago.  The conference was pretty upsetting, but it was touching that Ron thought of me.  I have not listened to them yet, but they are cataloged in an appendix of Ron’s memoir, Ted: A Personal Memoir of Ted Berrigan.  Some day I hope to hear them and I have a scheme to put them on a web page.  It seems to be a sort of American songbook of the 40’s and 50’s.

This year I was in Stockholm, which has a lot of vintage vinyl shops, I had a mission to find a copy of the Fugs eponymous album because it includes the track “Doin Allright” that Ted wrote with Lee Crabtree and Richard Alderson. I already had a copy, but I wanted two so both my sons could have one.  Maybe they will have record players someday.  Jim Carroll also based a song “People who Died” on one of dad’s poem of the same name.  You can find both versions online.  I remember, briefly, wishing he could write a few popular songs and make a lot of money.

In 1977 I played him “Hey There Little Insect by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers.  I don’t think he was impressed, but it presaged my entomological career.  I think dad loved Dylan the most, our penultimate visit was at my graduation from Reed College in Portland OR in 1983, I lived with friends in a big old house.  They had a good stereo and a lot of records.  I remember dad lying on the floor in front of the records singing along to Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands and scoping out the collection.

He used to say that poets had to lift their voices up in song. 

Aug. 28, 2012


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