Moondog on the NYC streets late 1960’s
(You never know who you might meet)
It’s funny how a random acquaintance on a city bus that happened years ago could end up revealing something new, in a totally different light, years later.
I remember a particular incident that happened to me in the 1960’s.
I was a young girl visiting my cousin, who was an executive producer for CBS. She worked in New York City. We were sitting on the city bus minding our own business while on our way back to her apartment. She had warned me to be careful whenever we went out in public and had instructed me not make eye contact with people while on the city bus. She said it was rude to stare and respectful to mind your own business.
Being a kid, I was always curious, friendly even, and usually asked a lot of questions. But if this was a rule city people adhered to, I figured it was only right to accept the rule.
The bus stopped and a strange old man got on. Maybe not so odd these days, or even in the 1960’s if we were in Greenwich Village, but he stood out on a 6th Avenue bus. This man was odd and I couldn’t help but look.
He wore a helmet with horns, his beard was gray, long and shaggy. A cloak was wrapped around him and he used a large spear staff instead of a cane.
I caught myself staring at him and quickly averted my eyes to the floor, but the dull black rubber mat, covered with sandy dirt, didn’t hold my attention for more than an instant. I tilted my head stole another glance.
The old man bent his head down and started speaking to me. I was horrified. A starnger on the bus asked for my name! I turned to my cousin looking for guidance; she was smiling at me, and nodded. “You can answer this man.”
Had she gone mad. Of all the people on the bus, I was allowed to speak to this bizzarre looking soul. I worried it was a test of some sort, a trap.
I swallowed hard, and answered the man. He nodded to me but I could tell that he wasn’t able to see me. I dared to look closer. His eyes were dead. The man was blind.
He asked me a few more questions and like the polite child I was, I answered him. But I never asked anything back about him, not wanting to be rude. Damn, I wish I could go back to that moment now, I’d have a slew of questions.
When we arrived at our stop and got off, we walked the block to the apartment in silence. My cousin didn’t say a word and I wondered why she had given permission. We climbed the stairs together, my cousin unbolted the door, and I sat down on the sofa.
My cousin picked up a magazine from the coffee table and handed it to me.There on the cover of LOOK magazine was the old man!
He stood gaurd at the CBS building, looking for donations, and playing his music on an intricate instrument he had invented. Moondog was a famous musician who lived on the streets of New York, talking with people while dressed in his Oden getup. He was an inventor of instruments, he composed works, and recorded albums.
I was stunned.
Moondog is proof that one should never rush to judgement.
Well, that happened to me a long time ago and the incident was forgotten.
Then last summer I was talking with one of my sons, who happens to play music. We were discussing his newest musical composition project and a flash memory of Moondog sprang to mind. So we looked him up, impressed to see how this strange man still influences music today. You can find out more below if you’re curious like me.
Moondog died when he was 83 in September 1999. By that time he had moved to Germany. His friend buried him at a special Moondog tomb at the Central Cemetery in Münster, the bust was designed by Ernst Fuchs, an after death mask.
I guess he never was meant to be part of the 21st century. Rest In Peace Moondog.
Learn more about this Composer, Inventor, and Musical Marvel:
In 2014 there was a successful Crowdfunding film project for his work:
The Genius of Moondog, New York’s Homeless Composer
People Magazine 1989
My Favorite – The German Years: