The documentary The Viking of 6th Avenue, recently funded by Kickstarter, chronicles the life and musical career of legendary New York icon Moondog. As a girl, I used to see him in front of Saks Fifth Avenue and other corners around town, a blind man in full Viking regalia proudly, with seeming infinite patience, standing in the midst of the passersby of the time. Many years later I would discover his music and learn his story…

“Moondog, born Louis Thomas Hardin (May 26, 1916 – September 8, 1999), was a blind American composer, musician, poet and inventor of several musical instruments. Moving to New York as a young man, Moondog made a deliberate decision to make his home on the streets there, where he spent approximately twenty of the thirty years he lived in the city. Most days he could be found in his chosen part of town wearing clothes he had created based on his own interpretation of the Norse god Odin. Thanks to his unconventional outfits and lifestyle, he was known for much of his life as “The Viking of 6th Avenue”. —Wikipedia

(Video link HERE.)

Moondog invented many musical instruments and was lived his art, gaining acclaim in his later years. He is said to have taken his inspiration from street and city sounds such as the subway and foghorn. His music was characterized by what he called “snaketime…a slithery rhythm, in times that are not ordinary […] I’m not gonna die in 4/4 time”.  Listen to his Barn Dance here.


Photograph by Stefan Lakatos
Photograph by Stefan Lakatos

I realize now that he was one of the first truely bold artists to enter in my consciousness as a kid, and how important it is to have witnessed a soul like this, who pushed the usual limits and lived the way he wanted to…changing the atmosphere as he did.

via Retronaut

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5 replies on “Moondog: “I’m Not Gonna Die in 4/4 Time.”

  1. Hi, Sally,

    Growing up in the city we must have passed by each other and Moondog in front of Saks, CBS, etc., and I love the idea that we did. I saw him once with Salvador Dali, at a “happening” in Madison Square Garden! You will enjoy my favorite old department store anecdote: After the defunct Best and Co. windows were used as a backdrop for a scene in “The Godfather” (1970s), they left the prop 1940s clothing on the mannequins for a long time. I walked by just as two stylishly dressed women were looking in the windows. “No wonder Best’s went out of business,” one of them said.. “Their clothes were always so outdated.”

  2. Perhaps we DID pass each other. New York can be a very small town. You just jarred loose a memory of Salvador Dali. My mother used to occasionally take me for lunch at the little tea room in St. Regis where Dali stayed. We used to see him there with his pet ocelot. Amazing.

    And I remember Best and Co. as a lovely store…outdated or not.

    Thanks for the memories!

  3. I had never heard of Moondog, growing up as I did in the Midwest, but found out about him from the gorgeous Kronos Quartet album, “Early Music”. The piece is called “Synchrony #2” and is one of the most beautiful and haunting melodies I’ve ever heard. I have been a fan of this astonishing man ever since.

  4. Hi Sally,
    Can you tell me where you found this recording of Barn Dance with the pan pipes? The one on iTunes is a piano version—rousing as ever, and yet the little flute floats in a most wonderful way…

  5. Hi Joan, I bought it as a downloadable mp3 on Amazon. Just go to Amazon and type the name of the song in SEARCH. You can sample it before you buy it to make sure it is the right version.
    I agree the pan pipes really make it.

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