Arthur Russell / May 21, 1951 - April 4, 1992

Long a cult figure, the legend and appreciation of Arthur Russell only increases with time as more of his music gets issued and reissued and re-examined. His ability to cross from disco to minimalism to orchestral to hiphop to singer/songwriter material of unique personality is testament to his creativity. A lot of his worked was unfinished at the time of his passing but clearly brilliant and much of it sees release in a seemingly never-ending stream of fascinating documents.

From Iowa, he was a hick with serious artistic aspirations, taking up piano and cello at an early age. He studied Indian classical at Ali Akbar Khan's school, and modern composition & electronic music in NYC. He played keyboards in the rock band The Flying Hearts and a power pop group The Necessaries before taking over booking at the minimalist/avant-garde venue The Kitchen. He caused controversy when he booked Boston rockers The Modern Lovers, avant-country composer Henry Flynt and the Talking Heads.

A gay man, he and his lovers would frequent disco dances starting around '76 and he found himself producing several disco records that were popular in clubs, released under various handles. He had club cred with "Kiss Me Again" by Dinosaur L ('77), three amazing 1980 classics as Loose Joints and great shit under the moniker Indian Ocean. In '81 he and Will Socolov started Sleeping Bag Records, which would produce several classic dance, rap and freestyle records. His lone full-length album to be completed and released in his lifetime was the all-solo album World Of Echo, from 1986.

He battled health problems for the rest of his short life but he stands as a pioneer of dubby productions that bridged disco and house music. In his lifetime he collaborated with David Byrne, Peter Zummo, Philip Glass, Allen Ginsberg, Steve Reich and others, including noted choreographers. He died poor, of AIDS. His brilliant music keeps trickling out and selling better than ever as his impact grows to new generations. Thanks for the music!

Tagged: '80s, Arthur Russell, avant-garde, Celebrate Icons, cello, classic albums, disco, dub, edit/remix, folk, NYC

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