Exuma / Feb 18, 1942 - Jan 15, 1997

Perhaps the original "freak-folk" artist, the Bahamian musician & herbalist Tony McKay (aka "Exuma") was created from a lightning bolt and raised on Cat Island before moving to NYC in the late '50s. He participated in the Greenwich Village folk scene of the mid-'60s, hanging and playing with Dylan, Hendrix, Richie Havens, Peter, Paul & Mary and others. He released his first Exuma album in 1970 and proceeded to create his unique brand of psychedelic folk/funk/island pop with his Junk Band (sometimes members of the Blues Magoos), very much rooted in junkanoo and Obeah culture while also displaying the influence of calypso, soul and US country music. The sometimes sprawling tunes were built around acoustic guitar and his stories of satire and social import, with percussion and sometimes horns and backing bands.

Despite (or more likely due to) his freaky Afro-voodoo records, he was never really too popular beyond his native Bahamas, the UK and New Orleans. But his records have gained cult attraction through the years. He has toured with artists ranging from Steppenwolf to Black Flag to Curtis Mayfield to Peter Tosh. He was the composer of a couple of songs that other people made famous: "Obeah Woman" (Nina Simone) and "Bom Bom" (Jimmy Castor). Aside from his own songs he covered a bunch of other people's tunes, including a crazy version of Paul McCartney's "Monkberry Moon Delight"! He was also devoted to his painting, some of which graced his album sleeves. His lyrics were of a unique poeticism: "a spider crawled across my face, spreading its web on the human race...". He was truly one of the most unique artists to ever grace the world.

"I only know a few chords but I can stretch them out!"

Exuma, the first album:

And Exuma II:

Tagged: avant-garde, Celebrate Icons, classic albums, Exuma, folk, guitar, NYC, psych, soul/funk

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