We keep losing the giants, so I keep assembling tributes to their greatness.
This week it was one of the true visionaries, I'm afraid. On Tuesday evening we lost Santee Dakota poet, activist and musician John Trudell to cancer. It was the last battle of a legendary fighter.
Originally I wasn't going to be able to do a post on JT because I didn't have anything to post. But that changed when I found myself in Amoeba Music in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon, and I found an out-of-print box set containing his first 6 albums.
I hadn't heard these records since we used to play them on the radio back in the 1980s and early '90s, so I spent all day Thursday listening to them again and remembering back a quarter century to when last I did. Several times I was moved to tears, a feeling which only intensified when I refamiliarized myself with his story.
Ask yourself: what would you do? If you were an activist fighting for justice and found yourself the target of retribution from the powers that be, what would you do? You'll probably never have to find out. John Trudell did, and to say he rose to the occasion would be to understate things gravely.
It was called a Fire of Unknown Origin at the time, but there's never been much of a doubt that the FBI had more than a passing involvement in the conflagration that killed John's wife, her mother and his three children in 1979. To say that he turned the very bitterest lemons of that awful event into the sweetest lemonade of his subsequent career in Spoken Word would be to further understate the story even more obliviously.
He probably never imagined he would end up in music when he rose to prominence in 1969 and 1970 as the spokesman of Native American activists at the advent of the American Indian Movement, in their takeover of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. After a decade of organizing, on February 12, 1979 he lost it all at the hands of that suspicious blaze at Duck Valley, Nevada.
It must have driven the oppressor truly batty when JT picked up the pieces of his charred existence and began to forge a career which brought his message and his activism to even more people: that of poet provocateur. He made his first LP in 1983 and Bob Dylan allegedly once called his first one with Jesse Ed Davis, aka Grafitti Man from 1986, the best record of the 1980s.
Like I said, the day after JT died I found myself in Amoeba Music in San Francisco and managed to acquire an out-of-print box set containing his first six albums. So although I didn't have any archival material of his and originally thought I wouldn't be able to tribute him on here, finding that set -- whose contents I hadn't heard in a quarter century, at least -- enabled me to put together a single-disc mix with which you can dip your toe into the output of this most extraordinary artist and chronicler of our collective condition: that of human beings, struggling at being human.
selected questions from "The Collection"
01 The Ones Who Know Me
02 One Journey
03 Listening (Honor Song)
04 Fables and Other Realities (EN extended edit)
05 Restless Situations
06 At Some Point (Umatilla Song)
07 Fire In the Village
08 I Went So Willingly (49)
09 Grafitti Man
11 One Side of the Face (1855 War Dance)
12 Lavender's Blues
13 Isn't My Life (Elk Song)
14 Rich Man's War
15 Last Rush In Babylon (EN extended edit)
16 Beauty In a Fade (49 Wait for Me)
18 Born 18 (All Tribes)
19 Never Never Blues
20 Good Thoughts
21 Song of the Trees (Warm Springs Honoring)
22 Shaman (Make a Chant)
Total time: 1:19:31
single-disc sampler from out-of-print "The Collection 1983-1992" box set, compiled and featuring two unique extended edits by me
507 MB FLAC/December 2015 archive link
I did two really neat edits to extend two of the tracks... see if you can spot the handiwork. Additionally I've included an mp3 of a marvelous Pacifica radio portrait of John that aired in 2009, which can also be found right here. So get to work pulling this down as we celebrate the unquantifiable legacy of John Trudell: a giant of a man who left us the other day at 69... and I'll be back tomorrow with yet another post in tribute to yet another irreplaceable colossus.--J.
2.15.1946 - 12.8.2015