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Sun Ra

Interviews & Essays

A collection of interviews and essays on Sun Ra, his contemporaries, his records, his myth and his fan base.

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Composer, bandleader, pianist and space philosopher, Sun Ra was a unique individual and one of the most colorful and enduring of musical legacies, transcending time, place and culture.

From the mid 1950s until his death in 1993, Sun Ra led “The Arkestra”, a fluid collective that lived and played together under the despotic tutelage of their leader, who claimed to hail from Saturn. Their music was jazz, but avant garde compositions in which players were instructed to adhere to a “space key” — improvising without regard for conventional tonal centers — was symptomatic of an altogether different direction in sound: electronic music, space music and free improvisation.

But Sun Ra’s legendary status was earned as much for his eccentricities as for his unique artistic vision. He developed and propagated a mystifying sci-fi mythology which he weaved into both the music and Dadaist performances of The Arkestra (performances which inspired artists as diverse as George Clinton and MC5).

Sun Ra collects together for the first time interviews with Sun Ra, his confidantes, and his contemporaries, alongside illuminating essays exploring his prolific musical output, mystique, philosophy, fans, and much more. Despite being a greatly influential and prolific musician and spokesperson, few books exist on the enigmatic Sun Ra. This one provides a fascinating overview from respected musicians and fans alike.

Edited by John Sinclair

Contributions from Wayne Kramer, Michael Simmons, Ben Edmonds, Amiri Baraka , Rick Steiger, David Henderson, and others.

Selected contents:

• Sun Ra interview with John Sinclair 1966
• Sun Ra Obituary from New Orleans Times
• El Saturn LP cover art and Sun Ra posters
• The Sun Ra Undergound: zines and bootlegs
• Report from The Embassy of the Living Sun Ra, Tillburg 2008
• Marshall Allen Interview
• Wayne Kramer on Sun Ra
• Sun Ra and the MC-5
• Amiri Baraka on Sun Ra and Black Arts
• Sun Ra Arkestra residency at Detroit Jazz Center 1980
• *Sadiq Bey’s Sun Ra Project in Berlin
• Sun Ra on Film
• The Arkestra Today

W. Kim HeronMetrotimes
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“Sinclair's own 1966 interview and Ra's Detroit-Ann Arbor connections will be of interest to many.”
Florence WetzelAll About Jazz
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“For those already immersed in Sun Ra and his music, this book will fill in gaps and pose some interesting questions. And for those new to his world, this is an ideal place to dip into his mind, providing an interesting introduction.”
Edwin PounceyThe Wire
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“Sinclair's anthology is an entertaining supplement to the archival precision of Geerken/Campbell and Szwed's depth of scholarship — it offers a more intimate portrait of Ra while still keeping the mystery that he surrounded himself with during his lifetime intact.”
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Amiri Baraka

Ben Edmonds

David Henderson

David Kerekes

DAVID KEREKES is co-founder of the publishing house Headpress. He has given talks and written extensively on film and media, including the books Killing for Culture (1994; expanded and revised in 2015), See No Evil and Sex Murder Art. His novella Mezzogiorno is rooted in the impoverished Italian South, touching on themes of family, community, place, and deep-rooted occult and folkloric beliefs. He has contributed to zines and books, most recently the foreword to Snuff: Real Death and Screen Media (Bloomsbury Academic, 2016).

John Sinclair

In 1969, the poet-provocateur, MC5 manager and White Panther JOHN SINCLAIR found himself the victim of that decade’s draconian American drug laws, and facing a twenty-year jail sentence for the possession of two joints. The counterculture Sinclair helped create came to his rescue, however, when John Lennon, Stevie Wonder, Phil Ochs and others performed at a successful benefit gig to petition for his release. Since that epochal moment, Sinclair (whom Ben Edmonds calls the “hardest working poet in showbiz”) has travelled the globe with his beat verses and inimitable growl, performing with some of the world’s finest musicians. He interviewed Sun Ra in 1966.

Michael Simmons

Rick Steiger

Wayne Kramer

Hey! We are making every effort to beat Santa, but under the present circumstances we don't want to disappoint and so cannot guarantee delivery for Christmas. ​