This is a guest post from Feral House publisher Adam Parfrey regarding two fascinating new books related to photographer William Mortensen.
Now that smartphones have become the camera of choice, it seems strange that photographers once belonged to divergent schools that battled one another, and sometimes quite viciously at that. The style that integrated painterly techniques with film technology was called Pictorialism. The “modernists” who dismissed complex photo techniques called themselves Group f/64 before they enlarged their influence, ultimately becoming known as “Purists.” For the Purists, sharp focus was the only natural way to photograph an image, and nature itself was the preferred subject.
Purists like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston did brilliant work in their careers, but it seemed important to them to remove Pictorialism from textbooks, galleries and museums. Their bête noire was none other than William Mortensen, who had for decades published many instructional manuals and reproduced his work in major photo magazines of the time, most notably Camera Craft. Mortensen specialized in a style that emphasized a grotesque look, which tended to feature many nudes. Compared to the trees and mountainsides that Ansel Adams shot, Mortensen’s work was accused of being exploitative and distasteful.
Purist hate was so intense that Adams even referred to Mortensen as “the antichrist.”
I had first heard of Mortensen from Anton LaVey, who had a photograph called “Fear” hanging in his Black House kitchen. In this photo a distressed woman is enveloped by a black-cloaked demonic entity. Anton acknowledged that Mortensen’s book The Command to Look: A Master Photographers Method for Controlling the Human Gaze changed his life, teaching him the basics of what he called “Lesser Magic.” LaVey also co-dedicated The Satanic Bible to Mortensen.
When Photoshop techniques and manipulated digital photography took hold in recent decades, the Pictorialist style once again became quite prominent though by then the Purists had long ago successfully bounced Mortensen out of public recognition. This was the reason I found it important to publish both Mortensen’s The Command To Look, which also includes Michael Moynihan’s article on Mortensen’s influence on occult researcher Manly Palmer Hall and Anton LaVey. We have also published a Mortensen monograph called American Grotesque: The Life and Art of William Mortensen, that includes an illuminating biography by Larry Lytle, a great deal of heretofore unpublished images and Mortensen’s textual battles with Purists from photo magazines. We hope that this evidence of William Mortensen’s brilliance once again revives his reputation and cements his rightful place in the history of the Photographic Arts.
Here are some examples of William Mortensen’s work from American Grotesque
“Fear” aka “Obsession”
“A Family Xmas, 1914” 1932
More Mortensen after the jump…
Tubbs & Edward from The League of Gentlemen
UK-based advertising and design company A Large Evil Corporation has these amazing vinyl dolls they’re creating daily for their blog to get into the Halloween spirit. I’m completely drooling over the The League of Gentlemen and Mighty Boosh vinyl toys. I never thought in a million years I’d see Tubbs and Edward dolls! They’re just brilliant!
Keep checking out A Large Evil Corporation’s blog as they’re adding new ones all the time. I’m curious as who or what they’ll do next (and if one can purchase these masterpieces? It’s unclear.) Maybe a Jill Tyrell figure (played by Julia Davis) from the dark British comedy Nighty Night?
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
The Hitcher from The Mighty Boosh
The Torrances from The Shining
More after the jump…
No, I have no idea what is going on here.
Is it some kind of underground street theater? Or, maybe performance art? A viral Internet prank? Or maybe, sadly, one of those strange people you try to avoid at all costs on public transport? You know the kind, the ones you never want to make eye contact with in case they sit beside you and start telling you ALL ABOUT IT.
Note: the woman carries a plastic baby—is she perhaps making some kind of (weird) protest over breast feeding in public? But then again, maybe that’s just how she rolls. I think you’ll agree, it’s difficult to say.
Via Live Leak
You would think the old saying (often attributed to Mark Twain) of “Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story, unless you can’t think of anything better to say” would be redundant when it came to Dame Vivienne Westwood’s autobiography. Surely, there would be a surfeit of entertaining and amusing tales to tell, without recourse to plagiarism or possible legal action over libel? Well, possibly not, as the investigative magazine Private Eye has been noting over the past few weeks. It would appear that Dame Westwood’s autobiography (written together with Harry Potter actor Ian Kelly) has been accused of plagiarism, factual inaccuracies and may shortly be on the receiving end of some serious legal action.
As first reported in Private Eye’s Books & Bookmen section on October 3rd-16th, there are “already rumblings from the estate of Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, which has taken exception to her account of the Westwood/McLaren business arrangements.”
