Native American John Trudell

Native American John Trudell

Remembering, recognizing, and appreciating

John Trudell

February 15, 1946 — December 8, 2015

Native American Activist John Trudell

When I  watched the documentary RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked the World I learned a lot about the mostly unknown but impressive role of Native Americans in popular music history. (movie site).

While watching this worthwhile film, I kept thinking, well there’s another person I should include a piece about at my site.

As a self-described music buff, I am embarrassed to say that I hardly knew several of the musicians featured. (Not to pop my bubble completely, though, I was happy that I did have records of a few.)

John Trudell was one of those featured whom I’d not known.

Native American John Trudell

Early life

Trudell was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and grew up on and around the nearby Santee Sioux reservation. His father was a Santee, his mother’s tribal roots were in Mexico. She died when he was 6.

He left high school and, as Native Americans had done since the first European wars on Native American land, Trudell volunteered to join the US military. He served in the US Navy from 1963 to 1967.

While there ,  as Native Americans in the military had experienced since those colonial times, he saw the dominant white society’s bias against minorities like Blacks, women, and, of course, Native Americans.

Native American John Trudell

Alcatraz Island

Native American John Trudell
Hopi men from Oraibi, Arizona sent to Alcatraz, 1895. Photograph by Isaiah W. Taber. (Credit Mennonite Library and Archives Bethel College, North Newton, KS)

The island and its use as a prison was a symbol of the US government’s deliberate and ongoing exclusion of Native Americans from becoming self realized within the dominant white society.

As far back as  1895, the government had imprisoned Hopi leaders there for their refusal to send their children to white schools to become culturally white and have their Hopi culture eradicated.

On March 8, 1964 a group of Sioux demonstrators affiliated with a San Francisco organization known as Indians of All Tribes (IAT) occupied Alcatraz Island for four hours.

Native American John Trudell

Out of the Navy

After the military, he became an activist and joined the Indians of All Tribes Occupation of Alcatraz Island (ACT).

September 29, 1969, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a plan to turn the Federal prison site of Alcatraz Island into a monument to the US space program. 

10 days later, on October 9,  the American Indian Center in San Francisco burned down. It had been a meeting place that served 30,000 Indian people with social programs. The loss of the center focuses Indian attention on taking over Alcatraz for use as a new facility. 

After an overnight takeover of Alcatraz on November 9 a permanent takeover occurred on November 20. Seventy-nine Native-Americans seized control. The Indians of All Tribes claimed that the island belonged to Native Americans under the 1868 Treaty of Ft. Laramie, which provided for the return of all abandoned federal property to Native-Americans.

Native American John Trudell

Radio Free Alcatraz

John Trudell ran a radio station called Radio Free Alcatraz from the occupation.

The occupation lasted until June 11, 1970. Although the occupation itself did not reach its goal of returning the island to the Native Americans, the successful occupation did help foster Native American activism which John Trudell would be a part of for the rest of his life.

Native American John Trudell

A life of activism

As a part of the American Indian Movement (AIM) he joined the 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties event when, the week before election day, caravans pulled into Washington, D.C., to present federal policymakers with solutions to the myriad problems in Native America. Within 24 hours, the group took over took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs building and held it for six days.

He was part of the 1973 Liberation/Occupation of Wounded Knee village by AIM as well as becoming the national spokesperson for AIM, a position that he held until 1979.

On February 12,  1979 a fire burned down his home on the Shoshone Palute reservation in Nevada. The fire killed his wife Tina, three children, and Tina’s mother.  The fire was ruled an accident.

Native American John Trudell

Spoken wordNative American John Trudell

In his grief, Trudell began writing and publishing poetry. It became his greatest strength and, to the US government, a threat.

The FBI investigated him.  From Newtopian magazine:  “there is a quote from an FBI memo that says as much about our dysfunctional government as it does about John Trudell: “He is extremely eloquent…therefore extremely dangerous.” John is a great poet, not just because of his eloquence, not only because of his personal history (much of the tragedy of which the FBI caused), but because of the depth of his philosophy and consciousness.”

Trailer to a the Trudell documentary:

Native American John Trudell

Music

Kiowa guitarist Jesse Ed Davis  contacted Trudell and offered to put his poetry to music. They recorded three albums: AKA Graffiti Man was released in 1986,  followed by But This Isn’t El Salvador and Heart Jump Bouquet, both in 1987.

Bob Dylan said that “AKA GRAFITTI MAN [was] the best album of 1986. Only people like Lou Reed and John Doe can dream about doing work like this.”

He continued to release albums even after the untimely death of Davis in  1988 (AllMusic discography).

He continued to release poetry and as a spokesman of the American Indian.

In 2008,  Fulcrum Publishing released Lines from a Mined Mind: The Words of John Trudella collection of 25 years of poetry, lyrics and essays.

His site has a 12 minute video history about him. It’s a great summary.

