Allen Ginsberg

Allen GinsbergOn this day in 1808, Jefferson Davis was born. He lived to be an old, rich, and respected man—despite the fact that he was a traitor. Because, you know, he was a rich white man. We don’t do anything to people like that. After the Civil War, he got a slap on the wrist and then he was pretty much back to the style of life that he had been accustomed to before he committed treason against the United States.

It’s really interesting how many great female blues guitarists and singers came out of the south during the Great Depression. Of course, throughout history, poor women have always had to be strong. And these women were certainly that. You can hear it in their music. One of the best and most recorded was Memphis Minnie who was born in 1897 in Algiers, Louisiana. Here she is doing “Chauffeur Blues,” a song she used to wow the blues scene in Chicago in 1933. (This version is from 1941.)

Dancer and more Josephine Baker was born in 1906. Actor Colleen Dewhurst was born in 1924. Tony Curtis was born in 1925. And musician Curtis Mayfield was born in 1942.

Game show innovator Chuck Barris is 84 today. He wrote an amazing autobiography, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, in which he claimed to have been an assassin for the CIA while he was simultaneously creating shows like The Dating Game. Clearly, he’s not serious. The book is even subtitled, “An Unauthorized Autobiography.” But it is amazing that so many people take is seriously. That is, seriously enough to make even the CIA feel it must counter the claim. And that’s hilarious.

Guitarist Ian Hunter is 74 today. Actor Penelope Wilton is 67. And comedian Jason Jones is 46.

The day, however, belongs to poet Allen Ginsberg who was born on this day in 1926. I’m not that big a fan of his poetry. What I’m more impressed with is that work that he and Jack Kerouac did in bringing Naked Lunch to fruition. But there are poems by Ginsberg that I admire, especially “The Green Automobile.” Here is the beginning of it:

If I had a Green Automobile
I’d go find my old companion
in his house on the Western ocean.
Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

I’d honk my horn at his manly gate,
inside his wife and three
children sprawl naked
on the living room floor.

He’d come running out
to my car full of heroic beer
and jump screaming at the wheel
for he is the greater driver.

We’d pilgrimage to the highest mount
of our earlier Rocky Mountain visions
laughing in each others arms,
delight surpassing the highest Rockies,

and after old agony, drunk with new years,
bounding toward the snowy horizon
blasting the dashboard with original bop
hot rod on the mountain

we’d batter up the cloudy highway
where angels of anxiety
careen through the trees
and scream out of the engine.

We’d burn all night on the jackpine peak
seen from Denver in the summer dark,
forestlike unnatural radiance
illuminating the mountaintop:

childhood youthtime age & eternity
would open like sweet trees
in the nights of another spring
and dumbfound us with love,

for we can see together
the beauty of souls
hidden like diamonds
in the clock of the world,

like Chinese magicians can
confound the immortals
with our intellectuality
hidden in the mist,

in the Green Automobile
which I have invented
imagined and visioned
on the roads of the world

more real than the engine
on a track in the desert
purer than Greyhound and
swifter than physical jetplane.

Happy birthday Allen Ginsberg!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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