But as the Eye points out this is negligible to a “potential libel action” for the authors and publishers Picador.
...the biggest nightmare for Picador, may be a whopper of a potential libel action from her former shop manager. [Westwood] says in the book that, since he is dead, “now we can be honest”—and proceeds to accuse him of stealing all her money from the shop’s takings for eight years, taking “every spare penny”. Alas! The man in question is still very much alive, working as a psychotherapist in west London.
In the same passage she names the manager’s “boyfriend”, a well-known businessman and tycoon in the 1970s, who was “keeping” him. This man in question is also still alive, married with three children, and has never come out as gay. Although his name is slightly misspelt he is clearly identifiable.
Private Eye contacted publishers Picador to ask whether the book had been checked for legal issues—the publishers did not return their calls.
Other claims made by the Dame Viv of Westwood are “not actionable” but are certainly rum:
“The mad old bat is even claiming she wrote lyrics with Johnny Rotten,” says one incredulous veteran of the punk scene. Of the Sex Pistols’ first single, “Anarchy in the UK” [Westwood] says: “The idea and the title were mine.”
Private Eye followed up this story in their 17th-30th October issue, pointing out a number of elementary typos/spelling mistakes and factual errors:
We read of artist “Derek Boucher” (presumably Derek Boshier) and guitarists “Jimmy Hendrix” and Pete “Townsend”. The latter may surprise Pete Townshend less than Westwood’s claim that her first husband, airline pilot Derek Westwood, “managed the Who” in the early 1960s.
This all may be explained by Westwood’s caveat to her biographer Kelly:
I think, in talking about the past, it’s important to think afresh. Nothing from the past is entirely true.
Okay. I guess this may explain the large number of factual errors contained within Westwood’s autobiography, for example her first meeting with Malcolm McLaren is stated as “1963” then three pages later when McLaren was nineteen, i.e. in 1965. Even the dates of the Sex Pistols first gig at St. Martin’s School of Art is out by a year, claiming it took place in 1976 rather November 1975.
And then there are the charges of plagiarism:
“‘Just look at what people like Jack Kerouac were wearing,’ explains Vivienne, ‘after they had left the marines and the army and went on the road. White T-shirt, jeans, leather jacket…’” And so, for several more sentences. But despite that “Vivienne explains”, Kelly has in fact lifted the whole paragraph verbatim from a foreword written by McLaren, not Westwood, to Paul Gorman’ book The Look (2001).
Gorman is not pleased. Although named in a few footnotes, he has so far identified 24 “textual lifts from my work without attribution, credit or acknowledgement”, and has already consulted m’learned friends. “We’re throwing the book at them,” he says, “claiming damages, an apology and rectification of credit etc.” He notes that the copyright in many photos credited to the “Vivienne Westwood Archive” actually belong to photographers or picture agencies who will presumably now want fees and proper attributions.
If Picador is also sued by the man they thought was dead, this car crash could soon become a multiple pile-up.
I am sure a few lawyers across London are rubbing their hands with anticipation. It may be an idea, therefore, to buy your copy before this edition becomes rather scarce!
While we wait for that, here’s Academy Award-winning director Mike Figgis’ documentary Vivienne Westwood on Liberty, which features footage from the 1994 Paris fashion Show and captures Westwood’s captures thoughts on beauty, femininity, show production, clothing… but not the importance of fact checking.
Via Private Eye
When Black Flag opened for Venom at Trenton, New Jersey’s City Gardens on April 2, 1986, there was not an abundance of goodwill in the backstage area. Henry Rollins and his close friend Joe Cole, who roadied for Black Flag, made Venom a figure of fun that night, mocking them to the audience, to their entourage, and to their faces. (It actually makes the story of Slayer’s Tom Araya pissing on Cronos’ head seem not so bad in comparison.) Black Flag had been touring America since January, and was two months away from breaking up, which probably contributed to the vibe.
Afterward, Cole took a tape of Venom’s set from that night, cut out the songs, and spliced together what remained. The result was a collage of singer/bassist Cronos’ between-song patter, a manic, Satanic stand-up routine that is eminently quotable. Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace! put it out as a seven-inch in 1991, and the Beastie Boys sampled it on Check Your Head.
