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Last Tuesday night at the Gagosian Gallery in New York City, Ginsberg Recordings—a new collaboration of the Allen Ginsberg Estate and music management company Esther Creative Group—announced its plan to release Ginsberg’s entire recorded library over the next two years. With the reissue of the famed collection to which Bob Dylan contributed, Holy Soul Jelly Roll, set to drop in mid-September, Ginsberg Recordings intends to put out a digital release accompanied by the original liner notes every few months.
Additionally, says Peter Hale of the Allen Ginsberg Estate (and now Ginsberg Recordings), the group intends to sell limited edition vinyl releases in runs of 2,000 copies. (Vinyl heads rejoice!) And classics like Holy Soul Jelly Roll are just the beginning: Ginsberg Recordings will be, for the first time, digitizing and distributing Ginsberg’s commercially released work from the ‘60s and ‘70s, previously confined to the original records and cassettes, as well as unreleased tracks from the archives.
Before the event got under way, guests milled about the gallery to take in the exquisite Richard Avedon exhibit Murals and Portraits, which features a number of photographs of Ginsberg (and runs until this Friday, July 27—if you’re in New York, don’t miss it). I chatted with Bill Morgan, devoted Ginsberg archivist and biographer, who joked about being “in the Ginsberg business” and recalled Ginsberg’s obsessive saving of everything—including receipts dating back to the 1950s—and the 4,000 boxes shipped to Stanford when they purchased the Ginsberg archive in 1994.
After Peter Hale and Nina Kossoff, of Esther Creative Group, addressed the crowd to officially announce the formation of Ginsberg Recordings (check out the Allen Ginsberg Project blog for more info), a few of Ginsberg’s friends and colleagues came forward to perform and reminisce about the Beat legend.
To begin, Ginsberg’s longtime secretary Bob Rosenthal delivered a rousing reading of the poem “Today” from Planet News, followed by music great David Amram, who offered a charmingly non-chronological account of his and Ginsberg’s first night collaborating with Bob Dylan. Intermittently tinkering on a few of the instruments he’d introduced to Ginsberg, Amram also recalled his friend’s generous encouragement of other artists and urged the “young people” in attendance to follow their example and make art with their peers.
Next, Ginsberg’s friend and producer Hal Willner (to whom Amram credited the success of Holy Soul Jelly Roll) took the floor. Referring to the small notebook he carried, Willner laughed that he’d come with a bunch of lies, but, looking around at the many other people who’d known Ginsberg personally, knew he’d get caught. He wondered aloud if Ginsberg would enjoy the various recent film depictions of him, but was certain he’d appreciate the Allen Ginsberg bobblehead doll—which, to my delight, Willner then produced from his bag.
Poet Hettie Jones spoke last, sharing how she’d first met Ginsberg shortly after marrying Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones) when he’d called up her husband and said he needed to see her. They walked all the way to Ginsberg’s apartment on the east side (a running theme in the evening’s recollections), where she discovered Ginsberg needed someone who knew how to sing the Kaddish for a poem he was working on—a poem that would, of course, prove to be among his most famous. In closing, she read a passage from her memoir How I Became Hettie Jones about Ginsberg and lover Peter Orlovsky’s good company at parties—and their fondness for stripping naked at them.
Check out some photos from the event below, and be sure to be on the lookout for the Ginsberg Recordings re-release of Holy Soul Jelly Roll this fall.