Native American John Trudell

Walked

The Indian Country media site reportedJohn Trudell, noted activist, poet and Native thinker, walked on December 8, 2015,  after a lengthy bout with cancer. His family included some of his last messages to Indian country in a press release. Among them: “I want people to remember me as they remember me.”

Native American John Trudell

Brothers Lift Every Voice

Brothers Lift Every Voice

Brothers Lift Every Voice

An American Boomer growing up during the mid-20th century learned many patriotic songs. The National Anthem. God Bless American. America the Beautiful.

The songs praised American goodness and godliness. Boomers were proud of their country, but like any country’s story, books often minimized or simply left out the discomforting  pieces.

Text books certainly included slavery and that Lincoln ended it, but often,  that was that.  Curricula rarely mentioned the continued vicious mistreatment and terrorism that followed emancipation at the end of the Civil War.

In 1900, James Weldon Johnson, born in the 19th century, wrote a poem. Here is some of its history that I didn’t learn until the 21st century.

Brothers Lift Every Voice
James Weldon and John Rosamond Jonnson
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” poem

February 12, 1900: as part of a celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, 500 school children at the segregated Stanton School in Jacksonville, Florida recited “Lift Every Voice and Sing” written by their school principal, James Weldon Johnson.  He wrote the words as an introduction to that day’s honored guest: Booker T. Washington. 

Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
‘Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on ’til victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
‘Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

Brothers Lift Every Voice

Lift Every Voice and Sing

In 1905, James’s brother John Rosamond put music to the poem.

In 1919, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) dubbed it “The Negro National Anthem” for its power in voicing the cry for liberation and affirmation for African-American people. 

Brothers Lift Every Voice

James W Johnson dies

Brothers Lift Every Voice

June 26, 1938: James Weldon Johnson died while vacationing in Wiscasset, Maine. The car his wife, Grace, was driving was hit by a train. She survived.

Johnson’s funeral in Harlem was attended by more than 2000 people. His ashes are interred at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

Brothers Lift Every Voice

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” sculpture

In 1939 the New York World’s Fair commissioned Augusta Savage to create a sculpture. She made a 16-foot plaster sculpture called Lift Every Voice and Sing. The piece was was destroyed at the close of the Fair. (see Savage for her expanded story about her) 

Brothers Lift Every Voice

John Rosamond Johnson dies

Brothers Lift Every Voice
photo credit: Carl Van Vechten

November 11, 1954: John Rosamond Johnson died.  A Black Past article stated that, “He was a renowned performer and made his acting debut in the first African American show on Broadway, John W. Isham’s Oriental America (1897). He eventually secured leading roles in Porgy and Bess (1935), Mamba’s Daughters (1939), and Cabin in the Sky (1940).

“One of Johnson’s major accomplishments was the 1918 founding of his school in Harlem called the New York Music School Settlement for Colored People. Atlanta University awarded him an honorary master’s degree in 1917 and he was made a subchief of the Iroquois in honor of his stage musical Red Moon (1908) and its respectful portrayal of Native Americans. He was a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers for most of his career.

Brothers Lift Every Voice

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

In 1969: Maya Angelou‘s published her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. In it, she relates the story of her 8th grade graduation when class and audience sang the “Lift Every Voice and Sing” anthem  after a white school official spoke in a derogatory manner about the educational aspirations of her class. 

Brothers Lift Every Voice

Star Spangled Banner/Lift Every Voice

In 2008,  Rene Marie performed the national anthem at a civic event in Denver, Colorado, where she caused a controversy by substituting the words of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” into the melody.

Brothers Lift Every Voice

Barak Obama’s inauguration

January 20, 2009, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, who was formerly president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, used a near-verbatim recitation of the song’s third stanza to begin his benediction at the inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama.

Brothers Lift Every Voice

 National Museum of African American History and Culture

September 24, 2016, this song was sung by mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves and chorus at the conclusion of the opening ceremonies of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, at which Obama delivered the keynote address.

Brothers Lift Every Voice

White nationalist Richard Spencer

October 19, 2017, when white nationalist leader Richard Spencer spoke at the University of Florida, the university’s carillon played “Lift Every Voice and Sing” to convey a message of unity.

Brothers Lift Every Voice
Winston-Salem State University Choir, Alumni Choir and Friends
First Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, NC 3/26/17

Brothers Lift Every Voice

Unknown Anderson Theater

Unknown Anderson Theater

Plant based Mexican food

Unknown Anderson Theater

I wonder how often diners enjoying some plant based Mexican cuisine al fresco at NYC’s Bar Verde look across the street and notice the curtain cartouche atop 66 Second Avenue?  And if they notice it, do they think it’s simply an architectural flourish or that it signifies something more?

For those of us who love live rock and roll, it’s more.

When it comes to the “best” of something, we are often age-myopic, that is, we narrow potential candidates to own personal or generational memories.

Ask a Boomer, “What was the best NYC rock venue?” and the Fillmore East will be at or near the top selection. While there are many other venues that had great music, Bill Graham’s venue had a cachet  that set it apart.

Ironically, for all its historic weight, the Fillmore East provided its musical paradise only over only 3 years, 3 months, and 20 nights.