Both Cole’s and Rollins’ diaries from the 1986 tour have been published, so it is possible to reconstruct something of the historical circumstances. Joe Cole describes the show in a diary entry from Planet Joe:
4.2.86 Trenton, NJ: Tonight’s show with Venom was like living Spinal Tap for real. They play “Black Metal.” Satanic rock stars! They acted like they were playing Madison Square Gardens [sic]. The drummer, Abadon [sic], had a drum roadie by his drum set holding a fan on him so that his hair looked like it was blowing in the winds of Hell. The guitar player, Mantas, kept playing these cheesy metal leads and then pointing at the crowd making evil possessed grimaces to let them know he was at war with Satan. The most Spinal Tap of all though was the bass player singer, Cronos. He kept telling the crowd that they were wild. “Aaaaaahhhh, aaaaaaahhhh!!! You guys are wiiiiiiillld! You wanna hear something that will kick yer balls off? The name of this next song is called Love Amongst The Dead. Pretty sicky, eh? If you’ve got any lighters, you can get them out like this guy here! Oookaaaay! Here we go!” I don’t think Cronos could even play his bass. He mostly flexed his muscles, stuck his tongue out at the crowd, gave them the Hail Satan sign while telling them how wild they were. He was delivering the goods and was an awesomely evil rock n’ roll animal. Rollins, [late-period Black Flag bassist] Cel and I drew pentagrams and 666 on the palms of our hands like Richard Ramirez and flashed them at the band members so they could see that we too were at war with Satan. I was over Mantas’ guitar monitor flashing my pentagram, giving him the hail Satan sign while he was in the middle of another cheese lead. He looked up at me, pointed, smiled and winked. At the end of the night we were walking around saying “Hail Satan” to everyone. We are now born again Satanists. “Hail Satan!” has become our new greeting.
And here are the relevant passages from Rollins’ Get in the Van:
4.2.86 Trenton NJ: [...] Now we’re in Trenton. We’re playing with Venom tonight. Joe, C’el and I drew big pentagrams on our hands and every time we see these metal guys, we flash our palms and say, “Hail Satan.” Good fun.
The Venom boys aren’t here yet. Last night in Atlanta, they refused to play their gig. They missed their flight to Trenton. We’re waiting around to play.
[...] Got very little sleep last night and I’m feeling it now. This is an early show. We’ll be done with our set by about 8:30. The only drag is that Venom is using our PA so we have to wait around until they’re done.
4.3.86 Morgantown WV: Played that show with Venom last night. I thought we played real good. When I came out onstage, I did some Satan raps and shit. The best one was “Give me an ‘S’!... Give me an ‘A’!... etc. What does that spell?... Satan!!” It was hot. The crowd was into it. I said, “Hail Satan! Party hearty and surf naked!” We dedicated a few numbers to Satan and had a wicked good time.
Venom took almost an hour to get onstage. They had roadies tuning their guitars and shit. Finally, they hit stage. They were hilarious. It was like seeing Spinal Tap. The drummer had a guy that held an electric fan next to him and kept him high and dry. The singer/bass player was named Kronos [sic]. He had some great raps. He got the crowd to chant what I thought was “Black Funky Metal” over and over which I thought was pretty cool and then I thought that maybe I was wrong about these guys. I found out later that it was “Black Fucking Metal.” Oh, excuse me. I expected them to go into “Sex Farm Woman” at any second. The guitar player was so bad it was painful. I had a great time. Joe, C’el and I were hanging in back saying “Hail Satan” to people and prancing around like idiots. What a night. The bass player was hilarious. He would wiggle his tongue and roll his eyes. But he also would fix his hair every fifteen seconds or so.
After an hour of “I can’t fucking hear you!” they said, “Good fucking night, New fucking Jersey!” and ran for the dressing room.
As Kronos was going to his motel destined ride, Joe jumped in front of him and laid a “Hail Satan” on his ass. The drummer came into our dressing room and asked [late-period Black Flag drummer] Anthony if he knew who was responsible for the drums being fucked up. He also said they were having problems with their wardrobe.
Load-out was great. All the Venom management and roadies were there and we were staring at them — laughing and doing Spinal Tap/Venom raps. They bummed out real bad, but they didn’t say anything. I have a feeling that there will be Venom raps going around our camp for a long time now.
