Tuli Kupferberg of The Fugs has died at 86

By Bruce Sylvester

Tuli Kupferberg, beatnik poet, political activist/humorist and co-founder of the East Village’s legendary (if not notorious) Fugs, died Monday in Manhattan at age 86.  His “New York Times” obit listed no cause of death but said he’d had two strokes in 2009.

Irreverently yet intellectually fusing folk, filth and literature (not to mention, in “Nothing,”  the Jewish chanting of Kupferberg’s roots), The Fugs exemplified the ‘60s’ hedonism and altruism.  Mystic poet William Blake’s “How Sweet I Roamed From Field To Field” was performed in a ‘50s honky-tonk style.  Lower East Side-oriented “Slum Goddess” had a surf guitar intro.  A few songs celebrated do-it-yourself population control. “Kill For Peace” hasn’t lost timeliness.  In some ways, The Fugs could be considered forefathers of punk.

As Fugs co-founder Ed Sanders wrote in the notes to the reissued “The Fugs’ First Album,” “We thought we were just obeying the dictates of our generation – demand more freedom, have fun through art, and sniff the winds of revolution.”

Born in New York on Sept. 28, 1923, Naphtali Kupferberg was a well-regarded poet whose 1945 bridge-jumping suicide attempt was referenced in Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.”

In recent years, he filmed brief “perverbs” in his book-filled home and posted them on Youtube.   Serious scholars researching the ‘60s’ counterculture can turn to Youtube for Fugs clips that often shouldn’t be discussed in such a respectable magazine as Goldmine.


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About Bruce Sylvester

Bruce Sylvester is a regular contributor to Goldmine magazine.

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