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
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.
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.