Venom is weak. Everything about them is weak. They can’t even play. They had a bunch of roadies to do everything. Weak, weak, weak. I would love to play with fucking “heavy metal” bands more often. It was fun crushing them. It’s all lights and makeup. What bullshit. Venom suck. They are so full of shit. What a bad joke. They don’t sweat and they probably don’t even fuck.
To see Joe Cole rise from the grave and lay a “Hail Satan” on you, skip to the 51-minute mark in Dave Markey’s tour documentary Reality 86’d.
Wild, man, wiiiild!
Photographer Thomas Dagg created his “Star Wars” series as a sort of homage to his childhood, a time when the films pervaded his imagination on a daily basis. As a kid, he would draw space ships onto magazine photography; this work is merely a more sophisticated version of that same sort of superimposition. It’s the subtlety of the shots that really make the pictures interesting, as if the characters and vehicles are unremarkable details in a mundane setting. Some of them you have to strain to find.
Most of the scenes feature Dagg’s own childhood toys and action figures, only two use shots from the movies. (Careful buddy, that’s the kind of thing that will get you sued!) Honestly, even before noticing the ewoks and AT-ATs, the pictures themselves are beautiful, with a use of light and contrast that creates a quiet intimacy.
More after the jump…
On Friday, June 28, 2013, Michael Bloomberg, then serving out the last few months of twelve loooong years as mayor of New York City, made one of those comments on his weekly radio show that politicians sometimes make when circumstances have forced their hand on a policy position that is neither tenable nor reversible. For some years stop-and-frisk had outraged citizens over baldly racist N.Y. Police Dept. practices of detaining minority citizens, policies that yielded superficial improvements in crime statistics as well as a great deal of busywork for police officers. Rather than own up to the inherent disgrace in treating minorities as criminals, Bloomberg reached for one of those counterintuitive defenses politicians sometimes favor when they’re about to dismiss the rights of a great number of people.
Bloomberg said, “We disproportionately stop whites too much. And minorities too little.”
The next day, in the curious “headline-ese” of the N.Y. Daily News, that sentiment ran as follows:
Democratic candidate for mayor Bill de Blasio, then still in a primary hunt, blasted that statement, and some observers have credited that specific moment of distancing himself from the excesses of the Bloomberg administration with his later electoral victories. Four months later, Bill de Blasio, famously married to an African-American woman and the father of two biracial (and highly entertaining) children, was elected mayor of New York, a choice that was widely seen as a rebuke to Bloomberg’s handling of the NYPD. The era of stop-and-frisk was over—at least so went the hope. We all know that such policies have a way of being tenacious. (De Blasio has had considerable success in reducing the policy.)
Suffice to say that while the rest of the country might find all of this rather picayune, a certain subset of liberal New Yorkers remembers those months fondly. De Blasio became the first staunchly “liberal” mayor of the city since unfortunate David Dinkins, the only African-American mayor the city has ever had, who had the misfortune to preside at the absolute pinnacle of the crack epidemic and a major recession. His perceived failures ushered in Rudy Giuliani, who, suffice to say, looked a whole lot better at the time. In any case, Bloomberg’s comment, the headline, it all is a product of one of those charged moments that maybe only New Yorkers care about (even if they do become noticed by the nation at large): Bernie Goetz, Lizzie Grubman, Sully Sullenberger, Dr. Jonathan Zizmor, Robin Byrd….
Enter Ashok “Dapwell” Kondabolu, of the currently defunct and oddly timely NYC alt-hip hop outfit Das Racist. He’s designed a T-shirt with the Daily News cover. You can get a T-shirt for $20 and a sweatshirt for $40. As Dapwell says on the site, “Remember this guy? Remember when he said this shitty thing? ... Commemorate New York City’s gone but (sadly) not forgotten Mayor Mike with one of these high quality, screen-printed, and 100% ultra cotton sweatshirts and t-shirts featuring the ACTUAL June 29, 2013 cover of the Daily News.”
Rush as fast as you can to get one, because there ain’t many left—indeed, it may be too late. Dapwell says that there is “VERY LIMITED QUANTITY”—no kidding, just yesterday he said on Twitter that there’s just one sweatshirt left and “a dozen” shirts.
Author Peter Bebergal’s new book, Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll examines a wide swath of subcultural history to explore the marriage between mysticism and music in the rock era. Covered in-depth are David Bowie, Killing Joke, King Crimson, Arthur Brown, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. And of course Aleister Crowley and underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger loom large over the proceedings. I asked the author a few questions over email.