Unknown Anderson Theater

Neil Louison and Sandy Pearlman

Neil Louison and Sandy Pearlman attended Stony Brook University on Long Island about an hour and a half away from New York City.  Louison and Pearlman organized some concerts at Stony Brook. Pearlman also managed Soft White Underbelly, a Stony Brook-based band that he’d eventually re-name Blue Öyster Cult

Unknown Anderson Theater

Crawdaddy magazine

Unknown Anderson Theater

After he graduated from Stony Brooke in 1966, Pearlman wrote for Paul William’s Crawdaddy magazine [a journal that John Rockwell said in a NY Times article was ” “the first magazine to take rock and roll seriously.”] Pearlman and the magazine decided that a concert venue would be a great idea.

The first location they looked at was the Village Theater at 105 Second Avenue.  The venue was originally built as a Yiddish theater in 1925-26 .

The deal quickly fell through, but they soon found another old theater just two blocks away. It had opened in 1926 as the Public Theatre and “had focused on Jewish acts including Yiddish Vaudeville as well as the showing of Yiddish films.” (from Cinema Treasures)

The theater had been renamed the Anderson Theater by 1968 and though smaller than the 105 Second Avenue location, 66 Second Avenue looked fine.

Unknown Anderson Theater

February 2, 1968

And so on February 2, 1968 the Anderson Theater opened for rock shows with Country Joe and the Fish, Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band and–no surprise here–Pearlman’s Soft White Underbelly.

Some of the names associated with the Anderson are very familiar to Boomer rock enthusiasts. A light show by Joshua White (Joshua Light Show site) .  John Morris helped organize and the following year was a big part of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. Chip Monck was also associated–another Woodstock MC.

Unknown Anderson Theater

Hells Angels Little Rascals

On one hand the inexperience of the managers gave the enterprise an Our Gang feel, but given the financial stakes it also could turn ugly at times. John Morris remembers “catching a Yale lock that had been thrown across the hall just before it hit my wife… It was a zoo.”

Yet the acts that were part of the Anderson’s short lifespan are well-known. Big Brother and the Holding Company’s first NYC appearance was at the Anderson on February 17 with BB King.

On March 6, the theater hosted a benefit concert for war resisters.

The Yardbirds played on March 30.

Unknown Anderson Theater

Enter Bill Graham

Bill Graham was already successfully presenting rock concerts in San Francisco. He attended the Big Brother concert at the Anderson and thought that New York could be a good spot, too. And what specific spot was Graham looking at?

The Village Theater, 105 Second Avenue.

Unknown Anderson Theater

March 8, 1968

And so on March 8, 1968 Graham’s Fillmore East opened and its amazing historic run began.

And Graham invited many of those people working at the Anderson to become part of it. They did.

The Anderson Theater slowly faded away given the Fillmore competition, Graham’s expertise and determined style, as well as the inexperienced Anderson crew.

Some of the other shows were:

  •  March 6, 1968, the theater hosted a benefit concert for war resisters featuring Country Joe and the Fish and the Fugs.
  • Eric Burdon and the Animals, March 1968

    Unknown Anderson Theater


  • November 23, 1970: Traffic, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and the Grateful Dead
  • The Cockettes in November 1971
  • Captain Beefheart, January 15, 1972
Unknown Anderson Theater

CBGB Theater

By the late 1970s, the Anderson Theater was empty.

Hilly Kristan had opened his famed CGBG venue at 315 Bowery on December 10, 1973.  Four ears later, he decided to open a second venue nearby. Nearby by ( 3/10ths of a mile) was, what else, the Anderson Theater.

And so the Anderson Theater, renamed the CGBG Theater, opened on December 27, 1977 “with Talking Heads headlining, supported by the Shirts and the Tuff Darts. The next night it was the Dictators, the Dead Boys, and the Luna Band (formerly Orchestra Luna). Then Patti Smithheadlined December 29, 30, and New Year’s Eve. (20thcpunkarchives article)

The attempt was a short-lived one. According to Roman Kozak’s This Ain’t No Disco: The Story of CBGB: After the Patti Smith dates the Theater closed. The place was briefly used as a rock and roll flea market and there was a show with the Jam the following March” [March 31, 1978]

Punk had arrived at the Anderson, but not for long. 

Today only the aforementioned curtain cartouche indicates that the building was ever something other than apartments with a first floor commercial space.

Unknown Anderson Theater

Sandy Pearlman

Producer Sandy Pearlman Dead at 72 | Pitchfork

Sandy Pearlman’s life with music did not end with the Anderson Theater. He continued to be a part of Blue Oyster Cult and its success as well as being the Black Sabbath’s manager from 1979-1983.

He founded Alpha & Omega Recording in San Francisco and was a pioneer of digital music as a vice president of Goodnoise Corporation, later eMusic.

He was a professor at McGill University in Montreal and then at the University of Toronto.

He died on July 26, 2016 (NY Times obituary)

Unknown Anderson Theater