What’s the book’s overarching thesis in a nutshell? How did the occult save rock and roll?
The essential spirit behind rock and roll, especially in the early days, is rebellion. It was a social, sexual, political, and even an artistic agitation. The book’s main claim is that at the root of this is a spiritual rebellion. Even rock’s physicality—driven by sex—was condemned as sinful, a temptation by the devil to lure kids into deviant behavior. Fears of rock were also driven by racism as the rhythms and energy of rock was—rightly—seen as coming from African American music, but was believed to be barbaric, tribal, and wickedly pagan. For musicians and fans to push forward was a deliberate, albeit often unconscious, middle-finger to mainstream ideas about what was godly. The Beat Generation, who a decade or so earlier were using art as a form of personal and social revolt, had already paved a path laden with drugs, Eastern mysticism, and occult imagery. It made perfect sense that when artists, and by extension the culture of rock, were seeking a spiritual identity to give weight to their music and meaning to their own lives, they would turn towards alternative spiritual practices.
Furthermore, there is something deeply human that what we call occult practices have given expression to. I would call this a desire for ecstasis, for having an unmediated experience with the divine. Magic and religion were once inseparable, but even when these practices were outlawed, people continued to find ways to have their own personal agency in regards to their spiritual lives. But I think we would prefer to do this in the context of community, as had once been done. This drive will always find a way to manifest, and rock and roll provided a most potent vehicle to reignite the echo of the earliest forms of worship; theater, dance, performance, shouting, drumming, and even intoxication and the shadow of madness, of being possessed by the gods.
All of these elements come together in what I define in the book as the “occult imagination,” which includes not only the way musicians and fans together created a mystique and mystery around the music, but the negative responses often found in the media and the mainstream religious communities. At the crossroads of all these things is where a potent spell has been cast over popular culture. The occult is the spiritual salvation of rock and roll, and I believe if you were to pull out this thread, popular music would sound and look very different.
How pivotal was the role Kenneth Anger played in all this? When I was a kid reading about his misadventures with the Rolling Stones and Jimmy Page, he seemed like such a far-out, fascinating and glamorous character to me. My own lifelong interest in Aleister Crowley probably starts there.
Kenneth Anger’s arrival into the midst of rock and roll culture couldn’t have been better timed. Here were young musicians like Jimmy Page and Mick Jagger, at the top of their game and feeling on top of the world, finding themselves often characterized in the media as dangerous, as bringers of chaos by way of their music and their colorful lives on and off stage. Here comes controversial filmmaker, this “glamorous character” exactly as you say, talking about magic and how art can be a form of ritual. Anger was also older by almost twenty years, so anything he said about Crowley or the occult must have been heard as dark wisdom. Page loved this stuff, but I don’t think he ever actually practiced magic in any serious way, if at all, but Anger was the real deal. And he wasn’t a hermit. He didn’t require you to give up your fame and fortune to be initiated. In fact, for Anger, the fame and fortune were part of magic’s appeal and had the ability to transform culture through art. Jagger liked the Baudelaireian dandyism of Anger, and imagined himself the same. For Page and Jagger, Anger elevated fanciful ideas of the occult into something that could be perceived as serious and real. And their association with him, despite the various falling outs they each had with the filmmaker, only fueled the public’s speculations about Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones being occult devotees or even Satanists. Even though Anger was in no way a Satanist, it was during this time that the conflating of occultism and the devil worship was becoming solidified. It was only deepened when when when Jagger would swagger like a prideful Lucifer when singing “Sympathy for the Devil.” In the end, Anger is a shadow figure that is responsible for giving both the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, two of the most influential rock bands of all time, an aura of magic and mystery that would shape so much of rock’s identity and the way the media and public responded to them. In this sense, Anger’s magic was successful.
Which rockers do you find really consider themselves as occultists working in the rock idiom—occultist first, musician second—versus some who it’s all an act for them. Coil, for instance, seemed equally about the spell-casting and the music.
Coil certainly fit this definition, as well as Psychic TV, who for a time created a kind of virtual magical lodge via Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth. I think for a time Jinx Dawson saw her band Coven as being a vehicle for her occult practice, and later the band Tool integrated their own beliefs about magic into their music. But for some, while they saw their music has having potential to work magic, they still saw themselves first and foremost as musicians. Arthur Brown, best known for his song “Fire” believed a rock concert could function as a shamanic rite. He used every element of the performance, from his makeup to the staging to the way he moved, as an attempt to channel and then release what he believed was magical energy. Others would later copy his stage antics, but had no occult intentions at all, such as Alice Cooper and KISS (although they would of course be accused of being in league with infernal forces). I also think David Bowie for time believed he was working a kind of magic, but again, it was the music and the performance where it was wholly realized.
What’s the weirdest thing you uncovered when researching the book?
I was quite surprised to learn that the members of Killing Joke, following the lead of their singer Jaz Coleman, went to Iceland to await what Coleman believed was a coming apocalypse. I also learned that after Arthur Brown has disbanded his first band the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, he had a mescaline vision in which he was visited by an angel in armor, holding aloft a sword. Brown interpreted this as any real rock musician should: God was telling him to start another band. But I think the weirdest thing was how so much of rock’s association with the occult started by a simple problem of translation. In the 1840s, a young African named Samuel Ajayi Crowther from a Yoruba who had converted to Christianity wanted to start a mission back in his homeland, so he set out translating the bible into Yoruban. Of course not every word had a corresponding in the other language, and so when he came to the issue of what to call the devil, he chose the name of his people’s trickster god, the closest the Yorubans had to a god that could not be trusted, that might tempt you. This god’s name was Eshu, and by the time the deity travelled with other converted Yorubans back to the American South, the god of the crossroads became Satan. There would never be a myth of meeting the devil the devil at the crossroads to learn to play the guitar in exchange for your soul if not for Crowther’s choice. The origin story at the heart of rock’s occult mystique would not exist.
Below, Cerith Wyn Evans video for Psychic TV’s “Unclean”:
In 1964 the “fate of the free world,” ahem, came down to a contest between two men, Democratic President Lyndon Baines Johnson and the Republican challenger, Barry Goldwater, U.S. Senator from Arizona. History tells us that the contest was decided in favor of Johnson, but the whimsically inclined can entertain another outcome in a parallel universe—John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie as U.S. President.
In that heady year the notion of Dizzy for President was a little bit of a thing in the culture, as the famous trumpeter, by then synonymous with bebop itself, announced his intention to become chief executive of the land. Dizzy even announced that his running mate would be Phyllis Diller.
As Barry McRae wrote in Dizzy Gillespie: His Life and Times:
Goldwater was a conservative who had voted against the civil-rights bill and exploited the ‘redneck’ backlash or favouring the “freedom not to associate.” At a Republican meeting he declared that “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”
That such a man could be considered for the presidency worried Gillespie enormously, and when jazz writer Ralph Gleason suggested that Dizzy himself had better credentials for the job, he began to take the idea seriously. Gleason began to use his jazz column to promote his possible candidate. He pointed out Gillespie’s skill with people of all nationalities and the success of the State Department tours. Jon Hendricks put presidential words to Salt Peanuts and Dizzy himself thoroughly enjoyed the whole operation. …
He postulated a change of colour for the White House, suggest Bo Diddley as secretary of state and told doubters that he was running for president because “We need one.”
Gillespie promised that if he were elected, the White House would be renamed “The Blues House.” He proposed the following provocative positions: Duke Ellington (Secretary of State), Miles Davis (Director of the CIA), Max Roach (Secretary of Defense), Malcolm X (Attorney General—“because he’s one cat we definitely want to have on our side”), Charles Mingus (Secretary of Peace—“because he’ll take a piece of your head faster than anyone I know”), Ray Charles (Librarian of Congress), Louis Armstrong (Secretary of Agriculture), Mary Lou Williams (Ambassador to the Vatican), Thelonious Monk (Traveling Ambassador). The campaign buttons that Gillespie’s booking agency had produced some years earlier “for publicity, as a gag” were now enlisted in the effort; proceeds from them would benefit the Congress of Racial Equality, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Martin Luther King Jr. He advocated U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, promised free education and health care, and pledged to put an African-American astronaut on the moon (if none could be found, Gillespie volunteered to go himself).
In 1963 Gillespie released Dizzy for President, which included as its final track “Vote Dizzy,” for which singer Jon Hendricks supplied new political lyrics to Gillespie’s trademark tune “Salt Peanuts” as follows:
Your politics ought to be a groovier thing
Vote Dizzy! Vote Dizzy!
So get a good president who’s willing to swing
Vote Dizzy! Vote Dizzy!